Archive for Kip Kovar

PREP VOLLEYBALL: Bulldogs bounce back with a sweep of Eagle Ridge Academy

LESTER PRAIRIE – Coming off a tough loss at home the night before, the Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity volleyball team came out a bit sluggish in their matchup with Eagle Ridge Academy. That all changed down the stretch as senior libero Josie Dolezal gave the Bulldogs a spark with her serving and defense in the back row. Dolezal would help the Bulldogs pull away from the Gryphons for good in a 3-0 (25-14, 25-9, 25-20) victory at home Tuesday night.

“Last night, we had a pretty intense game so it was a matter of keeping the girls going,” LP/HT co-head coach Mary Otto said. “Their talk and intensity were key. Obviously it was nice to be on our home court to get the crowd involved in it and everything. It was good to see that.”

The Bulldogs had a 14-12 lead in set 1 as it was a battle back-and-forth. That’s when Dolezal’s serving helped LP/HT finish the first set on a 11-2 run to take a 1-0 lead.

“You noticed when we missed a few of our serves, that’s when they made their run,” Otto said. “We had to get our serves going.”

After closing the first set on a dominant run, LP/HT kept things rolling the second set. Eagle Ridge Academy struggled early on with seven attack errors, helping the Bulldogs jump out to a 9-3 lead. An ace from Dolezal pushed the lead to double digits, and LP/HT closed set two on a 9-1 run to grab a commanding 2-0 lead. In the big run to finish things, the Bulldogs’ front row got things going and became aggressive.

“Our front row, we are improving tremendously,” Otto said. “We’re starting to get the hits down a bit, and our blocking was pretty good between last night and tonight’s game.”

Emily Rademacher was one of those players for the Bulldogs who stepped up her game in the front row. She played a smart game and didn’t force anything as she let the game come to her.

“She’s definitely coming into it,” Otto said. “Especially with the block. She’s getting the hang of snapping her wrists a little bit. She’s a smart player. She doesn’t want to push it out. She tends to tip, but she knows when to hit hard and when to tip.”

  For the complete story and more HJ sports coverage, check out the Friday, September 20 edition of the Herald Journal. Click here for subscription information.

PREP FOOTBALL: Scheevel scores twice as Bulldogs pick up first win

LESTER PRAIRIE – The Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity football team found themselves in a familiar position early on their matchup against the Cleveland Clippers Friday night – trailing early. Just like their first two games of the season, the Bulldogs found themselves behind in the first half, but this time was different. LP/HT fought back and shut down the Clippers the rest of the way, picking up their first win of the season in a 14-7 victory over Cleveland at Lester Prairie Bulldog Field.

“I think it was very important,” junior quarterback Zach Jackson said about getting a win at home. “The whole town and community came out to support us. The fact that we’re such a young team and inexperienced, not everyone has that fire yet. We’re learning, though. We’re getting better. I think it showed on the field tonight. We had a good week of practice and came out in the second half and shut them down. We did what we had to do to get a win.”

Cleveland took a 7-0 lead as time expired in the first quarter on a 1-yard touchdown pass. From that point on, it was the LP/HT defense that took over the game.

“I thought our defensive backs played really well,” LP/HT coach Joe Scoblic said. “They had one drive, and that was early in the game. After that, we shut them down.”

With under five minutes left in the first half, LP/HT finally had another drive going offensively. A 26-yard run by Tanner Scheevel on 4th and 1 kept the drive alive for the Bulldogs, and it was Scheevel who got LP/HT on the board with a 1-yard touchdown run. Alex Heimerl’s extra point was blocked, and the Bulldogs trailed 7-6 with just over three minutes left in the first half.

After finally getting on the board, LP/HT’s defense gave the Bulldogs another chance at points before half. Cleveland elected to be aggressive throwing on three straight plays on the ensuing drive, and all three passes were incomplete. LP/HT got the ball back with a shot to take the lead, and they took full advantage.

After just missing a big play in the passing game, it was Jackson and Scheevel who connected to give the Bulldogs their first lead of the game. On 3rd and 7, Jackson hit Scheevel across the middle for a 62-yard touchdown to put LP/HT on top.

“He’s insane,” Jackson said about Scheevel. “He’s a freshman, but he plays like a junior or a senior. He’s just that athletic. He still needs to work on some things. He is young, but he’s crazy good for his age as you can see on the field. He’s a great teammate to have.”

Scheevel finished with more than 150 total yards of offense for the Bulldogs in the win. Just a freshman, Scoblic has seen tremendous growth from Scheevel in just three games this season. In fact, he’s looking an awful lot like his older brother Tyler who graduated last season.

