WAMEGO — Things just didn’t go well for the Wamego Red Raiders from the start. Heavy rain and lightning pushed back kick off by an hour and the weather was less than ideal the entire night for the Red Raiders’ pass-heavy spread offense.
All that didn’t matter for visiting Holton, though, who kept things simple with a ground attack.
The undefeated Wildcats stayed undefeated Friday night with a 51-12 thumping of Wamego.
Holton — which won the Big Seven last season — improved to 6-0 while the Red Raiders fell to 5-2. Wamego is undefeated and on top of the North Central Kansas League at 5-0.
“We kept slinging it, but up front we got beat, and I think that’s obvious,” Red Raiders head coach Dale Burkholder said. “(Holton) is really good. They are a great football team, and we couldn’t step up tonight.”
Wamego senior quarterback Marshall Wethington — who stands at 6-foot-3 — had another big yardage night through the air, but constant pressure from the Holton defense caused problems. Wethington was 17-for-34 with 245 yards and a touchdown pass, but the Wildcats piled on sacks and picked off three passes — one of which was returned for a touchdown.
Holton, on the other hand, only tried to throw the ball two times and neither pass was completed. On the ground, though, it was a different story.
The Wildcats rushed 67 times for 520 yards. Holton was led by junior Drake Ewing with 160 yards and three touchdowns on just 16 carries. By halftime, he’d already crossed the 100-yard mark. The Wildcats executed on misdirection handoffs and 12 different Holton players carried the ball with four of them totaling at least 50 yards. As a team, the Wildcats averaged 7.8 yards per rush.
“We’ve got five running backs and a quarterback, and any one of those guys has had a 100-yard night,” Hotlon head coach Brooks Barta said. “Each one seems to come through for us for next time, and we just try to keep them fresh and wear people down with it.”
Wamego, by contrast, totaled just 61 yards on the ground on 24 carries with seven different rushers. As a team, the Red Raiders managed 2.5 yards per carry.
“(Holton’s) counter really hurt us and their option hurt us,” Burkholder said. “Offensively I think Marshall just couldn’t get in rhythm.
“We played a great team and we’ll have to own it. We got our butts beat. We’ll take it like a man and focus on these next two games. We got a chance these next two games.”
Wamego held Holton to a three-and-out to start the game but the Wildcats kept pounding the rock. With less than eight minutes to go in the first quarter Holton broke one loose with a quarterback-keeper. Senior Jaxon Wright called his own number and swept left for a 40-yard touchdown dash.
The Red Raiders were able to move the chains in response, but turnovers bit them. Holton intercepted Wamego twice in the first quarter and after Wright’s QB-keeper, the Wildcats continued to grind it out on the ground. Ewing scored his first touchdown with 4:09 on the clock in the first qurater with a 27-yard dash down the Holton sideline to extend the Wildcats’ lead 14-0 after a two-point conversion rush — also ran by Ewing. He would score again before halftime with an 8-yard rush with 3:28 to go before the break.
Still, Wamego had its opportunities in the first half. The Red Raiders started the second quarter with a drive that found itself in the red zone, but an incomplete pass at the goal line on a fourth-and-4 ended it with no points. And with 6:40 to go in the second quarter, a Wildcats fumble at the Red Raiders 5 yard line was recovered by Wamego, but the Holton defense stiffened and held the Red Raiders to a quick punt.
The second half didn’t go any better for Wamego.
A fumble after a long completion by Wethington gave the ball back to the Wildcats and Holton’s ground-game continued to prove successful.
Ewing scored his third touchdown with 6:45 to go in the period on a 46-yard dash down the Wamego sideline and Holton’s lead grew to 26-0.
The game truly got out of hand for the Red Raiders on the following offensive possession, when a pass was intercepted by junior linebacker Andrew Rieschick for a 33-yard pick-six.
Wethington would finally connect on a touchdown pass and get Wamego on the scoreboard with a 20-yard strike to junior Trenton York in the corner of the endzone, but by then there was nine minutes left in the fourth quarter and Holton still lead by a large margin, 43-6.
Overall all, the Red Raiders turned the ball over six times with three interceptions and three fumbles. The Wildcats turned it over just twice with two fumbles.
“That’s something, that if you’re going to throw the ball around, we want to be aggressive and we want to create turnovers — whether it’s making tackles and causing fumbles or jumping in front (of passes),” Barta said. “I thought our (defensive) rush disrupted their pocket pretty well — and (Wethington) avoided us well — but it’s hard to scramble when the defense is aggressive.
“We feel like we have to do that against a spread team… we have to make them pay for the risks.”