HOLMEN — Travis Kowalski has always considered himself an offensive-minded guy.
Since playing high school football at Flambeau High School in Tony, Wis., he’s always preferred scoring points rather than preventing them.
Now, the former Flambeau Falcons wideout will get his opportunity to prove his offensive prowess.
Kowalski has taken over as the Holmen football team’s offensive coordinator after spending the last four years working with the defense and junior varsity teams.
“I preferred offense, but (Holmen) needed help on defense when I started,” said Kowalski, who graduated from Winona State University in 2007. “But when coach (Steve) King asked me to help on offense, I said ‘Yes.’”
In recent years, King has had two offensive coordinators — one that focuses on the run and one that focuses on the pass.
But this year will be a little different.
“We had one guy run the running game and one guy run the passing game, but we don’t have that this year,” King said. “I will help oversee it, but it’s pretty much his right now to call. Right now, things are going smooth.”
A good sign for the Vikings, who open the season Friday at Chippewa Falls, a team that held Holmen to just 13 points a year ago.
“I really like it,” Vikings senior quarterback Ryan Weber said. “Everybody has to do their job, but if we run it the right way, I don’t see any teams being able to stop it.”
Weber was good in Holmen’s offense a year ago before an injury ended his season early.
He said what the team is doing now allows it to create and hit holes faster, and he hopes that leads to some big plays.
The offense will feature the option, and Weber’s execution of it will be essential to success. Fullback Zane Finucane, who is returning after injuring a shoulder midway through the season last year, is another key.
“It’s been going really good,” Finucane said. “(Kowalski) switching from offense to defense — he’s originally an offensive guy, so he knows what he’s talking about.”
Kowalski had quite a high school football career of his own playing for Flambeau, the home team of former New York Jets and current Denver Broncos safety Jim Leonhard.
Kowalski, a former teammate of Leonhard’s, was a standout receiver who even drew some attention from a few colleges, but he blew out his knee in his senior year and was never able to play a snap at the collegiate level.
Instead, Kowalski enrolled at WSU and got his teaching degree, paving way for him to return to the football field as a coach in 2008.
“I had never really coached before, so I just kind of took it all in,” said Kowalski, who teaches social studies at Holmen High School. “I worked with the secondary and as time progressed I moved up to JV as the head coach, and I worked with the defense. The last couple of years I kind of worked my way up the ladder.”
With each rung Kowalski has learned something new.
Like a sponge, he soaked up everything he could from his predecessors as well as from King. The 26-year coach said he feels more than confident in what the WSU grad can bring to the table.
“I think everyone is buying in,” King said. “We’re not running a totally new system. We’re still doing some of the things we’ve done in the past, but just some of the techniques have changed, and the kids are excited.”
For the last five years, Kowalski has been the one issuing the exams, but on Friday, he will be the one answering the questions.
How will Holmen be able to penetrate a defense that yielded just 13 points in last season’s matchup?
Will there be enough of a mix in the backfield to keep the Cardinals off balance?
How will four new starters on the offensive line be able to hold up?
This week will be the first of an eight-part series of tests what could involve some extra credit at the end of the season in the form of a postseason appearance.
So, Mr. Kowalski, grab your No. 2 pencil, a sheet of plays and a motivational speech or two because, come Friday, school is in session.
“We’ve just broken down the season to being successful,” Kowalski said. “If we’re successful every single play, we’re going to be successful on Friday nights.
“We don’t really talk about winning, we talk about being successful, because there’s going to be games we play really good and we’re not successful on the field. ... If we do things right — the way we practice — we’re going to be alright in games on Friday.”