“I always said that Tyler was a workhorse,” Scoblic said. “Tanner’s a racehorse. That’s kind of the way they are. I thought Tanner grew up last week in the second half, and tonight, he played like a varsity player. That’s how he’s got to play.”

While Scheevel stole the show offensively, it’s the growth and maturity for Jackson on both sides of the ball that has the Bulldogs trending upward. Jackson was just a role player last season for LP/HT, but this year has taken on more of a leadership role in his first year as the starting quarterback.

“This year, I’ve grown into a much bigger role,” Jackson said. “Last year as a sophomore, I was more of a guy that just trying to get some varsity reps. This year, I’m more of a leader. I’m trying to lead the team and be more vocal.”

The win wouldn’t have came without the LP/HT defense tightening things up. After allowing one touchdown in the first quarter, the Bulldogs held the Clippers scoreless over the final three quarters. It was a bend but don’t break effort as Cleveland had their chances down the stretch, but it was the Bulldogs who came up with clutch stops in key spots.

Senior linebacker Carter Serna was a big reason for strong defensive effort. With a relentless motor, Serna was all over the field making plays for LP/HT.

“Carter’s aggressive and his motor never stops,” Scoblic said. “That’s how he needs to play. This week, we knew they weren’t going to be running up the middle too much so then we switched things up. We were trying to get a little faster on the outside so we could put a little pressure on them.”

As the defense and offense played much better to get the win, LP/HT finds themselves in another similar position with a record of 1-2. The Bulldogs were 1-2 through three games a season ago, which ended up in a Section 4A title and an appearance at the Class A state tournament.

“We’re so young,” Scoblic said. “When these guys figure it out, I think we’re going to be pretty good. It feels really good. If you think about, we’re in the exact same position right now that we were in last year. After three games, we were 1-2. We know what can be done. That’s what we got to do.”

 For the complete story and more HJ sports coverage, check out the Friday, September 20 edition of the Herald Journal. Click here for subscription information.

PREP FOOTBALL PREVIEW: Crusaders hit the road for district showdown, Lakers, Bulldogs, and Royals looking for first win

It’s Week 3 of the prep football season already. The Mayer Lutheran Crusaders are off to a 2-0 start and in line for a big showdown in their first road game of the season. Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted, Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity, and Watertown-Mayer are all off to 0-2 starts, and will be looking to get their first win of the season this Friday night. The following is a look at all four area prep football games for Week 3.

Holdingford Huskers at HLWW Lakers

As the HLWW football team takes the field for its third game of the season, they’ll once again be looking for improvement and execution. HLWW will host the Holdingford Huskers Friday night for their homecoming game, their second of just three home games this year.

While HLWW has opened the season with a pair of losses, their improvement from a season ago has been showing. Although it ended in a lopsided loss last week at Eden Valley-Watkins, the Lakers found themselves right in the middle of things at the half.

HLWW trailed EV-W just 28-6 after one half of play. Eventually, the Lakers ran out of steam down the stretch and the Eagles pulled away for the win.

Even though it was a lopsided loss, the Lakers have plenty of things they can build off of going into their matchup with the Huskers. Bennett Paulson and Noah Bush hooked up for another long touchdown, and the Lakers will be looking for that to continue this week.

One thing HLWW will need to improve on this week against Holdingford is their run game. After a strong showing in the first game against Upsala/Swanville, the Lakers had just 94 rushing yards in the loss to EV-W.

With players like AJ Gatz, Bush, and others able to carry the ball, getting the ground game going early will be a key for the Lakers in this one. If they can get the running game going, that should open things up in the air for players like Bush, Spencer Lade, and Carson Woolhouse.

Cleveland Clippers at LP/HT Bulldogs

The Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity football team might not have a win on their resumé yet this season, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t things to build off of heading into their Week 3 matchup against Cleveland. The Bulldogs opened their season with two-straight road games, and will finally get their first home game of the season Friday night, when they host the Clippers.

With plenty of new players taking over big roles for the Bulldogs this season, getting off to a quick start could be huge for LP/HT against the Clippers. Cleveland comes into the matchup with a 0-2 record, and has been outscored 81-26 in those two games. A fast start could help the Bulldogs get into the win column for the first time this season.

Getting off to a fast start will also be key for the Clippers. They did just that against the No. 6-ranked team in Class A last week, United South Central. Cleveland jumped out to a 12-0 lead early, but the Rebels took over after that in a 60-20 victory last week.

