4A-II: Holton vs. Holcomb title game a family affair

Brooks Barta will lead Holton in the state title game for a seventh time. (courtesy photo)
By: Conor Nicholl for Kpreps.com
Nov 26, 2015

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Holton coach Brooks Barta is 202-35 in 20 years with the Wildcats. He has won state championships in 2003, 2005 and 2012, taken second three times, and collected three more sub-state championship finishes.

This season, Barta believed the Wildcats have never played a tougher early season schedule in his tenure. Holton lost 23-22 in overtime to 3A power Silver Lake top open the season and 20-13 to 5A’s Maize South in Week 2.

Holton won at Sabetha, 14-13, in Week 3 and had a 27-13 loss to Nemaha Central in Week 5.

All four squads won at least one playoff game. The loss to Nemaha Central ended Holton’s 48-game winning streak in Big Seven play. Holton moved the ball effectively behind a quintet of running backs, but made uncharacteristic mistakes and had some injury problems. The coaches sat in the locker room after the Nemaha defeat.

“That was really indicative of the way we had been losing,” Barta said. “We made some really big-play mistakes on things we had worked on defensively. We turned the ball over and made some huge mistakes on offense. They were all things that were under our control, so we sat down, and I said, ‘I think this team can play in the state championship if we just show the consistency that we practice and preach here.’”

Holton, which played the second-hardest schedule in the 32-team Class 4A, Division II, won seven straight and will play in Saturday’s state championship. The Wildcats (9-3) will face No. 1 Holcomb (10-2) at Salina Stadium. Start time is 1 p.m.

Holcomb and veteran coach Kent Teeter, who was a head coach for eight years at Hays High, six at Goodland, and now two with the Longhorns, are in their first state contest. Teeter’s son, Trey, is a four-year starter at quarterback and one of the state’s best signal callers.

He has enjoyed his best season completing 151 of 223 passing for 2,404 yards with a 33/5 TD/INT ratio. Fifty-four percent of Holcomb’s offense comes via pass. Senior Christian Merz leads a bevy of wide receivers with 46 catches for 1,021 yards and eight touchdowns.

“What just magnifies it is being able to share it with Trey, my son,” Teeter said. “But the kids have just been awesome, and it’s just been a really great ride, and the community has been great, the coaches have been great, so it’s just been a really fun two years.”

Barta also coaches his son, Mason, a senior fullback/linebacker and the team’s leading rusher and tackler. Mason, like his father, will play football at Kansas State. He has 173 carries for 987 yards and 15 scores and 114 tackles. Holton averages 329 rushing yards a game with 91 percent of the Wildcats’ offense coming on the ground.

Holton lost 22-21 to Columbus in the state quarterfinals last season, but delivered a 23-22 victory over the Titans in last week’s semifinal game. Holton scored on a 1-yard Barta run with 31 seconds left. Then, a Columbus offsides call moved the ball to the one and a half yard line. Barta served as the lead blocker and Spencer Baum added a two-point conversion.

“After about Week 5, we kind of turned the corner, and quit making as many of those mistakes,” coach Barta said. “We got a little smarter, started playing a little more intelligent, and we just kind of continued to improve through really a pretty tough district and playoff schedule as well. So in hindsight, those close losses and tough losses probably opened our kids’ eyes and opened us to doing some things differently and better than we had in the past.”

Holcomb, the preseason No. 2 team, never left the top-5 but went through some early season struggles. The Longhorns opened with a pair of dominant wins. Then, it fell to a pair of GWAC foes: at Ulysses, 34-20, and home versus Scott City, 15-7. 

Coach Teeter believed the Longhorns played well offensively versus the Tigers with 363 yards. However, Holcomb needed to improve defensively after it permitted 478 yards, including 320 to Ulysses standout running back Ian Rudzik.

Throughout the years, Teeter’s teams have always struggled passing versus Scott City’s defense. Holcomb tried to run the ball but didn’t have success. On the film, the coaches noticed the Longhorns didn’t block or run routes well. Since then, Teeter said the team has practiced better, asked more questions and improved.

Since Ulysses, Holcomb hasn’t allowed more than 13 points in any contest. Since the Scott City game, the Longhorns have won every game by double figures, including 48-0, 55-14 in the first two postseason rounds and 26-13 against defending state champion Andale last week. Last season, Holcomb lost to Andale, 57-13, in sub-state.

“When we finished the year last year, we were very excited about the year, but we were a little disappointed that we didn’t play Andale better,” coach Teeter said. “We watched the next week when they played in the state championship, and they won that game pretty easily, and we were like, ‘Hey, Andale was just a class of their own last year.’ But I said, ‘What did it take to have that?’ Our kids, they went to work as soon as that game was over.”

Senior Braden Showalter, a cornerback last season, has moved to free safety this year and emerged as one of the state’s best defensive players. He has 67 tackles, eight interceptions, forced a fumble and recovered three fumbles. He has 184 defensive return yards.

“Man, he is smart,” coach Teeter said. “He reads really well, he is involved in the run game, he is involved heavily in the passing game, and he is around the football, and he has created turnovers. He has a lot of interceptions. He has had fumbles, he has had strips, he is our punter, and he has made plays punting. He is one of our return guys.”


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