By Ken DeLaat
Photo by Dan Packard
In the end it was too much Reading.
The powerful Ranger squad had cut a swath through their regular season schedule and pounded their way to this last step before the Ford Field Finals.They started the year with a trip to Detroit in their sights and a squad with most of the same players who took the field in the D7 playoffs last year. After Reading’s Land Shark defense pitched their seventh shutout of the season against the Red Devils, the run finally came to an end for Holton’s team of destiny. A squad that surprised everyone with this spirited sprint to the semi-finals.
The Devils, as will be said about 31 of the 32 teams in the D8 playoffs, lost their final game of the season.
But what a season it was.
Behind a coach in his final year on the Red Devil sidelines this team captivated a community with a variety of heroes emerging each game on both sides of the ball and a rugged determined group of pit dwellers grinding it out in the trenches.
Holton made the playoffs for the 5th time in school history and the first time in over a decade. There had been no 10th game since the seniors on this team were in kindergarten.
Once in, by a razor’s edge I might add, they embraced the playoff scene like an old friend.
Postseason football is different and it is no surprise that you see the same teams advancing each year. As tough as it is to win any football game it becomes a much more demanding task in the playoff rounds. For programs unaccustomed to the rigors of the one and done season each win can bring on more apprehension as the team ventures into unknown territory.
When the Devils welcomed in the Mendon Hornets to their home field for the regional title game (after two wins on the road) they were hosting a program that has missed the playoffs just twice in 30 years. A school and a program accustomed to making lengthy postseason runs. Over the years the Hornets have made a dozen trips to the final game and emerged from those with a state championship 11 times. It was their ninth regional final in the last eleven years.
But none of that mattered because on a cold wintry day on a newly shoveled off field the Devils played as if they knew what the outcome was going to be from the start. No one was going to come into their house and end their season regardless of what playoff pedigree the program presented on arrival.
This is a legacy team for Holton High School. A source of pride and inspiration for the way they shook off a late season slide to come together and fire off three more wins. If the players, coaches, student body, and perhaps the whole community walk with a bit of swagger these days it is well deserved.
After all, there are 6 schools in the Silver Division of the CSAA and each of them have made their share of trips to the playoffs over the years. Of all those teams who extended their season only one has made it through four post season games.