Watch now: High school football–Joint workout benefits La Crosse Aquinas and Onalaska | Inside Preps

ONALASKA — The Aquinas High School football team ran its final offensive play of Wednesday, and jogged down to the north end of Onalaska’s practice field tucked into a neighborhood east of the high school.

Thirty minutes remained in the third of four joint practices between the teams this week, and the biggest benefits of this summer collaboration were about to be revealed.

The Hilltoppers offense lined up against the Blugolds defense in a varsity matchup in one area, and the junior varsity mirrored that setup where Aquinas was previously running plays as a team.

Offensive linemen from both teams congregated in a shaded area near a full line of trees and worked drills. Coaches set up at each station, and just a handful of players were left to engage only mentally and not physically at any given minute.

Oh, and Aquinas coach Tom Lee loved one more aspect.

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“(Tom) Yashinsky, man,” he said with a smile while walking toward the varsity field and pointing at the Onalaska coach. “That’s why we’re here. We’re here for the drone.”

After Yashinsky positioned the drone above the varsity action, he started calling plays and shuttled two teams of players on and off the field. Quarterbacks Adam Skifton and Aiden Summerfield took turns throwing passes. Lee encouraged and moved defensive players around.

The Blugolds closed out with their offense the first two days before the teams swapped roles for the final two sessions.

“We don’t have to worry about a scout defense or a scout offense,” Yashinsky said. “Kids get a lot of reps, and they do a good job of knowing the temp and intensity level we’re looking for.”

The teams wear helmets but no pads, and the clear goal is to work on what they deem important for the upcoming 2022 season without the pressure of making any kind of statement to an opponent.

The Hilltoppers have posted six straight winning seasons in the MVC with a 29-7 record during that span. The Blugolds won a WIAA Division 5 state championship last season.

There is plenty for each team to learn about itself just trying to execute against the other as Aug. 2 — the first day of practice — approaches. Players will go back to their own workouts and coaches will fine tune anything of importance until then.

Lee said it’s been a big summer for Aquinas as it continues a working relationship with strength and conditioning coach Eddie Hodges and new speed coach Dillon Martinez.

“We’ve had a really good summer in our weight room,” he said. “We have (Aquinas students) lift Mondays and Tuesdays, and on Wednesdays we go out to our field and do about 40 minutes of speed stuff. Thursdays, it’s back in to lift, and then everyone takes Friday, Saturday, Sunday to go play basketball and baseball and fish.”

Yashinsky said the fact that he and Lee set up the practice structure prior to trying this for the first time last summer made this one go very smoothly. The practices became an idea the coaches discussed once Aquinas left the MVC and eliminated the regular-season game that took place for years before that.

“We aren’t going to see them for live action, so this works well,” Yashinsky said. “It’s great to have someone you can be on the same page with and get in this kind of work.

“It only took us about a half hour last year to figure out what it was going to look like. This year, it was like, yeah, same thing. We have the space to accommodate it, so it works out.”

But the competition side of things can never completely go away, and that was proven when the junior varsity finished before the varsity. Coaches quickly put together a series of tug of war matches between players from the same classes.

Aquinas varsity players were quick to rush to the competition site to cheer their teammates on. Yashinsky had gathered his varsity players to discuss practice but sent them over to cheer for their teammates, too, before finishing up that discussion afterward.

Onalaska won the final matchup with both rosters screaming with encouragement in the middle of the practice field.

It was a nice way to end a nice summer day for a bunch of coaches and players eager to get started on a new season.

“I don’t have golf clubs, and I don’t have a fishing pole,” Lee said. “This is what I do for fun and what our coaches do for fun, and it’s been a great time.”

In photos: Onalaska, Aquinas joint football practice

Aquinas Tom Lee

Aquinas football coach Tom Lee address his team after a joint practice with Onalaska in Onalaska on Wednesday.

Todd Sommerfeldt

Onalaska Aiden Summerfield

Onalaska quarterback Aiden Summerfield explains a play to a teammate at Wednesday’s join practice with Aquinas in Onalaska.

Todd Sommerfeldt

Onalaska Tom Yashinsky

Onalaska football coach Tom Yashinsky works with a drone that he used during this week’s joint practices with Aquinas.

Todd Sommerfeldt

Onalaska football drone

A drone hovers over the heads of players during a join practice between the Onalaska and Aquinas football teams in Onalaska on Wednesday.

Todd Sommerfeldt

Aquinas Jackson Flottmeyer

Aquinas quarterback Jackson Flottmeyer directs a teammate during a joint practice with Onalaska in Onalaska on Wednesday.

Todd Sommerfeldt

Onalaska Tom Yashinsky

Onalaska football coach Tom Yashinsky signals to his team before it runs a play during a joint practice with Aquinas in Onalaska on Wednesday.

Todd Sommerfeldt

Onalaska football

Onalaska football coach Tom Yashinsky talks to his team after a joint practice with Aquinas in Onalaska on Wednesday.

TODD SOMMERFELDT
La Crosse Tribune

Todd Sommerfeldt can be reached at todd.sommerfeldt@lee.net or via Twitter @SommerfeldtLAX

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