Holcomb, Frontenac to determine 4A, Division II title

L-R: Holcomb's Chance Rodriguez & Frontenac's Jake Wilbert (by Olivia Ortega & Derek Livingston)
By: Mark Schremmer for Kpreps.com
Nov 25, 2017

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After a 1-2 start that was capped by a 20-0 loss to St. Mary’s Colgan, making it to the state championship wasn’t foremost in the mind of players and coaches for the Frontenac Raiders.

So it’s probably best that no one asked Frontenac coach Mark Smith after the game if he thought his Raiders would go on to play for the Class 4A Division II crown.

“I would have probably lied and said yes,” Smith said. “But it was a tough couple of weeks. The Colgan loss was probably our low point. I had a heart to heart with the team. I think at that point, the kids were kind of tired of making mistakes.”

Since the loss to Colgan, the Raiders earned an 8-1 record and made their way through the 4A D-II playoffs to earn the right of facing the Holcomb Longhorns (11-1) in the state championship on Saturday in Salina.

“I’m very proud of the kids,” Smith said. “We got off to a rough start and had our low moments, but the kids pushing to get better. They started playing the way we knew they were capable of playing all year. They’ve played as a team, and they’ve played with heart.”

Like Frontenac (9-3), the Longhorns also stumbled a bit early. Holcomb opened the season by edging Cimarron 15-12 before falling 23-14 to Scott City in Week 2. Since then, the Longhorns are on a 10-game winning streak, and they haven’t allowed more than 15 points in a game.

“We were still figuring ourselves out early on,” Holcomb coach Kent Teeter said. “We lost some really good players from the year before. We were still finding the pieces to the puzzle. The loss to Scott City helped us improve.”

Frontenac defeated Topeka Hayden 37-21 in the semifinals. Two second-half interceptions for touchdowns helped secure the win. Frontenac’s Jake Wilbert rushed for 137 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries.

On the season, the Raiders rush for 194.6 yards per game and pass for an average of 120.8 yards.

Quarterback Peyton Brown has completed 84 of 150 passes for 1,370 yards and 18 touchdowns with nine interceptions.

“He’s helped spark the turnaround,” Smith said. “He’s played tremendous, and he’s helped everyone else play better.”

Broc Ginavan is Brown’s top receiving target with 33 catches for 574 yards and nine touchdowns. Brendan Ishimura has added 23 receptions for 370 yards and two touchdowns.

Wilbert leads the Raiders’ rushing attack with 1,172 yards and 21 touchdowns on 163 carries. Brown has added 338 rushing yards and six touchdowns on 76 attempts. Wilbert also leads the defense with 105 tackles. Ishimura leads the secondary with seven interceptions.

The defensive line has been a strength for the Raiders. Defensive tackle Andrew Mays has posted 88 tackles and three sacks. Ginavan, a defensive end, has recorded 55 tackles and eight sacks. Cal Strand has 36 tackles and three sacks.

“It all starts up front on the defensive line,” Smith said.

Holcomb also returned a pair of interceptions for touchdowns to help avenge the early season loss to Scott City with a 34-13 win in last week’s semifinal.

Paden Cornelsen leads the Longhorn defense with 106 tackles. Reece Morss has posted 97 tackles.

Holcomb’s offense couldn’t be any more balance if it tried. The Longhorns rush for 169.8 yards and pass for 169.3 yards per game.

“In all honesty, it’s just worked out that way,” Teeter said. “A coach said something to me about that, and I didn’t realize we were that close.”

Senior Trey Gilbert leads the offense with 2,029 passing yards with 24 touchdowns and six interceptions.

“He’s a kid that isn’t afraid to shoulder things,” Teeter said. “He’s a mature kid, and he’s very smart.”

Chance Rodriguez is Holcomb’s leading receiver with 46 catches for 721 yards and 11 touchdowns. Carter Blackburn and Andrew Morss have 370 and 369 receiving yards, respectively.

Kaden Tichenor leads the Longhorns’ rushing attack with 795 yards and six touchdowns. Morss and Gilbert have rushed for 514 and 439 yards, respectively.

Holcomb is trying for its first state championship since 2015. The Raiders haven’t captured a state title since winning 2-1A in 1994 and haven’t played in a state title game since 2000.

“It should be exciting,” Teeter said. “I know Frontenac will be well coached. I think it will be an awesome game.”

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