Osakis boys in “dire need” of a win

The Osakis boys’ basketball team had an opportunity awaiting them with a 1-5 Bertha-Hewitt team coming to town on Thursday night.

The Silverstreaks were trying to get first-year head coach Matt Hoelscher the first win of his career and end a five-game losing streak in the process. Instead, the same problems that have hurt this team during that stretch showed up again as the Bears pulled away in the second half on their way to a 57-45 win.

Osakis head coach Matt Hoelscher (middle) talks to his team during a timeout in the first half on Thursday night. (Echo Press photo by Eric Morken)

“I think we got a little tentative,” Hoelscher said of watching a halftime lead disappear. “That’s kind of been our thing this year. When things are close, we’re kind of in a game, we just find a way to turn the ball over, not get back defensively, just doing uncharacteristic things right now that are kind of hurting us.”

The prospects of a win looked good through 18 minutes as Osakis took a 25-22 lead into the break. Senior Doug Zimmel and junior Drew Fearing both hit two threes during that stretch as Osakis’ offense started to click after a slow start. Zimmel already had 10 points by the half. The problem is, he finished with 12.

Zimmel spent much of the second half on the bench after picking up his fourth foul early. The Silverstreaks had a hard time finding any scoring without one of their seniors leaders on the court. Bertha-Hewitt went on a 13-2 run after halftime that made it a 35-27 game with 9:55 left. The Bears never trailed again after that.

“We get in a lull when Doug’s out of the game,” Hoelscher said. “Just about every game this year, he’s had some foul issues where he has to come out. When he’s off the floor, we’re not as good of a basketball team. Obviously, he’s one of our go-to guys, and we look for him to be a scorer. When he’s not there, our offense does take a little stagnant lull.”

Fellow senior Kilar Zimmel tried to get his team back into it with five straight points late in the second half. The Bears were able to put the game away, though, behind the strong play of senior Michael Grewe and sophomore Preston Riewer. Grewe finished with a game-high 19 points and Riewer added 13, 11 of which came in the second half.

“Riewer is tough,” Hoelscher said. “He doesn’t lose the basketball very much. He attacks the rim. He sees the floor very well.”

Osakis finished with three players in double figures on a night when the Silverstreaks shot 40 percent from the field (17-of-42). Kilar Zimmel finished with 11, while Fearing added 10 points, seven rebounds and four steals. That wasn’t enough as Osakis was left searching to find a way to put an entire 36 minutes together.

“We’re in dire need of a win,” Hoelscher said. “It’s never easy going [0-6]. We have quotes every day and one of them recently was, ‘It’s easy to steer the ship when the sea is calm.’ When everything is going great, you’re winning, you can have turnovers here and there, but when you’re losing, turning the ball over as much as we are, we’ve got to find a way to get out of it.”

Things won’t get any easier for Osakis after the Christmas break. The Silverstreaks will play a 5-2 Battle Lake team on December 29 and a 4-0 Upsala team on January 3. They also welcome in the defending Class A state champions in Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa on January 14.

“For the most part, they’re pretty positive,” Hoelscher said. “We just got to build off that. It’s a long season. We’ve got a lot more games to go and we have to forget about this one and move on.”



Osakis football feels stronger, better prepared to battle in AA

The Osakis football team has put in the work in the weight room this off-season and is ready to see how that translates to the field in 2012.

I spent Monday morning in Osakis as the Silverstreaks worked their way through a three-hour practice before ending with an hour in the weight room. Afterwards, I caught up with captains Garret Scherr, Austin Rollag and Brian Thorstad, along with third-year head coach Bill Infanger, to find out how things are going as they try to build upon last year’s 6-3 season.

I’ll have a full story on that before next Thursday’s season opener at Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg. In the meantime, here are a few highlights from my conversation with them today.

*Infanger has preached the importance of getting in the weight room during the off-season ever since he took over this program. Every year, more kids have bought into that.

“I don’t know if we’re completely, 100 percent where we want it to be yet,” Infanger said. “But we are seeing a progression in that direction every year, and this year’s better than the last. We’ve had a better weight room participation through the summer and through the off-season, winter and spring. It’s going in the right direction.”

His three captains echoed that sentiment and said the team as a whole is better prepared to go up against the bigger Class AA schools they will face in the playoffs. No where is that more apparent than up front where Lane Arkfeld (RT), Scherr (RG), Derrick Swanson (C), Rollag (LG) and John Piekarski (LT) are penciled in as starters for a group that Infanger said is the most physically imposing group he has had at Osakis.

“This is the strongest offensive line I’ve had and the deepest,” he said. “We’ve got eight guys that I feel really good about, could play any of the five line positions now. I think the biggest thing is the strength. We’re inexperienced there. We’ve got three guys back from last year, but we’re filling two new guys in who don’t have any varsity experience on the line. The nice thing is they’re stronger and probably in a little bit better shape and bigger than the guys they are replacing. We like to think we’ll be stronger as a unit.”

* Taking the snaps under center will be first-year starting quarterback Jordan Frederick. The junior is no stranger to big situations after pitching atop the Osakis baseball team’s starting rotation for the past couple seasons. That should make the pressure he’ll feel stepping into his new role as this team’s quarterback a little easier to handle.


Junior quarterback Jordan Frederick dropped back to pass during an Osakis practice on Monday morning. (Photo by Eric Morken/Echo Press)

“With Jordan coming in, the first thing we see right off the bat is he’s very confident for a junior quarterback who’s never taken the field before,” Infanger said. “He’s got control in the huddle. He seems to be a smart kid. He’s learning our offense very quickly, taking his fakes and his responsibilities very seriously, and he runs the ball well too for a QB. We’ve got four threats to run the ball on any given play.”

* Infanger believes Frederick will allow this team to hit a few more big plays in the passing game this season, but there’s no doubt Osakis will once again be a team built on running the football.

The combination of a strong offensive line and the return of some talented backs has this team very optimistic about its ability to move the ball on the ground. Thorstad will lead that group of backs as he returns after a breakout junior season alongside senior fullback Mitch Herzog.

Junior slotback Drew Fearing and senior fullback Hunter Johnson will be asked to help make up for the loss of Herzog and Marty Walsh on an offense that relies on multiple backs to move the football.

“I’ll have to step up,” Thorstad said of becoming a feature back this season. “Mitch, he was the one I looked up to last year. This year, I have to step up and be the leader for Hunter as one of the other main backs.”

*A player that the Osakis coaching staff is watching carefully in camp is senior Ky Zimmel as he works his way back from an ACL tear he suffered in basketball this past season.

Senior Ky Zimmel adjusted his uniform around the knee brace that he wears as he comes back from a torn ACL he suffered during basketball season last winter. (Photo by Eric Morken/Echo Press)

“Ky coming off that knee injury, we were worried about him a little bit,” Infanger said. “We want to keep him healthy because he’s such a big part of what we do on offense, defense and special teams. It’s his senior year and he doesn’t want to miss anything, so he’s out there on every play giving it everything he’s got.”

If healthy, they believe he can be a guy who can make opposing teams pay for stacking the box in an attempt to stop the run.

“We expect him to be a big play threat this year,” Infanger said. “He goes up and gets the ball really nicely. He’s a tall athletic kid, a really good receiver for a junior quarterback like Jordan to have. We feel like we can put Ky is some situations where he can be isolated on one defender, and Jordan, there’s not too much pressure on him to make a great throw because Ky’s going to help out and make a lot of plays for him.”