Look for Zach Jackson and Tanner Scheevel to lead the attack for the Bulldogs. With two starts under his belt now this season at quarterback, it’s time for Jackson to take another step forward and help lead his team to their first win.

Watertown-Mayer Royals at New London-Spicer Wildcats

The Watertown-Mayer football team’s losing streak hit 19 games after a 41-7 loss to Glencoe-Silver Lake last Friday. The Royals will be looking to snap that streak, which dates back to the 2017 season. W-M’s last win came Sept. 1, 2017, in their season opener against Rockford. The Royals defeated the Rockets 21-6.

This is the first matchup between the Royals and the Wildcats in more than 15 years, so there will for sure be some uncertainty on both sides.

New London-Spicer comes into the matchup with a perfect 2-0 record. The Wildcats defeated Milaca 33-20 in their season opener, and followed that up with a 44-7 win over St. Cloud Cathedral in Week 2.

W-M comes in with a 0-2 record through their first two games. After losing a tough game to Rockford by a score of 21-7, the Royals struggled against Glencoe-Silver Lake in a 41-7 loss.

While the loss to G-SL was not what the Royals were hoping for, things got even worse as one of their top receivers, Ethan Tang was injured in the game. Tang took a hard hit to the head late in the first half against the Panthers, and could miss this week’s game.

When the Royals were without Tang for much of the game, Sam Ragner stepped up. If the Royals want to snap their 19-game losing streak, Ragner must be a big part of the offense once again.

Getting the running game going will also be a key for the Royals in this matchup. If they can find a balance between the running and passing game, that bodes well for the Royals against the NL-S defense.

Defensively, eliminating big plays will be the centerpiece of attention for W-M. In their matchup with G-SL last week, the Royals gave up way too many big plays. G-SL’s first play of the game from scrimmage was a 64-yard touchdown run, putting W-M behind immediately. If the streak is going to end, the defense needs to tighten things up as a complete unit.

Mayer Lutheran Crusaders at Waterville-Elysian-Morristown Buccaneers

When the schedule came out for the 2019 season, it was a good sign for the Mayer Lutheran football team, as their first two games of the season were at home. That gave a young, but talented team, the chance to get their first taste of Friday Night Lights on their home field.

It was also important for the Crusaders to take advantage of their first two games at home, and they did just that as they outscored their opponents 88-14 in the two games.

While it’s been a perfect start for the Crusaders this season, they know they’ve got a big challenge ahead of them Friday night as they hit the road for the first time this season. The Crusaders will take on the Waterville-Elysian-Morristown Buccaneers, a nine-win team from a season ago.

W-E-M fell to Lewiston-Altura in their season opener as they were shorthanded missing some players, but will be at full strength when the Crusaders come to town. The Buccaneers are coming off a 37-12 victory over Alden-Conger.

The Buccaneers had their running game rolling against Alden-Conger in the win. W-E-M racked up 286 yards rushing to go along with 180 yards passing. Brant Melcher was the workhorse in the backfield for the Buccaneers in the win. He carried the ball 22 times for 182 yards and two scores.

While getting the runing game going is a big key for W-E-M, they also aren’t afraid to attack through the air. Quarterback Grant McBroom is no slouch at throwing, and Nick LeMieuz is quickly becoming one of his favorite targets. The two connected for a 77-yard touchdown against Alden-Conger. Dylan Anroli is another receiver to keep an eye on for W-E-M.

For Mayer Lutheran, they’ll look to keep Zander Flucas rolling in the backfield. Through two games, Flucas has racked up 359 yards rushing and six touchdowns in two games this season.

Flucas will certainly be a main focus for the Buccaneers on defense, forcing sophomore quarterback Ty Hoese to step up. Hoese attempted just six passes last week against Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton, but could be called on for more this week as W-E-M looks to slow down the running game for Mayer Lutheran.

“W-E-M will be a very good test for us,” Mayer Lutheran coach Dean Aurich said. “It will be a long road trip, and they have a strong football team with a successful tradition over the years. We need to keep improving and eliminate mistakes.”

Follow Kip Kovar on Twitter.

Twitter: @Kovar_HJSports

PREP VOLLEYBALL: Sauter’s versatility, growth help lead Crusaders to second-straight conference sweep

NORWOOD YOUNG AMERICA – When you can do something well, chances are you’ll be rewarded with some playing time. When you can do a lot of things well, it’s tough for a coach to take you off the floor. That’s what Mayer Lutheran volleyball coach Joelle Grimsley has in senior outside hitter Reagan Sauter.

