HOLMEN — Holmen High School boys soccer coach Guy Turner said he is pretty good at reading his players, and he was impressed by what he saw in a dark moment early Thursday evening.
The Vikings spent the past 89 minutes going back and forth with Onalaska in a battle of MVC heavyweights, and the Hilltoppers had just landed the first knockdown of the fight by breaking a scoreless tie with 34 seconds remaining in regulation.
"When I looked at them after the goal, they looked like, 'It's OK, we still have 34 seconds on the clock," Turner said. "They got up to the ball, maintained possession and did it."
What Holmen did was answer Onalaska's last-minute goal with its own 20 seconds later to force a 1-1 tie on the field near Empire Stadium.
Garrett Harper scored with an assist from Jordan Groshek at the 89-minute, 26-second mark to give the Hilltoppers (8-1-1, 5-0-1) the lead before Quinton Olson popped up the right spot off a goaltender deflection to tie things for the Vikings (5-0-4, 5-0-2) at 89:46.
"I think the score represented the game," Onalaska coach Zach Kimmel said. "Both teams battled, both teams had possession, and both teams built attack and had opportunities..
"I think some of the opportunities came a little later on both ends because the guys were getting tired."
Jackson Lutz stopped six shots for Holmen, and Jacob Breiling stopped six for Onalaska, which was trying to get Kimmel his 100th victory. The Hilltoppers take another crack at that Saturday during a quadrangular in Wisconsin Rapids.
A free kick led to the Onalaska goal, and Groshek delivered to Harper from about 30 yards out on the right side, according to Kimmel.
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"I was yelling for (Groshek) to hold up, so we could get numbers up and give ourselves a better opportunity to win the ball," Kimmel said. "But he must have seen something from his angle that I didn't see.
"I trust him, though, and he played the ball. Harper rose above the defender and got it."
The celebration didn't last long.
Using what Kimmel likened to a prevent defense, Onalaska gave Holmen some field to work with in an attempt to tie.
The Vikings sent a shot toward Breiling, who deflected it with his hand. Olson was there to bury the deflection into the next.
"We gave up yards and yards and yards," Kimmel said. "I feel like we could have and should have pressured a little bit, but I think there was some hesitation to do it. Holmen is too skilled to allow (it) to just dribble down the field."
The victory allows the Vikings to remain in first place with the Hilltoppers hot on their heels.
The teams meet up again in Onalaska to close out the regular season on Oct. 17.
"I think both teams can agree that getting a point (for the tie) out of this is the way it should have went," said Turner, whose team won the MVC and qualified for the WIAA Division 2 state tournament last season. "We will see what it does in the MVC moving forward."