UWL Football Ready For Program-Defining Game

By: Aaron Morse 9/29/2022

The Eagles have built their program back up over the years for a matchup exactly like this. Last season, they made huge progress. It was their most wins since 2006 (9) and made their first playoff appearance and collected their first playoff win since that same 2006 season, they scored 58 points in that game (most in program history for a playoff game), and finished 11th in the D3 rankings. The end to their season? A 34-20 loss to the top team in the country.
They return nine All-Conference players, including three first-teamers, and were ranked tenth in the preseason rankings picked to finish second in the WIAC. Needless to say, there are high expectations for UWL this season.

Of course, the team picked ahead of them in the WIAC is perennial powerhouse, UW-Whitewater. UWL has never beat the Warhawks (0-8) and average just over eleven points per game. But, the Eagles are closing the gap losing the last two matchups by four and six points. Last year’s game saw UWL drive 77 yards in just over two minutes but ran out of time 18 yards away from winning the game. Point is, it has been close. The Eagles know. The Warhawks know it. And everyone knows this is a chance for the Eagles to prove they are a real threat to win the National Championship. UWL Head Coach Matt Janus knows that turns that from an important game to a program-changing game:

He is not worried, though. He knows his guys are ready for the challenge:

He also knows Whitewater is a different animal and they have to be ready for the best offense and defense they will see all season long:

UWL runs a true dual-quarterback system, something that hardly ever works at any level of football. Hence the saying, if you have two quarterbacks, you actually have none.” But the Eagles have made it work and work well. Here is one of those quarterbacks, Keyser Helterbrand on the system:

Whitewater’s history of success is not lost among the UWL locker room, which Keyser says makes it more exciting:

So how does a team that clearly is talented enough and well-coached get over the hump and finally beat a Warhawks team that has been a thorn in the side of nearly every team in Division 3 for years? Helterbrand shares:

With a win, UWL will take its #8 ranking and move into the top-five in the entire country. Talk about a program-changing victory.

If you would like to listen to the full interviews with Head Coach Matt Janus and/or BOTH UWL quarterbacks, go to our podcasts page!

Bangor and Cashton Set for Classic Rivalry Matchup

By: Aaron Morse 9/21/2022

Bangor and Cashton have had some great moments and games over its history of rivalry matchups but the one coming up on Friday could be one of the best.

This game would be talk of the towns even if both teams were 0-5. But that is not the case. Actually, the exact opposite. Both teams are 5-0 and are ranked in their respective divisions; Cashton is #2 in D7 and Bangor is #9 in D6.

Last season, Bangor got the best of the Eagles in the regular season with a 17-13 win, but Cashton got them back in the playoffs with a big 34-14 victory in Level 2. This season, however, a playoff matchup will not happen because of the different divisions, so this game is for ALL the bragging rights until next year.

Cashton’s Head Coach Jered Hemmersbach talks about what this rivalry means to each side:

As for Bangor, Head Coach Todd Grant says there is a different atmosphere around town this week:

This game will essentially decide who wins the Scenic Bluffs conference, and the teams (and the towns, for that matter) would not have it any other way. And if you play to be in Cashton for the game, get there early for a good seat because Grant thinks basically all of Bangor will be making the short trip over:

La Crosse Tribune- Todd Sommerfeldt

You can find the full interviews with both coaches below:

Jered Hemmersbach on The Sports Lead with John Pappadopoulos
Todd Grant on The Sports Lead with John Pappadopoulos

Badgers Fall One Spot in AP Rankings

By: Aaron Morse 9/6/2022

The Wisconsin Badgers football team dominated, as expected, in week one with a 38-0 victory over the Illinois State Redbirds. However, apparently that was not enough to impress the voters as the Badgers dropped from #18 to #19 in the rankings.

First off, these rankings do not mean too much. In the coaches poll, the Badgers moved from #20 to #18. But still, neither of those polls have any influence on where the Badgers will fall in the College Football Playoff Rankings. Those are completely separate with a completely different room of voters with completely different views on how to rank teams.

