Archive for Kip Kovar

PREP FOOTBALL: Bulldogs use balanced attack to pick up key win at home

LESTER PRAIRIE – It wasn’t the prettiest of starts for the Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity football team as they hosted the Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton Bulldogs. In fact, it was downright frustrating.

Instead of opening the game with three touchdown drives, LP/HT turned the ball over three times (two turnovers on downs and one fumble) inside the 10-yard line. Even with sloppy start, the Bulldogs regrouped and picked up a key 29-0 victory at home against the visiting Bulldogs Friday night in Holy Trinity’s homecoming game.

“We talked about that a lot,” LP/HT coach Joe Scoblic said. “We we’re just finding ways to shoot ourselves in the foot. We came out of it with an 8-0 lead at half. I told that kids that we couldn’t have played any worse, and we still have an eight-point lead.”

LP/HT opened the game rolling on offense, but penalties and mental mistakes kept them from reaching the end zone in their first three drives of the game. On the first drive, a holding call stalled the drive deep inside J-W-P territory. On the second drive, a 12 men in the huddle penalty turned a fourth-and-goal inside the one, into a fourth-and-five that they couldn’t convert.

“We’ve got to clean those things up,” Scoblic said. “I just don’t understand how we keep shooting ourselves in the foot. We’re better than that. That hurts us. We really should have had 21 points the first half.”

Despite the struggles in the red zone early, LP/HT didn’t let that dictate what happened after. They finally got in the end zone on a 17-yard pass from Michael Ziermann to Dylan Ruzicka to start the scoring with just under six minutes left in the second quarter.

“We knew that they really couldn’t stop us from the get-go,” Ziermann said. “We were moving the ball fine. We started at our 15-yard line and put together and 85-yard drive. We stayed comfortable within ourselves, and our abilities and what we are able to do.”

After missed opportunities kept LP/HT out of the end zone early, they took advantage of a muffed punt by J-W-P to get the scoring started in the second half.

Just four plays later, the Bulldogs turned the muffed punt into six points as Ziermann and Ruzicka hooked up for their second score of the night, this time a 24-yard pass that Ziermann laid in there perfectly.

“He had a lot of audibles tonight and had some really good plays,” Scoblic said about his quarterback. “He’s on the money. There’s no doubt about that. He got a new ball again tonight, and when he gets a new ball, he’s so sharp. Maybe I need to put a new ball in every week.”

With their early struggles behind them and a 14-0 lead, LP/HT began to flex their muscles.

“It was really big,” Scoblic said about turning the turnover into points quickly. “It was really a big play. The momentum really went our way though when we punched that in. We never really looked back after.”


Look for the rest of the story, as well as more HJ sports coverage, in the Friday, September 28 edition of the Herald Journal. Click here for subscription information.

Follow Kip Kovar on Twitter.


PREP VOLLEYBALL: Irish top Lakers in exciting matchup

MAPLE LAKE – The Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted volleyball team didn’t leave with a win Thursday night, but they found out a lot about themselves. After struggling in the early going, the Lakers battled back and gave the Irish all they could handle in a 3-1 (25-21, 16-25, 25-21, 25-20) loss on the road too their rival.

It wasn’t a win for the Lakers, but they showed they can play with some of the best around. The Lakers gave the Irish more than they could handle, but a few runs allowed the Irish to pull away a bit, which was the difference in four close sets.

“It just shows that we need to be on our toes all the time,” HLWW coach Brooke Decker said. “We can’t take plays off, especially against these good teams. One point turns into four quick, and then we’re forced to fight back. Then the pressure is on us instead of them.”

The Lakers looked sluggish in the opening set, but found their flow late. Even though they dropped the first set, the Lakers kept that rhythm going into the second set. They opened set two on a 7-1 run, and evened things up with the Irish with a convincing 25-16 victory.

“I think it showed a lot about the girls,” Decker said. “They were here and they were in it. They wanted to win. We always walk into this gym, and we always get a little bit nervous and get butterflies. That kind of took over game one, and then we finally got comfortable and went from there.”

Maple Lake bounced back in set three, to take a 2-1 lead in another tight set. In set four, the Lakers had an early lead, but another big run by the Irish had the Lakers chasing late as they held on for the win in four sets.

The Lakers came into the matchup with three-straight sweeps in their last three matches. Just because the Lakers had that streak come to an end, doesn’t mean there’s any reason to panic. Decker and the Lakers know how important is to move on and learn from the loss.

“That’s what I told the girls,” Decker said. “Don’t let this make or break the season. We’re going to face teams later in the year where we’re going to have this pressure. We’ve got to make sure we’re learning and feeling what this feels like. We’l learn how to overcome that the rest of the season.”

Look for the rest of the story, as well as more HJ sports coverage, in the Friday, September 28 edition of the Herald Journal. Click here for subscription information.

Follow Kip Kovar on Twitter.



