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HOLMEN — Kevin Koelbl took the ball, cut to his right and hurdled a fallen defender without losing his balance.

The Holmen High School senior continued his run to the end zone, where his 65-yard sprint was rewarded with a touchdown.

The Vikings had nearly all of the answers on Friday, but Koelbl’s ability to respond to Onalaska’s only real sign of life played out big in a 49-14 MVC championship win at Empire Stadium.

Holmen (6-3, 6-1) claimed its second straight conference title — this one outright — by overpowering the Hilltoppers (6-3, 5-2) in a winner-take-all atmosphere.

“We needed to get the momentum back,” said Koelbl, who scored two of Holmen’s seven touchdowns. “We needed a big play, and we got it there.”

It was important because it followed up a great start to the second half by Onalaska. The Hilltoppers recovered an onside kick to open the third quarter — Tyler Johnson got on the ball at his own 42-yard line.

Junior quarterback Austin Larson then took off on a 58-yard touchdown run on the first snap. He broke a couple of tackles along the way, and he not only got the Hilltoppers within 21-7, he woke up his sideline.

Koelbl’s touchdown a couple of plays later gave the Vikings back every bit of momentum they had forged during a one-sided first half.

Holmen sophomore quarterback Ryland Wall rushed for four touchdowns, and Holmen rushed for 383 yards to drop Onalaska into a second-place tie with Central.

The Viking put together a solid pass rush and took advantage of turnovers to beat their rivals. Junior Justin Jones recovered a fumble and intercepted a pass.

Senior Tate Grass had three sacks as the defense never let Larson get completely comfortable.

Grass got to Larson for a 10-yard loss on the opening drive and drilled him for consecutive losses of 6 and 9 yards on Onalaska’s final drive of the first half.

“We did a great job as a (defensive) line with hand-fighting and forcing (Larson) to makes some throws he didn’t want to make,” Grass said. “Our corners also did a great job of covering their receivers.”

Holmen coach Travis Kowalski said the pressure was a combination of things defensively and allowed the Vikings to set a tone.

“We had good, quick pressure up front that forced (Larson) to rush some throws,” he said. “When we had good coverage, it gave those guys a little more time to get to him.”

Koelbl rushed for 171 yards on 12 carries, and Wall picked up 83 on 15 attempts and completed 3 of 4 passes for 66 yards.

Larson ended up passing for 178 yards, but Onalaska rushed for just 62.

The Vikings were able to turn their first three possessions into touchdowns, and a Wall ended two of them by reaching the end zone himself.

Holmen made the Hilltoppers pay for failing on the fourth-down play that ended their first possession.

The Vikings used 14 plays to drive 71 yards, and Brett Holden finished it by scoring from the 1.

The Hilltoppers’ next possession ended on a fumble after Ray Heilman caught caught a 2-yard pass but fumbled. Jones recovered it at the Onalaska 40 and set Wall up for a 32-yard scoring run on third-and-2.

Wall added a 3-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.

Onalaska had just 52 total yards on 24 plays in the first half. Holmen’s pass rush got to Larson four times in the first half, and those sacks resulted in 34 negative yards.

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Todd Sommerfeldt can be reached at Todd.Sommerfeldt@lee.net or via Twitter @SommerfeldtLAX

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Assistant Sports Editor

Todd Sommerfeldt has covered sports for the La Crosse Tribune since 2003 after doing the same previously in the Fox Cities and Rock County.