By RICK SOLEM
They seem to be getting better each week, gaining momentum as the playoffs near. Holmen’s high school football team was close last year – losing in the quarterfinals to the state runner up.
Gone, however, are 15 starters from that team, including the one-two punch of quarterback Tyler Anderson and halfback Dillon Martinez. That’s a big blow for a wishbone offense that depends so much on the quarterback making the right reads and having a chemistry with the running back whom he is pitching the ball to in the triple-option.
Taking Anderson’s place behind center … the team’s kicker. The kicker? Not just the kicker, either. The kicker that managed to break his collarbone on an extra-point attempt last season.
Camryn Zimmerman is the new head of the Holmen offense. The injured kicker. A comical thought, minus the fact that Zimmerman did get hurt and missed the last half of the regular season. Kickers just don’t get injured, let alone one so severe.
But he did and Zimmerman, thankfully, is a good sport about it.
“When they’re doing defensive drills and I’m just sitting there, they’ll say ‘Cam don’t step wrong, watch out for the line,’ stuff like that,” Zimmerman joked.
But it’s not like Zimmerman had some fluke kicking injury. It’s not like Lucy pulled the ball out from under Charlie Brown’s whiffing foot.
The snap on the extra point went through Anderson’s hands. Zimmerman picked it up and tried to throw, while getting mauled, and he landed wrong. He worked his way back to kick in the playoffs and now, in a much bigger role – to say the least – he looks to lead the Vikings past the point in which their season ended last year.
Holmen (5-0, 3-0 MVC) takes on Logan (5-0, 3-0) at 7 p.m. tonight at home – or click here to watch on livestream. This is, perhaps, the first true test for the Vikings, though the Rangers are without their starting quarterback, Johnny Kind, who, himself, was injured last week while playing defense in the third quarter of a blowout win over Tomah.
Taking over the helm of the Vikings triple-option, it didn’t take Zimmerman much time. They squeaked by Chippewa Falls (2-3) 14-13 in Week 1, before completely dominating there on out and, in each win, Zimmerman has been nearly unstoppable … even untouchable.
In the last three games the 6-foot, 172-pound senior has 10 rushing and two passing touchdowns in the first half alone. In the first half of those three games, the Vikings have outscored their opponents 123-0.
This season, the injured-kicker-turned-quarterback has rushed 53 times for 640 yards (12.1 yards per carry) with 11 touchdowns. Nobody expected this out of him. He didn’t even expect it, himself.
“He’s just making the right reads,” said his fullback, Mitch Dienger.
The triple-option depends almost solely on the quarterback’s ability to read the defense – no, there will be no mention of the offensive line, who we all know is the actual heart and soul of every team.
After the snap the QB needs to decide if his fullback has an opening to get up the middle. If not, he turns to the sideline and reads the opponent’s defensive end to determine whether to keep it himself or pitch it to the halfback.
Zimmerman isn’t selfish. He wouldn’t have a 12.1-yard average if he was. The holes in the defense have just given him the opportunity, and he’s taken advantage to its full extent – if the average doesn’t attest to that, the 11 touchdowns do.
Two things about Holmen are scarier than Zimmerman, who, Dienger says, isn’t even the fastest guy on the team (he then proceeded to name four other guys who he knows, for a fact, are faster).
The first is that the Vikings’ offense is so much more than Zimmerman. Dienger gets the tough yards up the middle. Seth Wilson had a 19-yard touchdown against West Salem where it looked like he broke five tackles in zig-zagging his way to the end zone. Kyle Koelbl and Chris Magnuson are bolts of lightning that only need a hint of daylight to find the end zone.
If teams finally do figure out a way to stop Zimmerman, they may find the four guys waiting to get the ball from their quarterback are even more of a nightmare.
Also, with Zimmerman’s success, it shadows what is truly the backbone of the Vikings – no, not you offensive linemen – and that’s the defense.
“It’s organized chaos,” Holmen coach Steve King said.
It looks that way because the Vikings don’t huddle up and their defensive linemen stand at the line of scrimmage, moving back and forth like they’re not so sure where they’re supposed to be. Of course, they know all too well.
From there, everything just falls into place, and it’s led to exactly 30 points for opponents – including shut outs against Platteville (3-2) and West Salem (3-1).
Holmen doesn’t look like it lost a step from last season, though it may also be the competition. The MVC isn’t strong. Holmen’s most impressive win, West Salem, isn’t that impressive when you break down who’s beaten who. The Panthers beat two winless teams and snuck by Onalaska (2-3) in overtime. And the Hilltoppers’ only wins are against 1-4 Sparta and 1-4 Aquinas.
So, the true test should be tonight. A true test in that Logan has a dominant halfback in Kyle Bakalars and a playmaker in Aric Elmore. Bakalars had 190 yards last week and 524 yards, seven touchdowns this season, while Elmore has nine touchdowns – six rushing, one receiving, one punt return, one interception return.
How the Rangers hold up without their quarterback and linebacker – Kind may have been the best LB in the MVC – is to be determined. If whomever is behind center can’t produce, the Vikings may just have to wait until playoffs before they’re truly tested.