Holton’s offensive game is simple and effective.
Defending Class 4A state football champion Holton lines up with two tight ends, three backs and runs the football right at your defense.
Mulvane’s defense knew what was coming, but the homestanding Wildcats were unable to stop Holton’s physical offensive line. Holton rushed for 478 yards en route to a 35-14 second round playoff victory over Mulvane in Saturday’s perfect weather.
Holton’s Drake Ewing gained 85 yards with two touchdowns and scatback Brenden Hampton rushed for 223 yards and a 74-yard touchdown. Holton led 28-0 at halftime behind 320 yards offense. Quarterback Ethan Holaday scored Holton’s second-half touchdown on a 36-yard run.
“That’s the way we play and running the football is what we like to do,” said Holton coach Brooks Barta. “We’ll take what the defense gives us and we did a nice job executing our offense. We took advantage of our matchups. Our offensive line played consistently well. They’ve been the strength of our team all year.”
Mulvane quarterback R.J. Rieger threw for 175 yards and scored a rushing touchdown with receiver Collin Dempsey getting nine receptions for 137 yards, several off airborne catches. Back Michael Mason rushed for 81 yards on 25 hard-fought carries and one touchdown. Mason also completed a 38-yard pass to Dempsey.
Holton earned one takeaway and scored after Mason Barta’s interception. Holton held Mulvane (6-5) at the goal-line on two plays from the 1-yard line in the fourth period.
“That’s our fourth goal-line stand this year,” Barta said. “We found a way to make big plays on third and short and fourth and short. I was proud of the way our defense performed because Mulvane has a very good offense. Mulvane made plays the second half and did a good job executing what they do.”
Holton also ended Mulvane’s season last year with a 28-6 victory in the 4A semifinals. Holton (11-0) will play Andale (11-0) at Holton Nov. 15 in the 4A quarterfinals. Holton is 10-1 all-time against Ark Valley-Chisholm Trail League teams in the playoffs. Mulvane beat Rose Hill, Maize South and Buhler to reach last year’s semifinals.
“We had a great offensive and defensive game plan,” said Mulvane coach Dave Fennewald. “There’s a reason why Holton has won 27 games in a row. They are big and physical in the offensive line. They execute really well. They block at the second level and their backs make good cuts.”
Mulvane outscored Holton 14-7 in the second half. Mulvane’s most frustrating phase came when Mason’s 64-yard touchdown was called back on a holding penalty. Mason and Rieger appeared to cross the plane of the goal-line on back-to-back plays on the same drive.
Fenneweld was proud his team kept battling, especially the second half. Mulvane had to replace 10 defensive starters this season. Shane Sullivan led Mulvane’s defense with a fumble recovery and a recovery of a perfect onside kickoff by Trevor Wayman.
“We call it the ‘Wildcat Way.’ We want to play one play at a time and our team did that,’ Fenneweld said. “We challenged the team after trailing 28-0 at halftime. We wanted to do something positive. They accomplished more than many people thought we would.”
Dempsey made catch-after-catch and took several hard shots on receptions.
“This was my far my best game, my last high school football game,” Dempsey said. “We had to keep fighting like we did against Collegiate. I wasn’t going to let anything get in the way of me staying in there. My hats off to Holton. They had some good tacklers.”
Holton scored on four first-half drives and rolled up 320 yards, 287 on the ground. Holton’s scoring drives covered 18, 58, 65 and 81 yards. By halftime, Hampton gained 164 yards and scored once and Ewing had 85 yards and two touchdowns.
Mulvane’s hard-running Mason gained 51 hard fought yards and the home Wildcats gained 106 yards offense.
Ewing opened the scoring on a 22-yard scoring drive to cap a 58-yard drive with 5:07 left in the first period. Mulvane’s first drive reached the Holton 42-yard line, but Mulvane’s Mason was stopped one yard shy of a first down.
Hampton dashed 74 yards for a touchdown behind perfect blocking with 2:27 left in the first period.
Mulvane’s Sullivan recovered a fumble by Ethan Holaday at the Mulvane 19-yard line to stop a Holton drive.
Holton methodically ran 65 yards on nine running plays for a 21-0 lead. Mason Barta scored on a 3-yard run. Holton’s Barta intercepted a pass by Mulvane’s Rieger and returned it 32 yards. Holton’s Ewing scored on an 8-yard run.
No Class 4A school has more recent playoff success than Holton, which is riding a 16-year playoff run that started in 1998.
In the past 10 seasons, Holton has captured three state championships and lost to the state champion four times and lost to the state runner-up three times. Holton has lost to the state champion or state runner-up nine times in school history.
Mulvane has qualified for the football playoffs 11 times, including four consecutive trips and seven of the past eight years. Mulvane also lost to the state champion in 1985 when Norton beat the Wildcats 33-8.