BV’s triple threat perplexing opposing team’s defense

Jakob King, for the Journal

Jill Meier/BV Journal

Lynx quarterback Joe Kolbeck is racking up yards and touchdowns this season, and the opposition is having difficulties in stopping him.

When a high school football team graduates its starting quarterback and five offensive lineman, it’s reasonable to assume that they might take a step back the following season.
That’s the situation that the Brandon Valley Lynx found themselves in at the beginning of the 2020 season. After last year’s disappointing loss to the O’Gorman Knights in the 11AAA state championship game, the Lynx said goodbye to quarterback Thomas Scholten and the entirety of its starting offensive line.
But the 2020 version of the Lynx isn’t interested in simply living up to minimal expectations. At 5-1, these Lynx have a legitimate chance to secure the school’s second state championship in three years, and they’re winning games on the shoulders of an offensive trio that has been lighting up scoreboards and leaving teams hopeless for answers all season long.
Seniors quarterback Joe Kolbeck, running back Tate Johnson, and wide receiver Jackson Hilton are leading the charge to a championship in 2020. All three have been playing major roles on the team since they were all sophomores in 2018, but a little bit has changed since then.
“Sophomore year they were both starting on defense, so I never got to play with them,” Johnson said. “This year would be the first year that we’re all playing on the same side of the ball. We’ve been good friends throughout. At school, at practice, we’re just having fun.”
It’s been a strange road to this position for Kolbeck. He played a big part on the defense the last two seasons as a safety, but was asked to become the team’s leader and signal caller to replace Scholten. 
“It hasn’t been easy, it’s definitely a new position. Very different from playing safety, but it’s been alright,” Kolbeck said of moving positions. “The coaches have worked very well with me, so it’s been alright. . . Our quarterback coach came up to me at the end of last season and said ‘throw the ball around a little, you never know what could happen.’”
After missing the first two games of the season due to close contact quarantine, he has come in and played tremendously for the Lynx offense. More than his throwing ability, it has been his ability to gain chunks of yards when he crosses the line of scrimmage that has left defenses to solve what head coach Chad Garrow called “a two-headed monster” coming out of the backfield.
“At first when we heard that Joe was going to become the quarterback, we didn’t know what to expect,” said Hilton. “But so far he’s doing really well. So is Tate, every time Tate gets the ball, he’s going to break tackles and get yards. Same with Joe.”
The other “head” wears #21 for the Lynx and spends his weekends in the fall running away from opposing secondaries. Johnson has been producing for the Lynx since he was a sophomore and, like both Kolbeck and Hilton, played a big role in ending BV’s 20-year championship drought in 2018. 
He’s been asked to carry even more of the load this season, as the team has shifted their offensive philosophy to be run-first. In Saturday’s win against Washington, Johnson rushed 21 times for 191 yards and two touchdowns - the kind of stat line that has almost become an expectation of the senior. 
“These last few years of experience have been huge for me,” said Johnson. “The pressure just kind of naturally went away. I know I’m getting the ball, I know they trust me with it, so I’m able to just go out there and do my thing.”
But if an offense only has weapons coming out of the backfield, it becomes too predictable. That’s where Hilton comes into play. The receiver touches the ball the least out of the three, but has a way of doing something special whenever it’s placed in his hands. Take for example, a play he made in the second game of the season against O’G. With the Lynx trailing in the second half, he took a screen pass at the line of scrimmage and showed that he was the best athlete on the field, outrunning the defense for a 67-yard TD that turned the tide of the game.
“He’s great. He’s a deep threat and he definitely spaces out the defense,” said Kolbeck. “That gives room for Tate to run, and when Tate’s running well, Jackson’s able to slip by. So, they’re both big parts of our offense, and Hilton’s big on defense, too.”
The senior receiver also starts on defense, the only one of the three that plays on both sides of the ball.
“We’ve been getting better as the season has gone along,” said Hilton. “The first couple games we had to get our stuff together, but the last few games we’ve been blocking a lot better and we’ve been playing great.
When the three come together and are at their best, there’s virtually no stopping BV’s offense. When Johnson isn’t picking up first downs with his legs, Kolbeck is. When defenses focus too much of their attention on those two, Hilton gets to the edge and outruns everyone. As a result, the Lynx offense is averaging 37.3 points per game through the first six and have won five in a row. 
But just posting gaudy numbers isn’t this group’s goal. In fact, during a year where keeping track of stats has been difficult due to restrictions caused by the global pandemic, winning, more than ever, means more than stats.
“It’d be super nice to get another ring,” said Johnson. “Obviously that would be two out of three. All three years I’ve been playing we’ve made it to the championship. Last year, it hurt. So, if we win this year, it would kind of be a revenge year and make up for losing last year.” 


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