With that being said, the Badgers were originally 33-point favorites and by kickoff jumped up to 36.5-point favorites are covered that spread. They handled their business and then some. Yet, voters moved them down. Why? Who knows. But there are some plausible reasons. For one, other teams can impress in week one and a lot of movement can happen because of a more prediction-based preseason ranking, i.e., Florida jumping from unranked to #12. For two, the Badgers did struggle to begin the game and allowed Illinois State to control the time of possession.
Teams do that, though. It happens to a lot of good teams early on. And they rally back and play better. Or in Wisconsin’s case, a lot better.
Another reason, bias. Bias plays a part in these rankings no matter how many times voters say it does not. If say an SEC team like Arkansas or Kentucky (similarly ranked) were to have had the same outcome that Wisconsin had, would they have moved down a spot? Maybe, but probably not. They most likely stay put at their original ranking. But not for Wisconsin; they slip one spot.

Again, these rankings do not matter very much, if at all, in the grand scheme of things. The rankings that do matter do not arrive until November 2nd (after week 9). But it’s still fun to see where your team gets placed after each performance (especially wins) and then subsequently, being upset about them… Unless you root for Alabama.

The Badgers are currently preparing to host Washington State on Saturday with kickoff at 2:30.

Why I think Rashan Gary Will Win Defensive Player of the Year

By: Jordy Ramirez 8/3/2022

Coming into his fourth season, Rashan Gary is primed for a huge season due to the improvements that he has made to his game and the talented cast of players that surround him. Last season, Gary had 9.5 sacks, 28 QB hits, and 53 pressures in 16 regular season appearances. In eight of the last ten seasons, the AP Defensive Player of the Year award has gone to players who get after the quarterback. This award is primarily a pass rusher’s award in today’s pass happy league and Rashan Gary has a good chance to be holding the award at the end of the season.

Scouting Rashan Gary

Rashan Gary has never lacked athleticism which is what sets apart players at rushing the passer. For Gary, it was learning the art (fundamentals and technique) of getting to the quarterback over the past three seasons. Gary has quick get-off, timing up the snap very well, using burst and speed to set offensive lineman up to his liking. His patented pass rush attack is getting tackles to overset, using an inside long arm to widen the tackle even more, and ripping through with his outside arm for an inside track to the quarterback. This move accounted for most of his sacks and pressures in 2021.

Not only did Gary do a great job of getting to the quarterback, but he was also stout against the run. Keeping contain, crashing down the line of scrimmage, getting tackles for losses, and setting hard edges to close running lanes are where he specialized last season. These skills mixed with a relentless motor and a physical mindset allowed Gary to thrive in the run game.

The Argument for DPOY

As it stands now, Rashan Gary has the 9th best odds at +3500 to win the award. The fourth year outside linebacker has not only gotten better by the season, it seemed as if he got better by the week in 2021. I think his best game was against the Niners in the Divisional game where the defense was nearly fully healthy but his performance got overlooked by the eventual outcome of the game. He racked up two sacks and a critical tackle for loss on a 4th and one run play in the middle of the fourth quarter. From my eye, he looked to be one of the best players on the field each and every play.

Not only has Gary individually gotten better, seemingly the cast around him has as well. On paper, Green Bay’s defense bolsters one of the more talented groups in the NFL which will only benefit Gary’s production. Having a healthy Jaire Alexander, ascending Eric Stokes, and Rasul Douglas who sparked a different type of energy to Green Bay’s defense last year will only allow for more time to get to the quarterback. Mix in a couple of safeties who compliment each other very well, a linebacker duo who are great in coverage, and a defensive line which suddenly shows depth/versatility and there’s a recipe for Rashan Gary to be the 2022 Defensive Player of the Year.

The Packers First Round Picks’ Strengths and Weaknesses

By: Jordy Ramirez 7/27/2022

The two Georgia Bulldogs drafted in the first round will be asked to contribute in a considerably large fashion during their first season and add to what is widely considered a top 10 defense in the NFL. With that being said, here is where I think Quay Walker and Devonte Wyatt’s strengths and weaknesses are heading into training camp.

