Experienced Polar Bears target playoff run
By Erik Buchinger
With several returning starters, the Hortonville High School football team will look to take the program to new heights in 2017.
The Polar Bears have qualified for the postseason in each of the last eight seasons but never advanced past Level 3 of the WIAA playoffs.
“There’s not a huge football tradition here in terms of postseason runs and conference titles,” Hortonville head coach Tom Kolosso said. “We’re trying to win the conference championship in the VFA and trying to make a playoff run. Hortonville has never been past level 3, so I think for our seniors every year, when you talk about making your mark on the program, you talk about doing something that Hortonville has never done before.”
Kolosso is going into his second season as the team’s main head coach after being the co-head coach with his father Andy Kolosso, who stepped down prior to the 2016 season to focus on his role as the school’s athletic director.
“It was a huge difference to be entirely honest,” Kolosso said. “There were a lot of things involved in the head coach role that he took care of in the past that now I’m being exposed to and taking care of. It was definitely a learning curve for me handling everything without him here. I’m a lot more comfortable coming into this year now knowing what that entails.”
On the offensive side of the ball, senior Cole Hyde is transitioning from playing linebacker to starting quarterback this season.
“He’s been doing an awesome job, and he’s going to surprise some people,” Kolosso said. “He’s not on anyone’s radar as a quarterback, but he’s doing an awesome job.”
Hyde said the transition to quarterback has been easier than he thought and discussed the difference in getting ready for the football season.
“Last year, the preparation was just physical with strength and conditioning, trying to be as strong and explosive as possible because I’m going to be taking on linemen,” Hyde said. “This year, I’d say it’s more of a mental game.”
Hyde will have two big wide receiver targets to throw to with 6-foot-4 Chandler Guyette and 6-foot-3 Josh Giese.
“Our receiving core is going to be a huge strength,” Kolosso said.
The Polar Bears will return the entire starting offensive line from last season for the first time since Kolosso has arrived at Hortonville, he said.
Defensively, Kolosso said the team will be solid up front, starting with senior Wyatt Jentz, a four-year starter at nose tackle, and three-year starter Christian Leist will play defensive end.
Senior linebacker Zach Hauser will be returning after making honorable mention all-conference last season.
“Our defensive front should be solid,” Kolosso said. “On the back end, safeties Braden Vallafskey and Kole Ellenbecker are going to be two guys to watch.”
Kolosso said experience and the work put in over the summer will be important factors for Hortonville this season.
“We’ve got a lot of guys that have played varsity football, and it shows at the pace we’ve been able to go in practice so far,” Kolosso said. “Last year, we played some teams where strength-wise we were a little outmatched. We had a great offseason, so I think that’s something we’ve tried to remedy this year.”
With the amount of experienced players returning, Kolosso said the team has put an emphasis on leadership.
“We spend a ton of time on leadership,” Kolosso said. “We’ve got a great group of kids, and I think this is going to be a team that’s going to play together. We’re going to have that right attitude.”