SCHEDULE UPDATE: Weather moves football game to Lester Prairie

Due to wet field conditions from the recent weather, Holy Trinity’s homecoming football game will be played in Lester Prairie at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 21.

LP/HT will host the Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton Bulldogs. For a full preview of the matchup, check out Friday’s edition of the Herald Journal.

KOVAR: HLWW football team full of fight and heart

The game of football is a tough one, especially at the high school level. You can’t hand pick certain players you want. You can’t even guarantee that every kid will even go out for football.

While numbers are on the low side for the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted football team, there’s a few things that aren’t. Despite a 0-3 start to the season, in which the Lakers average margin of loss is 24 points, the Lakers never stop fighting and competing.

I got my second look at the Lakers Friday night, and even though they lost by 28 points to the Melrose Dutchmen, I thoroughly enjoyed watching those kids compete. Sure, it wasn’t the most competitive or exciting game, but I saw a lot of things that you just don’t see too often when it comes to high school sports.

The Lakers gave up multiple big plays in the loss to the Dutchmen. After playing well on first and second down, it just seemed liked they could never finish off a drive and get off the field as the Dutchmen would find a way to make a big play. Part of that is lack of experience on the field, and some of it is just execution.

The Dutchmen had four touchdowns of 25 yards or longer in the game. Since several younger players on defense are getting their first taste of varsity football, mistakes and breakdowns are bound to happen. That’s no surprise at all.

The biggest surprise I saw throughout the game and this season thus far, is the leadership from the seniors and upperclassmen.

After giving up bigs plays, there was no yelling at the younger player  who messed up and making him feel bad. There wasn’t any bullying or mean comments. It was a simple pat on the back, a keep your head up, and make the next play.

I love standing on the sidelines at football games to hear things like that. You can hear these kids who will grow into young men soon deal with success and failure in a matter of seconds. To put it simply, I was blown away by the character and poise of the seniors on the HLWW football team. Players like Nick McAlpline, Nate Heuer, and Brandon Karels were just a few that I heard, and I’m sure there are many more I missed. I have no doubt that Brock Bangasser, Devon Decker, Logan Iverson, A.J. Fie, Daniel Hoffman, and Dylan Renken were saying and preaching the same things.

I was very impressed by those seniors and how they handled themselves. It could be a long year for Lakers as they play in one of the toughest districts in the area. They could go 0-8. They could win a game or two down the stretch. They could get hot in the section playoffs and make a run. Who knows what will happen with the Lakers.

What I do know is this. The seniors and other leaders on the HLWW football team will be fine young men when they graduate high school.

Losing is tough. It’s not fun, and it’s not fun to lose by 20+ points each game. Even with that, the Lakers have fought and battled for all four quarters and haven’t blamed each other. That can be very hard to do, especially for a senior.

This is the last year of high school football that those seniors will play. They are only guaranteed two more home games to play on their home field in front of their family and friends. It’s tough to keep the attitude they have now, when they’re losing games, and younger players are having to step in and take on key roles.

Allowing those younger players to step in and learn the game of varsity football will only help the HLWW football program going forward. The seniors might not leave with a district title or state championship this season, but if they leave with attitude they’ve had this season thus far, they’ll be leaving the program in a much better place.

“It was kind of a wake-up call when Watertown came looking for a co-op,” HLWW football coach Ben Anderson said following the Melrose game. “We were short numbers, and we needed everybody. This is important. We needed to change the way they think. We needed to change the way we act. They’ve done a fantastic job of that. They’re the reason we have 30-some kids out. They went out and recruited and got some players. It’s awesome. We love the atmosphere and the fans notice it, too. The kids play hard for four quarters, regardless of the score. We want to clean up mistakes, but they’re playing hard.”

The seniors have been accepting of the younger players stepping in, and they know just how important it is to do that.

“It’s super important,” Anderson said. “Looking ahead toward the end of the season, they know they need these kids to step up and play. If they bury them and they’re hard on them, it’s just going to make their senior season, or the whole team’s season worse. They’ve been very understanding.”

Hats off to the seniors and leaders of the HLWW football team this season. They’ve shown that they’re not only talented athletes that are fun to watch, but even better people with a bright future ahead of them in the game of life.


Follow Kip Kovar on Twitter.

Twitter: @Kovar_HJSports 

PREP VOLLEYBALL: Royals showcase weapons in sweep of Eden Valley-Watkins

WATERTOWN – The Watertown-Mayer volleyball team has a plethora of weapons and they’re not afraid to show them. The Royals had just about everything working as they cruised to a 3-0 (25-21, 25-18, 25-16) victory over Eden Valley-Watkins Tuesday night at home.

“They’re a tough team to play,” W-M coach Andrea Raser said. “We needed to step on the court right away and be ready to play.”

The Royals did just that as Jannesa Berrios came out swinging early. The senior rattled off three straight kills to give the Royals an early lead. Despite getting off to a good start, the Eagles didn’t let the Royals get away that easy. The Eagles and Royals battled back-and-forth, and the first set was tied at 15. That’s when the Royals put the pedal to the medal, finishing on a 10-6 run in which five different players recorded at least one kill.

