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High school football: Holmen vs. West Salem a clash of heavyweights

A one-sided loss to Menomonie during the second week of the season humbled the Holmen High School football team.

But the lessons learned during a 49-14 defeat to a team that will likely pummel opponents all season will be visited regularly as the Vikings try to reach their potential.

The bad moments will be discussed for several reasons, one of which is to keep the team grounded in reality.


That’s important as Holmen (3-1, 2-0) marches through the MVC schedule. It’s very important tonight when it lines up against West Salem (3-1, 2-0) at Logan’s Swanson Field.

“There have been a few games that we felt good about, and they didn’t go our way,” said Holmen coach Travis Kowalski, who thought he was out-coached against Menomonie. “Against Logan and Onalaska last year and Logan the year before and other games when I was offensive coordinator.

“They hurt. We have (former Holmen quarterback) Cam Zimmerman on our coaching staff now, and he was part of games like that, and he makes sure the guys know where their heads should be.”

Holmen is the only MVC team West Salem hasn’t beaten since joining the conference in 2014, so the Vikings will encounter plenty of motivation as they step on the neutral field in search of their third-straight win.

The Panthers are good. Real good.

They’ve played well offensively and defensively and have their own night to look at — a 31-22 loss to unbeaten G-E-T — for a dose of reality. The final score doesn’t tell the whole story because the Red Hawks seemed to do whatever they wanted, while the Panthers only hung in on big plays.


West Salem coach Justin Jehn likes how his team has responded to playing against a variety of offenses the last three weeks, but he also knows the challenge that awaits.

Holmen has scored 108 points against West Salem the last three seasons, and the Panthers have to find a way to lower that average of 36 per game.

“It starts on the line of scrimmage,” Jehn said. “If we can play well there, it’s a huge indication of how things will go. If we do the job up front, it will allow our linebackers and secondary to flow and make plays.”

Controlling fullback Mitchell Torud, who has 371 rushing yards and five touchdowns, is the key. Despite the speed and big-play ability of Drew Becker, pushing the Vikings outside allows the Panthers to rely on its strength of playing sideline to sideline.


But Becker won’t be easy to get hands on. The senior has blown through just about any opening he’s seen so far on the way to 622 yards and eight touchdowns.

The challenges presented to Holmen’s defense have excelled as a trio.

Quarterback Ryan Beirne, running back Brendan Holt and wide receiver Trent Foreman have all taken turns leading the team, and they will have to be ready to produce if the defense struggles against a triple option that averages 38 points and 356 total yards per game.

“They have a great quarterback, and a great running back,” Kowalski said of the Panthers. “(Foreman) is a very athletic receiver, and playing one-on-one in high school is very difficult.

“If Beirne can get the ball to him, he will, and we have to be aware of that.”

While Holmen beat Onalaska handily two weeks ago, it experienced some difficulty with Hilltoppers quarterback Noah Skifton. Beirne is a similar dual threat with 700 passing yards, 238 rushing yards, eight TD passes and two TD rushes.


Holt, who has rushed for 521 yards and four touchdowns, has reached the end zone three times and rushed for 325 yards in wins over Central and Tomah the last two weeks. Foreman (13 catches, 448 yards, five TDs) has had more than 100 receiving yards his last three games.

Everyone mentioned will be doing his best to tilt the advantage toward their team during the biggest conference game to this point of the season.

Photos: 2017 high school football season in the La Crosse area

UW-La Crosse basketball: Ken Koelbl's resignation stuns followers

Ken Koelbl, who grew up playing basketball in his hometown of Onalaska, starred at Viterbo University, dabbled briefly in a pro hoops career, then went on to coach in the college ranks, seemed like he was in it for the long haul.

Or so many folks who follow UW-La Crosse men’s basketball thought.

That all changed on Thursday afternoon as Koelbl resigned as the Eagles’ coach after 14 seasons and a 201-161 (.555) record. With the start of the 2017-18 season exactly one month away, the timing — and the decision — caught many by surprise, including UW-L athletic director Kim Blum.

Koelbl will remain with the university and continue to work in the admissions department, where he has been since 2003. He will become a full-time admissions counselor.

Koelbl and Blum met with the team late Thursday afternoon to inform them of Koelbl’s departure.

“The timing isn’t great for the basketball side of it, leaving at this point in time, but a position in the admission’s office opened up,” Koelbl said. “An email came last Friday about the position they have, so I talked to our director of admissions about it, about sliding over to that if it would work out.

Tribune file photo 

UW-La Crosse coach Ken Koelbl talks with his team during a timeout in the first half of a WIAC touranment semfinal game against UW-River Falls in 2015. Koelbl, who announced his resignation on Thursday, compiled a 201-161 record during his 14-year career on the Eagles’ bench.

