By BUDDY TABLER
Special to the News
LARNED — The special teams play of the Hugoton Eagles was a difference maker at Earl Roberts Field as the Hugoton Eagles eliminated Larned from Class 4A-Division 2 playoff contention, 35-28.
Larned coach A.B. Stokes lamented the poor special teams play. Hugoton returned a kickoff for a touchdown, had long punt returns and recovered a kickoff.
“We put a lot of emphasis on special teams and take a lot of pride in it, so it is really disappointing to have that be the difference maker in this game. We had hopes to advance in the playoffs,” said Larned coach A.B. Stokes.
Hugoton (4-4, 2-0) plays Holcomb (6-2, 2-0) at home next week in the District championship. Larned (3-5, 0-2) travels to Pratt (4-4, 0-2).
Larned converted an early 44-yard pass from quarterback Evan Skelton to Isiah Perez to the 8-yard line. Skelton scored on a quarterback keeper for a 6-0 lead.
Hugoton came out passing and following several completions quarterback Valentino Degollado ran the ball in from the 6-yard line and following a Colby Korf kick had taken a 7-6 lead.
Larned scored on a 35-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Evan Skelton to Tanner Galliart and following a two-point conversion pass from Perez to Skelton, the Indians had a 14-7 lead. That momentum was quickly jerked away as Manuel Mendez returned the ensuing kickoff 90 yards and a tying score.
After a defensive stop, Hugoton’s Mendez returned the ensuing punt to the Larned 40. Following a 16 yard pass completion to Daniel Bustillos, Degollado connected on a 23-yard touchdown pass to Zackary Leininger for a 21-14 lead with 4:52 left in the half.
Hugoton recovered the ensuing kickoff at the Larned 40. Following a roughing the passer penalty on Larned, Degollado scored on a 25-yard run right through the middle of the Larned defense and a 28-14 lead.
Degollado picked apart the Larned pass defense with short, over-the-middle passes to a bevy of receivers.
Another Mendez punt return moved the football to the Larned 37-yard line. After two runs by Degollado, Hugoton’s Tyler Goode scored on a 15-yard pass from Degollado for a 35-14 lead after Korf’s conversion.
Larned faced a fourth and 9 from their own 38-yard line as the third quarter wound down. A successful fake punt, despite an inadvertent whistle by an official, moved the ball to the Hugoton 48 and the Indians seemed to have new life. Larned’s Landon Erway broke loose to the 5-yard line and Evan Skelton scored on a 4-yard run and following a successful kick by David Valadez, the Indians had closed to 35-21.
In the second half the Indian defense was successful at shutting down the potent Eagle passing game and forcing them to punt the ball.
As the fourth quarter got underway Larned was keyed by a 23-yard ramble by fullback Nate Williams and a 25-yard blast up the middle by Landon Erway. On fourth down, the Indians scored on a 10-yard end-around by Perez. Valadez’ kick left a 35-28 with 6:55 left.
Once again Hugoton’s special team play made the difference as Mendez again had a good kick return to the Larned 36-yard line. After a series of running plays and some good game-clock management, the Eagles turned it over on a fourth down play to the Indians but there were only 23 seconds left. Larned failed to convert on three pass plays and Hugoton had secured their second District win.