LAKIN — Friday’s first round of Class 2A playoffs was a good Friday for the Lakin Broncs.
They moved on to next Friday with a 44-14 win over visiting Norton, their first playoff win since 1999.
It was worth the wait, said senior quarterback Juan Banuelos, and though the score made it look it like an easy win, it was far from it.
“We played a really good team,” Banuelos said. “Nothing’s easy in the playoffs. We had to come together as a team, and I think we did really well tonight.”
The Broncs (8-1) now hit the road to take on state-ranked Phillipsburg (9-0), which routed Southwestern Heights 55-12 on Friday.
Against Norton, Banuelos finished with 187 rushing yards and 89 through the air as the Broncs racked up 360 yards to Norton’s 249.
Things started well for Lakin, which drove on its first series to nearly 60 yards but fell short and wide on a field goal attempt.
Norton countered with an 80-yard drive, helped by a pair of Lakin penalties, with quarterback Kade Melvin bouncing off a tackle and then racing up the middle for a 7-0 lead
Lakin answered with a drive of three plays, when quarterback Juan Banuelos raced up his own sideline untouched 57 yards to pull within one, 7-6.
The Broncs opened the second period with a Jaylyn Hash interception in the end zone. They started a scoring drive at their own 20, taking it 11 plays, with Trey Hayzlett spinning and bouncing his way 17 yards for a score and 14-7 lead.
Lakin forced a punt on Norton’s next series, but the Bluejays intercepted a pass on the first play from scrimmage. Brandon Vacura capped a 5-play drive with a 6-yard run to pull the score even, 14-14.
But Lakin had one more drive left in the half after taking the kickoff back to the 44-yard line.
Banuelos found William Gilleland wide open over the middle for a 52-yard scoring play and a 22-14 halftime lead.
After an empty Lakin possession, Norton went for it on fourth down and was short.
The Broncs made them pay with Kayden Christiansen running 27 yards on the first play of the ensuing drive and then capping it with a 1-yard run and a 30-14 Lakin lead with 7:09 to play in third.
Norton went for it again on fourth-and-short on its next series, but Kade Lovelady foiled a pass attempt and the Broncs had the ball at the Norton 38. Banuelos kept the ball and raced untouched up the middle to give the Broncs a 38-14 lead.
On the next series, Panzer stripped the ball, Dom Miller jumped on it and Lakin had the ball back to end the third at the Bluejays’ 46. Two plays later, Christiansen race untouched up the middle 19 yards and the Broncs were up 44-14 to seal the win.
Thing had looked a bit bleak after the Broncs’ failed first drive and Norton reciprocating with a score, Banuelos said.
But the rest of the game?
“That’s part of being a team,” he said. “We have to be like rulers — our coaches always tell us you’ve got to bend but not break. We sure didn’t break and we finished through that early adversity.”
Not break was right. After being flagged twice in the opening drives, including the holding that led to Norton’s first score, the Broncs picked up just two more the rest of the game.
Head coach Chris Bamberger echoed his senior’s thoughts.
“I said at the beginning, the team that won the line of scrimmage was going to be he team that won the game,” he said. “I felt that our bigs up front played phenomenally well. I’m super proud of them.”
Norton (4-5) fell victim to turnovers. Besides the one interception, the ’Jays fumbled it away three times.