The season came to a close for the Holden football team in a Class 2, District 6 semifinal loss to St. Michael the Archangel by the final score of 28-21 on Friday, Nov. 3.
In the game played at Lee’s Summit West High School, the No. 3 seed Eagles attempted to disrupt the district seeding as Holden mounted a fourth-quarter comeback attempt after trailing 21-7 at halftime to the No. 2 seed Guardians. Two touchdowns scored by Holden in the fourth quarter put the Eagles within reach in the contest which featured a blocked field goal by each team as the offenses manufactured opportunities to put a total of 49 points on the scoreboard against strong defensive efforts from both squads.
“It was a game that we thought was going to be very similar to this,” said Holden football coach David Diener. “Obviously, we didn’t want to get down by three scores, but even in that situation, we knew that if we could get it within two (scores), then we still had the time and the stops to get the ball back. There are situations we wish we could get back as in every loss, but ultimately, I’m so proud of how the kids played, how they fought, how they demonstrated their toughness that we want our Holden football program to continue to build year in and year on…tough, physical, aggressive level of play. They put it on display here tonight. St. Michaels was just able to edge us out.”
After receiving the opening kickoff, Holden’s initial drive of the game ended with senior punter CJ Reifsteck punting the ball to the Guardians.
St. Michael prescribed a heavy dose of quarterback keep plays on its opening drive as Cameron Zaun carried the Guardians down the field. A pass from Zaun to Max Thomas put the home team at first-and-goal on the three-yard line.
The Guardians found their first score on a three-yard run by Zaun at the 6:01 mark of the first quarter. Zaun’s score was followed by an extra-point kick for an early 7-0 lead.
On Holden’s ensuing possession, the Eagles began a lengthy drive that would extend into the second quarter. Carries by running backs Jayden Davis-Hacker, Reco Jenkins, and Sam Comer ignited the drive as quarterback Lane Siemer inserted an eight-yard carry on a fourth-down play to move the chains.
Jenkins capped off the drive on a 14-yard carry for a touchdown at the 11:21 mark of the second quarter. Lane Inglis tied the game at 7-7 with the extra-point kick.
St. Michael responded on its next possession with Zaun connecting on a 31-yard touchdown pass to Lucas Estes.
St. Michael closed out scoring in the first half on a 32-yard touchdown pass by Zaun to Estes as the two teams headed to intermission with the score at 21-7.
“We knew that this match-up was different than what we’ve seen with the passing attack, and the quarterback being able to run,” said coach Diener. “We centered our game plan to try to corral him, and I think we did for the most part. We made their receivers catch tough passes and they executed early, but eventually those low percentage throws that they made early, we started breaking those passes up. They started missing a little bit when we got pressure. We knew there were enough possessions to go win it. We were able to come through and have our own passing attack there in our two-minute drill to be able to get us close.”
St. Michael fumbled the second half opening kickoff with Holden falling on the loose ball. The fumble recovery was followed by an Eagle drive that led to a fourth-and-goal situation at the 13-yard line, prompting a field goal attempt by Holden.
The Guardians blocked the field goal, and turned the block into points on a 27-yard touchdown reception by Estes with 3:36 remaining in the third quarter. The extra-point kick marked the final point of the third quarter, and the final point in the game for the Guardians.
A fumbled punt return by the Guardians early in the fourth quarter was recovered by the Eagles. Holden capitalized on the fumble recovery with Siemer sneaking across the goal line for a one-yard touchdown with 10:03 remaining in the game. Inglis cut the Guardians’ lead to 28-14 on the extra-point kick.
Following Siemer’s touchdown, the Eagle defense held tight to force a punt from St. Michael.
Carries by Jenkins and Comer were followed by catches by Reifsteck and Cohen Drake as the game clock ticked under six minutes. Carries by Jenkins and Davis-Hacker put Holden on the one-yard line with Jenkins carrying into the end zone for the final yard. Inglis connected on his third successful extra-point kick of the game to leave the Eagles down 28-21 at the 5:23 mark.
When a late Guardian drive after Jenkins’ touchdown stalled, the Guardians lined up for a field goal attempt. Holden defender Jacob Andes broke through the Guardian line to block the kick. Holden recovered the block on their own 42-yard line with 2:14 remaining on the clock.
“For the defense to come through and get that stop, and to get the block to set us up to make a chance to go run at the end, is absolutely how championship level plays and high pressure championship style games are played,” said coach Diener.
A catch by Kasyn Tevis, and a fourth-down conversion on a run by Siemer moved Holden into Guardian territory, and a 14-yard reception by Davis-Hacker put Holden on the Guardian 10-yard line.
