Holton took advantage of a fourth-down stop before halftime and went on to win the Kansas Class 4A state title, 21-0, in Salina on Saturday.
By Chad Rader, 810 Varsity
With under five minutes left in a scoreless first half, Eudora went for a fourth-and-2 at midfield. Holton stuffed the play with 4:21 at the 50, then seven plays later, Chase Wilson took a pitch nine yards to the right pylon with 2:16 left, and an eventual 7-0 lead.
“That’s what they do,” Holton coach Brooks Barta said. “They believe in their defense and what they do. We’ve probably done the same thing 46 times over the years. That’s high school football.”
Holton opened the short drive with its first pass play of the game, which eluded the fingertips of Ryan Haefke. But the play opened the defense a bit, as the Holton offense – which sputtered early – produced runs of 14, 7 and 13.
The biggest play came on a first-and-10 at the EHS 25, when Jaxon Wright took keeper down the left sideline. After a hit, the ball spilled out, propelling forward and eluded the grasps of two Cardinals. Holton’s Cameron Karn finally fell on the loose ball and corralled it at the Eudora 11. Two plays later, Wright ran six steps to his right, pitched to a wide open Wilson, who beat the Cardinals to the right pylon at 2:16.
“That one hurt,” Eudora coach Gregg Webb said. “’We were going against the wind. That’s kind of the way it went.”
Eudora missed its chances early in the half. On the opening possession, Holton fumbled a pitch at the its 44. The Cardinals then drove to the Holton 16, but on fourth and 2, quarterback Andrew Ballock was tackled for an eight-yard loss by Trent Tanking.
“The first drive, we had it going, then had to call three timeouts. We had nine guys out there – what in the world?” Webb quipped. “That drive killed us.”
The Cardinals remained on the Holton side of the field on its next possession, but a sack of Ballock and an illegal formation led to a punt. Meanwhile, Holton mustered just 32 total yards before the half’s final drive.
After half, Holton broke the game open. Holding the Cardinals to a punt and fielding a fair catch at the EHS 40 with 10:10 left, two plays later, Wright took a keeper up the left hash, eluded a tackle, bumped off another at the 15, and dashed into the end zone for a 14-0 lead with 9:42 left in the third quarter.
Late in the third period, Holton elected to take two timeouts to force a Eudora punt into the wind. After taking over at the Holton 45, the Wildcats took four plays to the Eudora 33. Then on a counter to fullback Lane Lassiter, the senior scampered to the right unscathed with no Cardinal within 10 yards, and a 21-0 bulge with 10:41 in the game.
Holton wins its first title since 2005, and third since 2003.
“This was the most determined football team we ever had and probably the best defensive team,” Barta touted. “Offensively we had to be patient and find out what was there. Nothing bothered these kids.”
Eudora lost for the second straight time in the 4A title game, also by a 21-0 score to Rose Hill in 2011. Both were the only two title appearances in EHS history.
“This group of kids, not only these kids, but last year, went 24-4 in the last two years,” Webb stated. “They’ve been great and hopefully we’re back year again next year.”