KPZ Preview: Holton High School

HOLTON, Kan. (WIBW) -- The 2016 Holton Wildcats proved it's not how you start, but how you finish.

"We struggled early in the season," Holton head coach Brooks Barta said. "We won a big game late in the playoffs, then got beat in the semifinals. That's all you can do is ask to get a chance."

The Wildcats lost the first three games of the season. The losses in Week 2 and Week 3 were by one point.

"We lost a couple games in the fourth quarter last year, and we don't do that," Barta, who is entering his 21st season as head coach, said.

"We learned that if you just step out on the field thinking you're going to win, it won't happen," senior quarterback Mason Strader said. "We're going to work for it this year and we'll be ready."

Barta says the team's focus is better this year.

"We just want to win the second half the first three games. That may or may not mean we're 3-0, but we want to win the second half and continue to improve and push toward district."

The Wildcats finished 2016 with a 7-5 record. Barta, who has more than 200 career victories, usually finds a way to win at least 10 games per season.

They were one win away from the state championship game, but a second loss to Hayden ended their run.

"It's definitely practice motivation," Strader said.

Holton opens the season at home against Atchison on Sept. 1.