“I had conversations with my wife, Ellen, about it to see if this was indeed the right move. I have always enjoyed my time there (admissions) as it is different from coaching. It was almost a release from the coaching side of things.”

It what turned into a whirlwind three days, Koelbl went from one of the longest tenured coaches at UW-L to leaving a program he turned into a competitive one year in and year out.

Blum said she and Koelbl on Thursday afternoon, but she said she was surprised when the topic of the meeting was Koelbl’s resignation.

“Ken and I met today for the first time (this fall). I wasn’t expecting to have that (resignation) conversation today,” Blum said. “I certainly didn’t know it was coming. As I understand it, it was an opportunity (in admissions) that came up very recently. I know Ken really enjoys his admissions position and the admission folks think very highly of his work. Apparently they talked through it and it ended up making sense for Ken.”

Those surrounding the basketball team, they are still trying to make sense of losing a head coach that led the program to a WIAC title in 2016, its first since 1965. A coach that led the Eagles to nine winning seasons in the last 12 years.

“I actually did not know about that,” said Ryan Kruser, who played basketball for Koelbl for four years and is now a wide receiver on the Eagles’ football team. “That is news to me, so yes, it definitely caught me by surprise.

“I would have not expected that. He really had a passion for the game. He has put in the time to be a great coach and he gave it his all. I am still trying to let it sink in. He never gave off the vibe that he was thinking about leaving.”

While the timing was right for Koelbl to expand his role in the UW-L admissions department, it leaves the basketball team facing a full-court press in terms of replacing him. Division III teams can begin practice on Oct. 15, in accordance with NCAA rules.

Bobby Wheet, who has been one of Koelbl’s assistants the past four years while also serving as director of the Eagles’ camps and clinics, found out about Koelbl’s departure Thursday afternoon.

“I did not have any idea. I was just as shocked as anybody when I found out today (Thursday),” Wheet said. “I really didn’t see anything that would suggest it was coming. Coaching is a pretty stressful job and a tough profession, and when you are Division III and juggling multiple jobs that makes it even more stressful.

“I don’t know what my role will be moving forward. My job right now is to make sure out guys stay together and continue to work hard as a team.”

Blum said plans are still being formulated on exactly how to proceed, but she said there will be an interim coach for the 2017-18 season.

“We will have to have an interim coach for the season. I don’t believe going forward with a national search at this point in time will produce a quality pool,” Blum said, noting most coaching staffs are already in place for the upcoming season. “That will have to happen at the end of the season.

“We have to think about the long term of the program, not the here and now. We want to do the very best we can. I don’t think a knee-jerk reaction is what is best, long-term, for the program.

“I think Bobby and Kris (Risch, assistant coach) will be able to provide some consistency for the guys, a friendly face, somebody they can go to in this time period.”

Koelbl said one of his personal philosophies, one he learned from former longtime Viterbo men’s basketball coach and athletic director Rod Popp, is to leave something better than you found it.

“I don’t have any regrets. I have a personal philosophy — and it doesn’t always work out — to try and leave things better than when you found them. I am proud of where the program is at. It is at a position where it can compete at a high level.

“There are more things I wish we could have accomplished here. We did put the basketball program on the map.”

“I would have not expected that. He really had a passion for the game. He has put in the time to be a great coach and he gave it his all. I am still trying to let it sink in.” Ryan Kruser, who played for Koelbl for four years

High school soccer: Quintin Olson, Holmen Vikings struck early to best Sparta 3-2

HOLMEN— Quintin Olson put himself in the right place at the right time to give the Holmen High School boys soccer team an early lead against Sparta on Thursday night.

Twenty minutes later, he did it again.

The bespectacled sophomore for the Vikings scored two first-half goals — one with his left foot, one with his head — as Holmen bested the Spartans 3-2 in front of approximately 200 fans at Holmen High School.

The win was the sixth straight for the Vikings (7-0-2, 5-0-2 MVC), while Sparta fell to 4-3 in the MVC.

Olson created space on the back post on each goal, finding room to tuck a left-footed strike just underneath the crossbar in the 21st minute, before corralling a corner kick from junior Jonah Johnson with his forehead to give the Vikings a 2-0 lead just before half.

“He just has a knack for the goal,” Holmen coach Guy Turner said of Olson. “Sometimes he comes flying in out of nowhere, and we don’t understand where he comes from. He’s a tremendous player and a tremendous athlete and definitely has a nose to find the net. He capitalized on that today.”