There’s the familiar names like Berrios (18 kills), Paige Thibault (8 kills), Kylie Hoese (5 kills), and Vanessa Schroeder (5 kills) that usually lead the way for the Royals. Tuesday night, it was junior Kailey Olson that got in on the action and has begun to find her place in the offense for W-M.

“She’s found her swing and she’s staying aggressive,” Raser said. “She’s playing the ball and is playing confident. We need that.”

While the Royals have enough weapons at the net to keep opposing teams honest, it’s been the play of eighth-grader Kate Thibault that’s helped propel the Royals to a strong start this season. With Ellie Ernhart gone from last year’s team, Thibault has stepped into a big role at libero for Royals to no surprise for her coach.

“Yes, I can,” Raser said about Thibault fitting in well with this group. “I knew she would. She fits in with this team really well. It helps that there is a sister on the team, and they kind of have a good balance with each other. It keeps them just pushing each other to be better, and to be better for their team.”

Thibault’s emergence this season hasn’t been lost on her teammates either. They’ve welcomed her with open arms, knowing how important she is to the success of the Royals this season.

“These girls respect good players,” Raser said. “They respect someone who can step up and be a part of the team and be a good teammate. If you can step out on the court and be a good teammate, you can earn the respect of these girls pretty quick.”

Thibault finished with 15 digs in the win over the Eagles. Although just an eighth-grader in her first varsity season, she’s felt right at home along side the Royals this season.

“They’ve helped me a lot,” Thibault said. “They’ve helped me with knowing teams and knowing what they can do and how to play the game. They know what do.”

Playing at the varsity level can be pretty nerve racking for an eighth-grader, but Thibault has kept the same mental toughness and mindset with her all season.

“I try to just keep my focus and not really focus on anything else other than the game,” Thibault said. “I try to think more about my passing and serving and just trying to help the team.”

Look for the rest of the story, as well as more sports coverage, in the Friday, Sept. 14 edition of the Herald Journal. Click here for subscription information.

Follow Kip Kovar on Twitter.



PREP FOOTBALL ROUNDUP: Bulldogs blowout Chargers, Crusaders battle Rebels


LESTER PRAIRIE – It was all working for the Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity football team as they picked up a much-needed bounce-back win over the MN Valley Lutheran Chargers Friday night. Not only did the Bulldogs get their offense rolling, they also pitched a shutout for the third time in the last two seasons.

You’d be hard pressed to find an LP/HT player who didn’t play well. Zach Jackson, Tyler Scheevel, Parker Bayerl, and Michael Ziermann each had at least one score, as the Bulldogs got contributions from all over the place.

LP/HT will look to make it back-to-back wins when they travel to United South Central Friday, Sept. 14. The Rebels are 2-0 to open the season, including knocking off defending district champs Mayer Lutheran.


MAYER – In a battle of two highly-touted teams in Class A, it was the United South Central Rebels who held off the Crusaders late for a 28-21 victory. With the loss, Mayer Lutheran falls to 1-1 on the season, and it was their first loss at home since 2015.

The Crusaders found themselves trailing 28-7 in the fourth quarter, and that’s when the rally started. Baden Noennig found Austin Crown for a 50-yard touchdown cut the lead to 14. Following that score, Noennig hooked up with Mitchell Thiesfeld for a 21-yard touchdown pass, bringing Mayer Lutheran within one score.

That’s as close as the Crusaders would get as they ran out of time to complete the comeback. Mayer Lutheran is back in action Friday, Sept. 14 at Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton.


HOWARD LAKE – In their home-opener, the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted football team was unable to get out of their own way. The Lakers turned the ball over six times in the first half, leading to a 39-18 loss to the Rockford Rockets Friday night.

The Rockets wasted no time turning HLWW turnovers (three interceptions and three fumbles) into points as they raced out to 32-0 lead in the first half. Rockford’s Connor Shreckenghaust picked up right where he left last week, tallying more than 100 yards rushing in the first quarter alone.

The Lakers finally got their offense going in the second half, finishing with 18 points. HLWW is back in action Friday, Sept. 14 as they host the Melrose Dutchmen.


GLENCOE – As the game went on, the Glencoe-Silver Lake Panthers were too much for the Watertown-Mayer Royals to handle. The ninth-ranked team in Class AAA rattled up 26 unanswered points to run away with a 54-7 victory Friday night.

Trailing 28-0 in the second quarter, the Royals got something going on offense. Ansen Dulas found Jamison Keavy for a 13-yard touchdown, putting the Royals on the board for the first time.

After the score by the Royals, it was all Panthers the rest of the way as the Royals fell to 0-2 on the season. The Royals will be back in action Friday, Sept. 14 when they host Holy Family for their home-opener. The Fire are 1-1 on the season after losing to Litchfield 14-7 in Week 2.

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Twitter: @Kovar_HJSports