Quay Walker

Walker, the 22nd overall pick in this year’s draft, was not a popular selection to go in the first round mock drafts prior to the draft. The Georgia linebacker is all of 6’4”, 240 pounds from what I could see at OTA’s/rookie minicamp and he moves with speed, twitch, balance, and flexibility. Walker has an old-school linebacker build with the physical traits of the new breed NFL linebackers. Much has been made of Walker’s ability to cover up running backs, tight ends, and even wide receivers from time to time (Walker had a PBU while in coverage against 18th overall pick Treylon Burks). This even showed up in this year’s off-season workouts. Walker’s ability to mirror, break on, and anticipate routes shined when the offensive player is supposed to have the advantage in these non-padded practices. Walker seemed to always be in position to make a play on the ball and did so in many reps. Walker coupled with De’Vondre Campbell has the potential to be considered one of the best pass coverage LB duos in the NFL. From what I have seen from the Packers first selection in this year’s draft, I do not see pass coverage being an issue. It is the run game where I see the biggest flaw in Walker’s game. Walker’s problem is not tackling as he meets ball carriers with stopping power, minimizes yards after contact, and rarely misses tackles. Where he struggles is diagnosing the run, over pursuing the ball carrier (which leads to cutback lanes) and trusting his eyes/instincts to trigger downhill. Seeing how Joe Barry and Green Bay’s defensive coaching staff implement Walker into different packages based on down and distance with Krys Barnes still in the mix will be something to keep a close eye on during camp.

Devonte Wyatt

I have heard the statement “Get Kenny Clark help!” more than I cared to this past season and Green Bay hopes to have done so by drafting Wyatt with the 28th overall pick. At 6’3”, 304 pounds, the former Georgia Bulldog has great interior defensive line versatility. This will allow for Joe Barry to use many different fronts to utilize the varying skill sets of the players at his disposal in Kenny Clark, Dean Lowry, TJ Slaton, Jarran Reed, and Wyatt. Where I see Wyatt’s game blossoming in his first season for the Packers is in pass rushing downs. Green Bay’s primary nickel front will probably look something like Gary, Wyatt, Clark, and Smith. Wyatt has the chance to flourish as the proven players around him may receive more attention in pass protection schemes which would in turn allow for more one-on-one opportunities. Wyatt has great get off, pop in his hands, twitchy feet, lateral quickness, and incredible speed (4.77 40 yd) for an interior defensive lineman which will lead to success in those passing downs. Like the story with his teammate at Georgia (Quay Walker), my concerns with Wyatt come in the run game. From what I have seen on tape, Wyatt tends to lower his head at the point of attack, get washed out of plays because of his inability to anchor, and get swallowed up by blocks because of his lack of length (restricts his ability to stack and shed) which may only be magnified more in the NFL. I see Wyatt being more of a rotational player to start in Green Bay’s base defense and utilized more in obvious passing situations. I would guess Wyatt’s usage will vary on a week-to-week basis and be more dependent on run scheme (I see him doing better against zone running schemes than man/gap) and personnel groupings.

Two Former UW-L Eagles Await Call-Up

By: Aaron Morse 6/28/22

Two former baseball players at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse are playing well enough to get the call to the major leagues, but have yet to hear the phone ring. Former teammates for the Eagles, Taylor Kohlwey (Holmen, WI) and Caleb Boushley (Hortonville, WI) are patiently waiting their turn in AAA and playing about as well as they can.

Kohlwey is the Padres system playing for the El Paso Chihuahuas and is hitting an extremely strong slash line of .333/.425/.514 with seven homers and 40 RBI. He has hit over .300 in his previous two years in the minors, as well, showing that he can be a consistently productive hitter.
Of course, at UW-L, Taylor showed that he was one of the best hitters in the entire country as he had a 51 game hit streak that ended in his final game as an Eagle in a season that he hit .487. (For all the records both Taylor and Caleb have at UW-L, you can go to the bottom of the story)

Currently, the starting outfielders for the Padres are converted infielder Jurickson Profar, former Milwaukee Brewer Trent Grisham, and Wil Myers (on the injured list), with Nomar Mazara and Jose Azocar as their backups. When Fernando Tatis Jr. gets healthy he seems to be in the mix as well. It is a solid outfield, but not anything too special in San Diego, but yet Kohlwey seems to be blocked by players the organization like more. Either that, or more service time manipulation (which we have seen before in the MLB, i.e. Kris Bryant). A potential chance for Taylor to find his way to the big leagues is through a trade at the upcoming deadline. If the Padres, a contender, want to upgrade their major league team, maybe they send away Kohlwey in return.

As for Boushley (pronounced Boz-Lee), he is the Milwaukee Brewers system and is with their AAA Nashville Sounds. Caleb has had more of an up-and-down time in the minors, but this season he is on the up as he has an 8-2 record with a 2.97 ERA. Maybe more telling, is that his WHIP is 1.12 and hitters are batting just .219 against him. And while those numbers are good, his numbers in the month of June are even better. Boushley is 3-0 with a 1.50 ERA this month giving up four runs in those four starts. Hitters are hitting under .200 against him in June. He can improve those numbers as he should get one more start before the month is over.
Just like Kohlwey, Boushley is blocked by the talent already at the major league level. The Brewers already have a tough time squeezing in starts for their top guys when all healthy.