Crashing the far post as the left wing requires a balance of patience and persistence, waiting for that one opportunity to finally come. Luckily for the Vikings, Olson came up big twice early on.

“Usually you just kind of sit back and get anything that comes to the back post,” Olson said of the approach. “You sit and wait and wait until you find the right spot, then make your run and put your best shot into it.”

The two-goal lead at halftime proved important, as the effects of the 90-plus degree temperature wore on both teams following the 4 p.m. start. As the sun bore down, so did the Spartans to try to mount a comeback.

Sparta junior Jess Sullivan connected on his own back-post header to draw the margin to 2-1 with just over half an hour to play, but Holmen senior Max Biesterveld punctuated the game with a breakaway goal in the 88th minute.

Keaton Hauser scored from beyond midfield with six seconds to play on a high bouncing ball on the dry field to provide the final margin, but the Vikings had done enough where the late blunder didn’t matter.

“It goes to show, that’s why we play a full 90 minutes and not 89-and-a-half because Sparta didn’t give up, so hats off to them for that,” Turner said. “I think both teams felt the effects of the temperature and the heat. I think that took a toll on both teams.”

The result keeps Holmen unbeaten in the MVC with the second half of the league round-robin still to come.

“It was huge. It was a really good team win,” Olson said. “All the nerves were there at the beginning of the game, but we settled in right away, came out strong, and got the job done.”


Now full-time RB, Packers' Montgomery passed backfield test


GREEN BAY — Ty Montgomery’s transition to running back appears to be going well.

Yes, the converted receiver was listed as the starting tailback on the Green Bay Packers’ depth chart to open the season. He spent the offseason preparing as a running back.

Montgomery passed his first test in his first season opener as a full-timer in the backfield.

He ran for 54 yards on 19 carries in the season-opening win against Seattle, including 38 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries in the second half.

Montgomery played 90 percent of the snaps, and might have taken more if he didn’t limp off briefly at one point with a sore ankle.

It’s just the sort of effort that coaches love to see against a physical defense, one that opponents will remember come playoff time.

Montgomery’s shoulder and upper body look thicker this season, the kind of physique more suitable for a starting running back. But the 6-foot, 216-pound Montgomery doesn’t pigeonhole himself to a certain style of running.

“Let me tell you, I thrive on being effective. If I have to take on contact or deliver contact then that’s what it is,” Montgomery said Thursday when asked if he prefers to seek out contact. “If I’ve got to completely make a guy miss, that’s what it is. I look to doing whatever it takes.”

It’s a philosophy he used last season, too, when coach Mike McCarthy moved Montgomery to an injury-riddled backfield. Both Eddie Lacy and James Starks were bothered by injuries most of the season.

Lacy and Starks are now gone. Montgomery became the centerpiece of the backfield overhaul and given a full offseason to prepare as a running back, though Green Bay also took three backs in the draft.

What Montgomery described as a “soft tissue” leg injury that slowed him for part of training camp gave opportunities for rookies Jamaal Williams, Aaron Jones and Devante Mays to get more looks. But the week before the opener, McCarthy declared again that “Ty Montgomery is our starting running back, so his development is over. It’s time to go win games.”

And that’s exactly what Montgomery helped the Packers do against Seattle.

“I don’t really see myself being so stubborn as like, ‘Oh, I’m going to run this guy over.’ My mindset is I’m going to find a way to score the football, because at the end of the day, the team that has more points than the other team is going to win,” Montgomery said. “Nobody’s going to look at Ty and be like ‘Ty did run over a couple people today.’”

Montgomery’s pass-catching skills also make him a matchup problem out of the backfield. It might be similar to the matchup concern that Falcons running back Devonta Freeman will present the Packers on Sunday night when Green Bay visits Atlanta.

Sometimes a linebacker might cover Montgomery. Other times it might be a safety. At the line of scrimmage, Aaron Rodgers — one of the smartest quarterbacks in the league — will usually find the mismatch.

“When you move your halfback out there, no different than (what) we do with Ty Montgomery, the defense has base defense on the field,” McCarthy said. “The matchup is your focus.”

NOTES: Starting RT Bryan Bulaga went home for a second straight day with an illness and missed practice. He was already dealing with a right ankle injury. Starting LT David Bakhtiari was limited for a second straight day with a hamstring injury. The Packers brought up OL Adam Pankey from the practice squad this week to provide depth up front, especially with backup T Jason Spriggs expected to miss some time with a hamstring injury and utility OL Don Barclay (ankle) on injured reserve. ... Two defensive players were added to the injury report as limited in practice: DT Mike Daniels (hip) and S Kentrell Brice (quadriceps/knee).