MART — Brad Talbert has been building something special in Holland. In his eighth season as head coach, he has transformed the Hornets program into a Class 2A power in Central Texas.
With five playoff berths during his tenure, including three postseason trips in the last four years, and a 22-5 record dating back to the 2017 season, Holland has emerged as one of the best programs in the area.
On Friday night, the Hornets continued to add to their resume.
After falling behind 3-0 at the start of the fourth quarter, Holland scored 20 unanswered points to rally for a 20-3 victory and hand reigning two-time Class 2A Division II state champion Mart just its second home defeat over the last six seasons.
“When you talk about the work that has gone into this program, it’s more than just football. We changed the culture here,” Talbert said. “Whether it was a little bit of luck for us or us just being in the right place to execute, this was huge.”
Going into the rematch against Mart (1-1), Talbert said his defense needed to avoid allowing big plays that were a key issue in last year’s 34-7 loss. His defense responded by holding the Panthers scoreless through the first three quarters, allowing just two completed passes for 48 yards, forcing and recovering a fumble and denying Mart three times on fourth-down tries.
And those weren’t even the biggest plays of the game.
Mart booted a 12-yard field goal to break the 37-minute scoreless streak for a modest 3-0 lead. On the Panthers’ next possession, Holland (2-0) forced a punt that the Hornets blocked and recovered at the Mart 13-yard line. Five plays later, Zane Spinn leaped over the pile at the goal line for Holland’s first score and a 7-3 lead with 7:25 to go.
“We told our offensive line that it was going to start and end with them,” said Spinn, who finished with 144 total yards and two touchdowns. “I didn’t care what it took, I was getting in there.”
Mart took over from its 15 and was quickly forced to punt again. Failed special teams execution proved to be the Panthers’ downfall when the deep snap was dropped, and Holland’s Ethan Mann recovered the ball in the end zone for a touchdown to extend the Hornets’ lead to 13-3.
“We pride ourselves on special teams,” Talbert said. “And the thing is we have so many seniors who have been through it all. They’ve seen the ups and downs and no matter what happens, they believe.”
One of those seniors, Caleb Cearley, provided the icing on the cake for the Hornets. Cearley — who had caught a 49-yard pass from Spinn on the game’s first play from scrimmage only to see the Hornets fumble the ball away in Mart territory on the ensuing play — took care of it himself late in the fourth quarter by fighting off a defender to haul in a 48-yard pass from Spinn and trotting in for a touchdown with just more than 3 minutes left.
Holland’s defense was stingy in the first half, allowing 126 yards — all on the ground — and held Mart quarterback Kyler Martin without a completion through four attempts and to just two completions after the break.
Mart’s rushing attack found success at times, breaking off runs of 48 yards and a pair of 19-yarders before halftime. The Panthers’ best scoring chance of the half came on their first drive of the game, when they went 79 yards to the Holland 10. A penalty pushed them back to the 20 for third down, and consecutive Holland sacks forced a turnover on downs to keep Mart scoreless.
HOLLAND 20, MART 3
Holland 0 0 0 20 — 20
Mart 0 0 0 3 — 3
Mart — Ayden Lane 12 field goal
Hol — Zane Spinn 2 run (Brandon Ramos kick)
Hol — Ethan Mann fumble recovery in end zone (kick failed)
Hol — Caleb Cearley 48 pass from Spinn (Ramos kick)
First downs 10 12
Rushes-yards 23-104 33-193
Passing yards 111 48
Comp.-Att.-Int. 5-10-2 2-15-0
Punts-average 4-41.5 3-33
Fumbles-lost 1-1 1-1
Penalties-yards 8-60 8-75
RUSHING — Holland: Clay Cooper 11-66, Spinn 10-33, Logan Mann 2-5; Mart: Klyderion Campbell 10-93, Roddrell Freeman 14-52, Kyler Martin 17-44, Neven Hickman 2-4.
PASSING — Holland: Spinn 5-10-2-111; Mart: Martin 2-15-0-48.
RECEIVING — Holland: Cearley 2-97, L.Mann 2-9, Cooper 1-5; Mart: Campbell 2-48.