Knowing they needed to run the ball, the Menomonie football team came out with a physical approach.
The Mustangs ran wild racking up 330 yards on the ground in a 32-16 nonconference victory over Holmen on Thursday at Don and Nona Williams Stadium in Menomonie.
“Tonight we felt we needed to run the ball. We kind of tweaked our offense a little bit to run the football better,” Menomonie coach Joe LaBuda said. “I was extremely proud of the way our kids played. I thought our kids played super hard, played really tough.”
Will Ockler paced the offensive attack with 209 yards rushing and three touchdowns. DeVauntaye Parker added 72 yards on the ground with two scores.
“I thought our o-line really did a nice job. We really put it on their back so I was extremely pleased with the effort that our kids gave tonight,” LaBuda said.
Leading 13-10 with 9 seconds left in the first half, the Mustangs took a timeout while facing a fourth-and-goal on the Holmen 2-yard line. Parker lowered his head and pushed forward, just crossing the goal line, to give Menomonie a 20-10 advantage heading into the break.
“They’re a big, physical team,” Holmen coach Travis Kowalski said of Menomonie. “They lean on you and try to wear you out, and our guys stuck with it.”
Menomonie then added to its lead with a seven-play, 70-yard drive out of the break. On the second play of the drive, quarterback Tyler Werner scampered for 22 yards before a 15-yard personal foul on the Vikings pushed Menomonie deep into Holmen territory. Ockler capped the possession with a 1-yard score to go up 26-10 a little more than three minutes into the third quarter.
Holmen never gave in and looked to the air to find its way back into the game. After both teams traded fumbles, the Vikings maintained possession. One play later, the Vikings were back in the end zone as Holmen quarterback Cameron Weber found his target — Justin Jones — for a 57-yard score.
Ockler sealed the game on the first play from scrimmage in the fourth quarter. Ockler burst around the corner as Holmen failed to seal the edge on third-and-9, and he made his way down the sideline for another six points on his third touchdown of the game.
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“Every time (Holmen) seemed to get themselves back in the game, we responded with something big, so I was really pleased with the way our kids responded,” LaBuda said.
The Menomonie defense forced four turnovers while limiting the Vikings and their triple-option attack to negative rushing yards in the second half.
Werner finished the game 5-of-13 for 67 yards while tossing an interception. Ockler had one catch for 35 yards and Brock Thornton added two for 23 yards. The Mustangs rolled up 397 yards and allowed 226.
For Holmen, Weber ended his night 4-for-13 for 147 yards and two touchdowns. Nathan Nevala was on the receiving end of Weber’s first touchdown, a 56-yard score in the second quarter. Jones had two catches for 86 yards.
“We just can’t hurt ourselves,” Kowalski said. “You can’t beat yourself in a game like this especially against an opponent like Menomonie.”
Menomonie scored two of its first three drives to take a 13-0 lead into the second quarter. Ockler ended the Mustangs’ first possession with a 19-yard score on third and 11. Parker found the end zone for the first of his two touchdowns with five minutes left in the first quarter as he burst through the line and fell forward through a host of Viking defenders.
Menomonie begins Big Rivers Conference play next Friday, Sept. 6 as the Mustangs travel to Chippewa Falls.
“We knew it was going to be a battle,” LaBuda said of Holmen. “They’re one of the most physical teams we play every year, so we knew it was going to be a tough game.”