HOLMEN — Carson Westcott made quite an impression on the Holmen High School football team as a sophomore.
Both coaches and teammates were instantly excited about what was to come as Westcott gained experience as a linebacker after the early impact he made on special teams.
“He was very physical as a sophomore,” Holmen coach Travis Kowalski said. “He was primarily special teams, and I remember the first kickoff (in a game) against Chippewa Falls.
“He just de-cleated a guy, and it was one of those hits where everybody goes, “Ohhhhhhh.’ (Assistant coach Jason) Lulloff was standing there just went, ‘Wow.’”
A bigger role was expected for Westcott’s junior season, and while the COVID-19 pandemic impacted things, so did an injury while playing fall baseball last September.
Westcott tore his labrum while trying to steal second base, and the injury led to surgery on his right shoulder in January. That took Westcott out of wrestling and then Holmen’s spring football season.
Six months of rehabilitation followed, but he is back as a 6-foot-2, 195-pound powerhouse for Holmen’s defense as it chases an MVC championship.
The Vikings, who have nearly 120 players, could be in that title mix with Westcott being a big reason for it.
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“We were looking at a lot of different places to line him up, and it looks like we have decided on (middle) linebacker,” Kowalski said. “He is someone who will play downhill, someone is going to grab a guy and put him on the ground. His hands are gigantic, and he is a full-grown man out here playing football in high school.
“He’s tough, and he likes contact.”
Holmen rarely has difficulty finding players who love the physicality of the game, so Westcott fits the mold of what Kowalski and his staff like and to which they have become accustomed.
Now, Westcott just has to get out on the field and make it reality after spending the spring watching his teammates.
“For four months, I was in there doing PT twice a week,” Westcott said. “I had to do a lot of stretches that I’m still doing to this day for that.
“It really showed me how bad it is to get injured, and I’m glad to be back and to be able to do all of this with my buddies.”
Westcott said he didn’t overlook the opportunity he received to contribute for the Vikings as a sophomore. The coaching staff showed early faith in his abilities, and he lived up to the expectations by making 21 tackles — 13 of them solos — starting with the hit against Chippewa Falls.
“My arm went a little numb after that one,” Westcott said with a smile. “I was just real excited to be out there and went for the ball the first chance I got.
“I was just out there because they gave me a chance, and I wanted to make the most of it.”
While the turnaround from most recent game to next gave Westcott plenty of time to get ready, that’s not the case for his coaches and teammates, who played their final game of last season on April 23.
Senior quarterback Luke LeClaire, who took over when Ryland Wall was injured during the first game of the spring, said the process has gone pretty well and been more of a continuation of what that group started.
“It was good to have that season, and I think we’re ahead of where we usually are at this point because it just happened,” said LeClaire, who rushed for 325 yards and four touchdowns and passed for 158 yards and three TDs. “I think there was a little concern with trying to replace seniors that we had (in a small time frame), but I think we’re all ready for this and excited about it.”
LeClaire’s biggest job might be trying to stay healthy in a very demanding position within the triple option. Holmen quarterbacks take a pounding over the course of a season, and LeClaire showed that he can move the ball when counted on for five games.
“He got a chance to get some growing pains under his belt during a spring season,” Kowalski said. “Now, with option football, you want your quarterback to come in and adjust offense and dictate what the defense does.
“We’ve been working on all the different things defenses do to us, and there will be some struggles with that, but it’s nice to give the ball to someone who is coming back and some guys behind him who have really picked up on what we do.”
Senior Braedon Graw, who rushed for 308 yards last season, is another player who earned some valuable snaps during the spring games.
Todd Sommerfeldt can be reached at email@example.com or via Twitter @SommerfeldtLAX