The Rhinelander High School boys' soccer team turned a scoreless 1-0 deficit in the first 45 minute of a Great Northern Conference match on Thursday night into an improbable rout, blasting Medford in the second half. Hodags’ tallied nine straight goals to comeback to defeat Medford 9-2 at Mike Webster Stadium.
The Raiders took an early 1-0 lead in the first half, and were able to keep Rhinelander off the board. But everything changed in the second half, where RHS exploded with nine goals which included them tallying four goals in four minutes and cruised to a 9-2 victory.
Junus Telli would score his first goal for Medford of the night late in the second half. Teammate AJ Adleman of the Raider's place a corner kick and Telli was there head-in the shot in the 38th minute past senior keeper Josh Randolph.
The Hodags did have a few first chance opportunities but were unable to capitalize. The Raiders held an 18-12 advantage on shots in the first half of action.
Rhinelander senior Matthew Von Oepen would start the scoring shortly into the second half. Von Oepen tallied a pair of goals less than a minute apart to tie the match up and then take the lead. Hugh Wiese was taken down just outside the 18-yard box and Von Oepen scored on the direct free kick inside the right post. Not even a minute later Von Oepen was tackled 14 yards back and found the back of the net on a penalty kick to put RHS up 2-1 in the 48th minute.
But that only proved to be the beginning of the Hodags' second-half surge. Rhinelander scored four goals in approximately 3 ½ minutes. Just 38 seconds after RHS took the lead, Von Oepen sent a cross inside the box and Martin Hoger crashed the back post and finished the play to put them ahead 3-1. Senior Freddy Wisner then found Hoger on a run up the field about 30 seconds later to give the Hodags a 4-1 advantage.
In the 52nd minute, Telli would connect on his second goal of the night for Medford and would bring the Raiders within two. But that momentum was short-lived when Von Oepen completed his hat trick on a pass from Miles Wentworth.
Not only was Von Oepen efficient scoring for Rhinelander, but he was able to find runs and openings for his teammates throughout the night. Daniel Ritchie scored on an assist from Von Oepen after breaking past the defense in the 59th minute. Junior Nicholas St. Pierre was moved from defense to a striker and scored on a 2-1 break and pass from Von Oepen.
Rhinelander would then chart a pair of goals in the final 11th minutes of the match. Senior Hunter Hicks scored in the 79th minute and Wisner concluded the scoring in the 85th minute on the Hodags' second penalty kick of the night and RHS earned the seven-goal conference win.
After suffering a 3-1 road loss to Northland Pines Tuesday, Rhinelander recovered are now 3-3-2 overall and 2-1-1 in the GNC. The Raiders outshot the Hodags 30-28 on the night, with the biggest edge proving to be in the first half. RHS bumped back up to runner-up in the conference, but still remain two games behind the Eagles.
Rhinelander will be back in action on Thursday when they travel to Antigo and will get a break in action before they start the second half of their conference season.