A spike by Siemer stopped the clock with 0:44 remaining on the clock. Three incomplete passes by Holden followed the spike. The third pass from Siemer fell incomplete in the end zone with tight end CJ Reifsteck under heavy Guardian coverage.
St. Michael downed the ball with 14 seconds remaining to run the clock out.
“I’m so proud of our kids for coming up and making the plays that they made,” said coach Diener. “There are plays early that we wish we could have back to not put us in those situations, but ultimately, we knew we were in the game the whole time.”
Siemer extended drives for the Eagles both on the ground and through the air as he closed out his senior season under center after taking over for injured senior quarterback Aiden Morarity in the third week of the season. The Eagle defense ended the season with junior middle linebacker Trent Stout calling signals after junior middle linebacker Tucker Kauffman was lost to injury late in the season.
“Luck’s a part of a championship run,” said coach Diener. “We’ve been really healthy my first two years, and for us to have those two injuries, and for us to still go 7-4 with the head of both the offense and the defense to get taken out is absolutely incredible. I’m so proud of the kids who stepped in. I’m so proud of the kids around them that absolutely had faith in those kids to be able to make those plays.
“I’m so proud of Trent and Lane for stepping into those spots,” said coach Diener. “I’m so proud of our offensive line that’s all coming back, and (Isaac) Bell and (Andrew) Johnston…their play on the D-line. Our D-ends are coming back. There are a lot of pieces that are coming back to make this happen, and continue to be in these games.”
The final pass of the night that was thrown in Reifsteck’s direction came after the senior tight end totaled a team-high 70 receiving yards. Reifsteck totaled four tackles on defense.
“For three years, CJ’s been outstanding,” said coach Diener at the end of his third season as the head coach of the Eagles. “He’s been our main two-way player the whole time. He’s going to be just absolutely a big spot to fill for us on both sides of the football. I think it was week five of his sophomore year, we officially moved him to offense, and our offense has never been the same since because of his ability to block, because of his ability to catch the football, because of his ability to run in the open field. He’s been a complete difference maker, and then for him to start as a sophomore in the secondary and just get bigger and stronger to the point where we have to move him to outside backer…once we moved him to outside backer this year as a senior, our defense became a completely different defense. He was an edge setter. He was great in pass coverage.
When people went his way, the ball didn’t get outside of him. I’m so proud of his play. He’s been a complete difference maker his entire career.
We’re going to find people to replace him with. Things are going to look different based on our personnel.
“That’s what’s so great about Sam getting his experience this year. It will be the same show, but we’re going to be a different style of offense because of the personnel that is back there. It’s still going to be the same style of blocking and an aggressive run game.
“Going over something like this is so hard to see our kids hurt, but in the grand scheme of it all, that’s why we do it is so that way they can put themselves in a situation where they love something so much and try so hard to make sure that it continues. That’s how it’s supposed to end. If it’s supposed to end, it’s supposed to hurt, and because of how they hurt, it shows how much they care. It shows how much effort that they put into it. It shows how much that they love the game that I love, and I’m so proud of their effort and everything that they’ve done for us. I’m so grateful for them, and for our program to continue to take another step forward because of the work that they’ve done and been able to do for us.”
Reifsteck’s team-high 70 receiving yards came on 5 catches. Drake totaled 56 receiving yards on 5 catches. Tevis had 2 catches for 24 total yards. Davis-Hacker had 2 catches for 14 total yards.
Siemer completed 15 passes on 32 attempts for 164 total yards.
Running back Reco Jenkins totaled 2 touchdowns and 79 yards on 18 carries. Siemer had 1 rushing touchdown on 10 attempts with negative rushing yardage due to yardage lost on sacks. Comer finished with 2 yards on 4 carries.
Inglis converted 3 extra-point kicks. Jenkins had 34 yards on 2 kickoff returns. Reifsteck punted 2 times for a net of 66 yards.
On defense, Wes Brown had a team-high 8 tackles (all solo). Stout totaled 6 tackles and forced 2 fumbles. Sauren Folson and Kale Tryon each totaled 5 tackles. Reifsteck and Matt Reynolds each had 4 tackles. Johnston had 3 tackles (1TFL). Andes had 2 tackles and 1 blocked field goal.
Bell, Tevis, Aiden Christian, and Justin Brown each had 1 tackle. Bell’s takedown was a tackle for loss. Davis-Hacker and Tryon each had 1 fumble recovery.
The Holden football team ends the season with an overall record of 7-4. The Eagles recorded a mark of 4-1 in MRVC-East play to place second in the conference.