Neither Kohlwey or Boushley are on their respective teams 40 man rosters, so until they are added to that group they cannot be called up.
It is not because of performance that these two have not made their debuts, but if they keep playing they way are, the organizations will not be able to ignore them any longer.

Taylor Kohlwey holds the career records for runs scored, hits, RBI, batting average, doubles, and slugging percentage. He holds the season records for runs scored, hits, doubles, triples, and slugging percentage.
He is 3rd all-time in home runs, holds the 2nd and 3rd best batting averages in a single season, 2nd in career triples, and also had the 2nd most doubles in a season. Additionally, he is one of three players in UW-L history to hit for the cycle.

Caleb Boushley holds the career records for innings pitched and wins. He holds the season records in innings pitched (also has the 2nd most), wins (also has the 2nd most), and most shutouts.
He has the 3rd most career strikeouts, he is 2nd in career shutouts, and 2nd in career ERA. He also has the second most strikeouts in a season in UW-L history.

Jack Gorniak Returning to UW-Madison for Another Season

By: Aaron Morse 5/24/2022

Former West Salem hockey standout and 2018 Wisconsin Mr. Hockey, Jack Gorniak, has decided to return to the ice for a fifth season.

Gorniak graduated this past semester with a major in Economics, but he will go back to Madison to start the Sports Leadership Master’s Program. This will allow Jack to play another season for the Badgers.

While playing for the Badgers, Jack has recorded 17 goals and 33 assists. Two of those goals have been game-winners. This past season, he scored five goals and assisted on another 10 in a down season for men’s hockey at Wisconsin (10-24-3 record). The year before, Jack recorded six goals and seven assists as the Badgers won the regular season conference title and made an appearance in the NCAA Tournament.

During his high school playing days, Gorniak was a two-time all-state performer and was also named to the all-state honorable mention team during his Sophomore year. In his Senior season, Gorniak led West Salem/Bangor with 31 goals and 61 points and they made a State Tournament appearance.

After his Senior year of high school, he was drafted in the 4th round of the NHL Draft (123rd overall) to the Montreal Canadiens. NHL rules state that a team has the rights to a player up until 30 days after they leave college. So, we will have to wait at least another season until we find out what is in store for Gorniak’s post-college playing plans.

Mac Born and Jack Olver Lead UWL Baseball Into Postseason

By: Aaron Morse 5/11/22

A couple of individual standout seasons have led UWL to the WIAC tournament once again, with a legitimate chance at a NCAA tournament bid. After a loss from Oshkosh on Monday, the final day of the regular season for the WIAC, the Eagles jumped from into third place and will avoid a first round match-up with top-seeded UW-Whitewater. Now, they will take on UW-Stevens Point in the first round. Still, a very difficult opponent. Those three teams lead the way in the WIAC and Eagles Head Coach Chris Schwarz saw it that way as soon as the WIAC schedule began:

Coach Schwarz is going to need guys like Jack Olver to continue to step up if he wants a shot at that WIAC championship. Olver had another incredible season at the plate hitting for a .442 average. That number is good for the sixth best single season batting average in Eagles history! By the way, Olver also has the highest batting average ever at .491 last season. Olver also leads the team in doubles, on-base percentage and sacrifice hits. He is second on the team in runs scored, home runs, RBI, and slugging percentage. Coach Schwarz knew that he could hit since high school, but it was just about finding a spot for him:

The only reason why Olver didn’t lead the team in the categories above is because of a guy named Mac Born. Born leads the team in runs, triples, homers, RBI, and slugging percentage. He is also second in average, doubles, and sacrifice hits. Born’s 14 home runs this season is good for second all-time in a single season in school history. He trails ex-Milwaukee Brewer Vinnie Rottino’s record by just a single homer. Born has also collected 60 RBI this season which is also second all-time behind Justin Anderson’s incredible record of 83 back in 2016. Born, like Olver, is a second-year freshman and now has 110 RBI in his career. That number is already 12th all-time. He is just 44 behind Taylor Kohlwey’s career record.
Of note: Born and Olver still have a chance to improve on these numbers as they count postseason stats in the record book. Which means they have at least two more games to add to their totals.

