Linebacker Kyle Bakalars can tackle just about everything.
Even a position change.
Entering the biggest game of the season, Logan High School football coach Casey Knoble decided to move Bakalars from inside linebacker to outside linebacker.
How did he respond?
“He had his best game of the year,” Knoble said of the 5-foot-9, 170-pound Bakalars.
Last Monday, leading up to the Rangers’ WIAA Division 3 quarterfinal against Mount Horeb/Barneveld, Knoble told his junior linebacker he would be moving inside to outside.
“It was weird at first, but I just got used to it right away,” Bakalars said. “I just played it and did my job.”
Bakalars said the biggest change is being left alone to make solo tackles on the outside, but Knoble had complete confidence he was up for the challenge. He’s stepped up every other time he’s been put in a difficult spot, including last season when he was inserted into the lineup as a sophomore.
“He was one of our best inside linebackers, one of our most aggressive kids and one of our best tacklers,” said Knoble, who coached the Rangers to quarterfinals last season.
High praise considering some of the talent playing alongside Bakalars. Most notably 230-pound DE/LB Calvin Wright.
“Last year, I came in as an underclassman, and all the upperclassmen pushed me and helped me,” Bakalars said. “This year, I’ve worked really hard to get here.”
Bakalars began the season with a tall order to fill. After all-conference linebacker Sam Leinfelder graduated, there was a huge void to fill in the middle.
Bakalars knew Leinfelder’s presence would be irreplaceable, but he’s used what he learned from the former Logan standout and has had his most productive season.
“He gave me some pointers on how to read guards and how to watch everything,” Bakalars said. “He taught me a lot and I’ve just done what he said.”
It seems to be working as he’s played an integral role in leading the Rangers (10-2) on their historical march through the postseason, which continues against Monona Grove (12-0) 7 p.m. Friday in Baraboo, Wis.
In his first game playing outside linebacker, Bakalars and the Rangers defense held Mount Horeb/Barneveld to just 24 yards rushing in Logan’s 35-20 quarterfinal win last Friday.
“We’re pretty tough as a unit,” Bakalars said. “We all stick together.”
Bakalars exemplifies the Logan Rangers perfectly. He isn’t going to intimidate anyone with his size, but his awareness and technique have helped him overcome what he lacks in size. The same goes for the entire Rangers team.
“All across the board, I don’t think we’ve been bigger than anybody and that’s certainly going to be the case this week,” Knoble said. “We have to do things with technique and have people in the right place at the right time.”
And Bakalars has been able to do just that for most of the season. Now, he’ll just have to do it from the outside.
“We’re just coming in like it’s another football game,” said Bakalars, looking ahead to Friday’s game with Monona Grove. “If everyone does their job, we’ll come away with a victory.”