SALINA — Early turnovers put the Frontenac High School football in hole which eventually grew too deep to overcome in the 40-20 loss to Holcomb on Saturday in the Class 4A-II state title game.
Forced to abandon their reliable and potent running game, the Raiders went to the air early, with twice in their first two plays from scrimmage, resulting in a pair of Holcomb touchdowns which put the Raiders in a 14-0 hole after one quarter.
That hole got deeper in the second, with the western-Kansas representative moving out to a 27-0 lead that was at 27-6 by intermission.
Despite closing to 27-13 in the early portion of the third quarter, the Raiders couldn’t stop the Longhorns’ passing game, resulting in a 40-20 loss which snapped a six-game streak and ended the Raiders’ season at 9-4. Holcomb, winning its second state 4A-II title three seasons, ended its year at 12-1.
“The turnovers early were definitely killers for us,” FHS head coach Mark Smith said. “It was just bad play calling on my part. I thought we could surprise them, but they’re disciplined and came up with big plays.”
Things didn’t improve much in the early going of the second quarter following two interceptions in the first, as the Raiders’ running game never got off the ground.
Limited to 44 yards in 27 attempts, the Raiders were forced to go to the air.
Brown managed to complete 16-of-28 passes for 227 yards and three touchdowns, but the Raiders’ hole was too deep.
“We struggled up front and that’s where it basically was won and lost,” Smith said. “We went away from the run, and maybe we did that too early, but we couldn’t get anything established inside.”
Brendan Ishimura finished as the top receiver with five catches for 105 yards and a pair of touchdowns — a 28-yarder which came with 48 seconds left in the half and an 8-yarder with 3 minutes and 20 seconds remaining in the game when the Raiders were all but out of it at 40-13.
In between, the Raiders got on the board with a 35-yard touchdown pass from Brown to Zachary Rosebrough on a post pattern over the middle.
“We just didn’t have an answer for their passing,” Smith said. “They’re a complete team. I thought our defense came up with some big plays, but then we couldn’t get the plays we needed. I’m definitely proud of the kids. The seniors did a tremendous job of leadership. We had a great run at the end of the season.”