After getting her first taste of the varsity level last season, Sauter has been working on the little things when it comes to her game to become a crucial part of the team for the Crusaders. That hard work has paid off as Sauter has become one of the most important players on the team, as she helped lead her team to a second-straight MN River Conference sweep with a 3-0 (25-22, 26-24, 25- 17) victory over Norwood Young America Thursday night.

“She’s just so steady,” Grimsley said about Sauter. “We can move her around in the front row for either side. I would just say the best word for her is steady. She’s not a showboat. She’s not going to get the big kill numbers, but you know she’s going to play ball.”

It wasn’t the best of starts for the Crusaders in their matchup with the Raiders. Mayer Lutheran trailed 15-11 midway through the first set, but turned things on down the stretch. A block from Olivia Tjernagel brought them within one, and a kill from Lilly Wachholz handed the Crusaders a 25-22 victory to take a 1-0 lead.

“It’s hard in this gym,” Grimsley said. “They cheer loudly. When we come into this gym, it takes a while for us to get going. It was really sporadic I thought, but we finished strong.”

In set two, Sauter and the Crusaders’ size at the net took over. An 11-4 run helped them take a 21-14 lead, but NYA wouldn’t go away easy. The Raiders rallied to tie the match at 24, forcing Mayer Lutheran to call a timeout and calm things down. In a crucial spot trying to not let a big lead slip away, Grimsley turned to Sauter in a key spot.

With the match tied at 24, the Crusaders went to Sauter who delivered with a clutch kill, putting Mayer Lutheran up a point, Sauter would combine for a block with Claudia Stahlke on the next play, helping the Crusaders escape with a 26-24 win.

“That was our play,” Grimsley said. “When we called a timeout, we knew their blocker was a little bit smaller, and we knew they were going to key in on Olivia. I told them to pass it up, set Reagan, and let’s get out of this. They did it and executed it and Reagan got the kill. It was fun for them to follow exactly what we said to do.”

It’s not without hard work that Sauter has become a go-to player for Mayer Lutheran. She’s focused on the little things in her game, and it’s paying off big time for her early in the season.

“We’ve been working really hard on defense this year,” Sauter said. “That’s our main focus. I think we are doing really well so far.”

It’s no surprise to Grimsley that Sauter has grown into the player she is now. She’s seen it in practice and how she’s accepted her role with the team.

“She’s a quiet person, but she knows her role,” Grimsley said. “She’s never going to get the huge kill or biggest block of anybody,  but she is definitely a huge asset to this team. People aren’t ready for her which is kind of fun.”

Sauter and the Crusaders took care of business in set three to complete the sweep. That makes it back-to-back sweeps of MN River Conference teams for Mayer Lutheran to open MRC play. Defense has been a focus for Mayer Lutheran to open the season, and the Crusaders have been feeding off plays that their teammates are making.

“I feel like when we get a really big dig or a big block, we really cheer and work for it,” Morgan Chmielewski said. “We work hard and then just finish it.”

 For the complete story and more HJ sports coverage, check out the Friday, September 13 edition of the Herald Journal. Click here for subscription information.

FAB FOUR: Four area prep football players to watch this season

Friday night lights are back as the 2019 prep football season is underway. After last year, when the area saw several seniors lead the way, there looks to be a changing of the guard as the local teams will have some new faces leading the way this season.

Below is a look at four area prep football players who are capable of having big seasons and leading their teams to deep postseason runs.

Zander Flucas (Mayer Lutheran)

There might not be a more feared runner in the area. After carrying the load in the backfield last season,  Flucas is poised for another big season for the Crusaders, as they will rely on him once again.

Despite being limited to start the season, Mayer Lutheran’s Flucas had a monster season for the Crusaders last year. In just eight games, Flucas ran for almost 700 yards, while racking up nine touchdowns.

Flucas had his biggest game come against the Bethlehem Academy Cardinals, in which he rushed 25 times for 194 yards and four touchdowns.

With his speed, power, and vision, Flucas is a must-watch player this season. Look for the Crusaders to rely on Flucas heavily this season at running back, and for good reason, as they need to replace 12 offensive starters this season.

Noah Bush (HLWW)

When the ball is the hands of Noah Bush, watch out. With his speed and athleticism, Bush is certainly one of the more exciting players to watch on the field.

Bush has grown into a bigger role each of the past two seasons for the Lakers. With him back again this year, HLWW could be leaning on him to carry the load in the backfield and as a receiver.