Maybe the most important thing about these two players- they are the only ones to play (and start) in all 39 games this season.

Now they will have to lead their team into a double elimination gauntlet. They will kick off the WIAC tournament on Thursday at 10 am against Stevens Point. The tournament is at Whitewater this year with the Warhawks winning the regular season title. If the Eagles lose game 1, they will face elimination later that day. Win or lose, it is a quick turnaround that will make or break your season.

Former Holmen Star, Tatum Grass, Earns Scholarship With Badgers

Aaron Morse – 5/5/2022

Tatum Grass has been with the Wisconsin Badgers football team since 2019 as a walk-on player. Now, he’s on scholarship.

Grass, a junior, took a redshirt season in 2019, but quickly found his niche as he played in all seven games in the Covid-shortened 2020 season, with a strong showing on special teams. Last season, it was more of the same as he played in all 13 games and became a leader on the third unit. It’s not the ideal spot to be, but when you are working behind future NFL draft picks, Leo Chenal and Jack Sanborn, it is difficult to crack the rotation. But, Tatum made special teams his thing, and Colten Bartholomew, Wisconsin State Journal, says that is how he earned the trust of his coaches:

That trust showed in the Badgers Spring Practice when Tatum was working exclusively with the first team defense. From Day 1 to the final day on April 22, Grass was on the field with the defensive starters, even with Inside Linebackers Coach, Bill Sheridan, switching up the rotations.

Nobody will really know until preseason camp if that usage will result in him being a starter come opening week, but that paired with being put on scholarship are great signs towards Grass becoming the next big contributor in the Badgers linebackers room.

At Holmen, Grass was an honorable mention all-state at both defensive end and tight end by Wisconsin Football Coaches Association and Associated Press as a senior. He was also named first-team All-Mississippi Valley Conference and MVC Defensive Player of the Year as a senior and was selected to the All-Region team twice by the WFCA. During his Senior season, he collected 14 tackles for loss and 10 sacks. On the offensive side of the ball he had 20 receptions for 325 yards and a touchdown in eight games.

UW-La Crosse Softball Captures Second-Ever WIAC Title

By: Aaron Morse 5/3/2022

UW-La Crosse softball has captured its first regular season WIAC title since 2010 with a 13-1 conference record. It is only the second time UWL has won the WIAC and when they did it in 2010 they went undefeated at 16-0. Now, they once again earn the right to host the WIAC tournament this weekend and get the first round bye.

The Eagles started the season strong at 12-5 in the non-conference with 13 of the games coming in a one week span down in Florida over spring break. Then, two weeks off because of the poor weather was not ideal for the Eagles who were trying to keep up momentum. When they finally got back on the field it was at the Milwaukee School of Engineering, who was ranked 17th at the time, in rainy and cold conditions. They played them close, but lost both games by scores of 2-0 and 8-5.

Then came the grueling WIAC schedule in which they played 14 games in less than a month. The Eagles started the conference schedule with a loss at home to UW-Eau Claire. It was their third straight loss right in the middle of the season that dropped their overall record to 12-8. Things were not looking all that great. Well, that is until they rolled off 13 straight wins to end the regular season. And it fittingly started with a walk-off homer by Jordyn McCormack to beat those Blugolds.

McCormack led the team all season at the plate hitting .430 with 12 doubles, five home runs, and 29 RBI. She had plenty of help around her from Kyra Lard (.393), Kendra Leis (.367) and Hailey Jibben (.333).

The pitching was just as good.

Elise Weinzierl, the reigning WIAC pitcher of the week, racked up eleven wins this season on a minuscule 1.41 ERA and she also collected three saves.
Remington Stark did similar things out of the bullpen with a 1.53 ERA and a 9-2 record in 23 appearances (no starts).
The Eagles only needed four pitchers all season because of the success they had. The other two hurlers, Ally Eden and Madi Lee, had ERA’s of 2.80 and 3.06, respectively.

Pure. Dominance.

UWL will look to continue that dominance this weekend at the North Campus Field where they will host the double-elimination tournament. With the first round bye, they do not know their opponent yet, but they do know they will play at 2pm on Friday afternoon.
They will need to win at least three games and no more than five to double up on WIAC titles.

If they can reach that goal, they will earn the automatic NCAA bid for just the fourth time in school history.  They have a great chance to do it, but also a huge target on their back come Friday.