The first half of Friday’s Tomah-Holmen football game should have been close, but it wasn’t.
Tomah wasted two trips inside the Holmen 20-yard line, and that was all Holmen needed to inflict a 44-6 Mississippi Valley Conference loss on the Timberwolves at E.J. McKean Field.
It was the Timberwolves’ fourth straight loss, and it eliminated them from WIAA playoff consideration.
Tomah coach Brad Plueger said the inability of the offense to convert scoring opportunities is holding the team back.
“We’ve got to get better,” Plueger said. “We have to get to 20 (points) if we’re going to beat people.”
The Timberwolves had a chance to hit 14 by halftime but got stuck at the 15-yard line both times.
Holmen presented Tomah with its first chance thanks to a botched punt attempt that gave the Timberwolves possession at the Holmen 15-yard line. But before they could snap the ball, an illegal substitution penalty cost them five yards. That was followed by a rushing play that lost two yards and three incomplete passes.
The Vikings responded with a seven-play drive that ended with Mitchell Torud’s seven-yard touchdown run that made the score 10-0.
Tomah got another chance on the ensuing kickoff, which Kyle Kroener returned to the Holmen 45. Fullback Angel Burkhalter ripped off a run of 24 yards, but an interception ended the drive four plays later.
The Vikings then mounted the drive that defined the contest. They marched to the Tomah 34, where back-to-back holding penalties appeared to leave them in an impossible first-and-29 from their own 45 with 46 seconds left in the half.
However, running back Drew Becker burst through a hole and outran the Tomah defense to the end zone for a 17-0 Vikings halftime lead.
The Timberwolves never recovered. Two key players, Burkhalter and two-way lineman Trevor Shutter, left the contest with injuries, and Holmen dominated the second half.
“You could see we had guys playing both ways getting tired,” Plueger said.
Tomah scored its only touchdown midway through the third quarter. Damien Hernandez returned a Holmen kickoff 34 yards to the Tomah 43, and the Timberwolves needed just plays to score. Wide receiver Kyle Kroener took a short pass from quarterback Peter Brey and turned it into a 43-yard gain, and the next play was a down-and-out to the end zone that Kroener caught for a 14-yard touchdown pass. The conversion pass failed, and Tomah trailed 24-6.
Brey stepped in as quarterback after Connor Prielipp, who started the first five games, was scratched with a sore elbow. Plueger said Brey, who began last season as the starting quarterback, stepped up and performed well under difficult circumstances.
“It was hard with guys missing blocks,” Plueger said. “We had max protection, but (Holmen) still got in there.”
Holmen amassed 456 yards rushing and didn’t attempt a pass.
The Timberwolves hit the road for consecutive weeks at Onalaska and La Crosse Aquinas before returning home Friday, Oct. 13 for their homecoming contest vs. La Crosse Central.
Holmen 03 14 20 07−44
Tomah 00 00 06 00−06
H—Johnson 30 FG 3:32.
H—Torud 9 run (Johnson kick) 7:55.
H—Becker 55 run (Johnson kick) :46.
H—Torud 5 run (Johnson kick) 10:36.
T—Kroener 14 pass from Brey (pass failed) 9:56.
H—Koelbl 5 run (Johnson kick) 8:47.
H—Torud 16 run (pass failed) 5:54.
H—Torud 3 run (Johnson kick) 11:58.
First downs—H 23, T 6. Rushing—H 57-456, T 26-38. Passes—H 0-0-0, T 6-13-1. Passing yards—H 0, T 80. Penalties—H 8-61, T 5-30. Fumbles—H 1-0, T 1-0.
Rushing: H—Becker 21-180, Torud 14-172, Handland 8-84, Koelbl 8-3, Wescott 5-11, Beinborn 1-6, Plomedahl 1-(-3). T—Klema 15-24, Burkhalter 4-26, Kroener 1-(-1), Springman 2-9, Brey 4-(-20).
Passing: H—NONE. T—Brey 6-13-1-80.
Receiving: H—NONE. T—Kroener 5-74, Gnewikow 1-6
West Salem 4-0 5-1
Onalaska 3-1 5-1
Holmen 3-1 4-2
Sparta 2-2 4-2
Central 2-2 3-3
Logan 2-2 3-3
Tomah 0-4 2-4
Aquinas 0-4 0-6
Results of Sept. 22
Holmen 44 Tomah 6
Onalaska 42 Sparta 0
West Salem 52 Aquinas 0
Central 24 Logan 18