Last season, Bush was second on the team in rushing yards with 160 on 30 attempts. He also averaged a team-best 5.3 yards per attempt. Through the air, Bush led the Lakers with 416 yards receiving on 25 catches while finishing with four touchdowns.

Look for Bush to carry the load in the passing game, while also lining up in the backfield to give him even more chances to make a play for HLWW.

Austin Crown (Mayer Lutheran)

Another key player the Crusader have returning this year is Austin Crown. Last season, Crown was the No. 2 option in the passing game. With Mitchell Thiesfeld gone now due to graduation, Crown could slide into the No. 1 role despite playing mostly inside at tight end

Last season, Crown finished with 26 catches for 593 yards and nine touchdowns. He had four games with two touchdowns, including hauling in two scores against United South Central. In that game, Crown finished with three catches for 128 yards and two touchdowns.

Whether it’s sealing blocks for running backs or catching touchdowns, Crown will be an important player for the Crusaders this season. The senior tight end was a big threat in the red zone, and brought his best in big games. With a big number of key players gone from last year, Crown will be leaned on even more this season.

Zach Jackson (LP/HT)

For the first time in four years, the Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity football team will have a new quarterback under center. With Michael Ziermann gone, the starting quarterback position is open for the taking.

Zach Jackson has filled in for Ziermann in spots over the past three seasons, but it could be Jackson’s job for good now.

The junior also emerged as a legitimate receiver last season for the Bulldogs. Jackson hauled in some big catches in key spots for LP/HT, helping them the reach the Class A state tournament a season ago.

Whether Jackson lines up under center or out wide, he’ll be an interesting player to keep an eye on this season.

Follow Kip Kovar on Twitter.

Twitter: @Kovar_HJSports

KOVAR: The most underrated part of the job

As I stood on the sidelines for some prep football action last Thursday and Friday, there was a smile on my face. Football was back.

Prep football has always been one of my favorite sports to cover. There’s just something about it. It’s only one game a week, but it’s fun to see how the kids handle a week of practice leading up to their only game of the week.

A lot goes through my mind while standing on the sidelines taking photos, keeping stats, and tweeting updates. The past two games I covered last week, there was something else on my mind as I constantly found myself looking at the program to figure out who was who.

There’s a lot of great parts to being a sports editor. It’s why I love my job. I love being able to tell the stories of the athletes and try to find that angle that goes beyond the box score. While covering those two football games last week, I realized another part of this job that I truly love.

This will be my fourth year of covering fall high school sports for the Herald Journal. What does that mean? It means that the athletes that were there when I started are either gone, or in their final season as seniors. There’s been so many great athletes that have come through the area the past four years. Some have been there for all four years; some I only had the chance to cover for one or two seasons.

It got me thinking about one of the most underrated parts of my job, which is seeing new kids step in at the varsity level and contribute. It’s really fun to see new kids that you don’t know as well or hear much about, step into bigger roles and become the leaders of the team.

I really realized how much I like that part of the job while covering the Mayer Lutheran football team last Friday. It’s no secret the Crusaders have had some impressive seasons over the past three years. A big reason for that was they had a solid group of talent that was there for all three years.

I loved covering those athletes and teams, but as I went into Mayer Lutheran’s season-opener against Bethlehem Academy, I was excited to see what these new kids could do.

The Crusaders lost a lot of talent from their team last year due to graduation. This year, it’s a bunch of sophomores stepping into those spots that are open.

I was very excited to get my first look at the Crusaders and see how they would handle their first Friday Night Lights. I was blown away. Those youngsters came out ready to play and looked like they were right at home on the field.

The same goes for other teams in the area in other sports. The Watertown-Mayer volleyball team is another example of a state tournament team the past two seasons that lost a lot of players who played two or more years. Now, there’s new faces stepping in there as well, and so far, the Royals haven’t missed a beat.

High school sports always have, and always will hold a special place in my heart. There’s just something so pure about it that can’t be found anywhere else. I enjoy watching the athletes work together for a common goal, and seeing how they deal with the success and failures that are sure to come.

Whether you are a senior this year that I’ve covered the last three years with one more to go, or a younger classmen getting your first taste of the varsity experience, I’m eager to share your stories.

You get four years of high school sports. Enjoy it. It flies by. Lucky for me, after four years fly by, they’ll be even more athletes following you with even more stories to tell. It’s something I truly love to do, and I’m so excited to cover and get to know more and more athletes in this area throughout the years to come.

Follow Kip Kovar on Twitter.

Twitter: @Kovar_HJSports