Rhinelander football Coach Chris Ferge and the RHS football team may have had rocky start to their 2017 season, but showcased what the future has to hold and ended strong with back-to-back Great Northern Conference victories. Here's a look back at their highlights wins, tough losses, a large senior class, and what's ahead.
After starting their season 0-2 after two non-conference losses on the road to Prescott and Tomahawk, which were both within striking distance, Rhinelander battled back to cash in on their first win of the season. On September 1st, the Hodags would earn a 28-14 non-conference victory over Wausau East at Mike Webster Stadium.
Their first win of the season also snapped a nine-game losing streak, and was also the first time in eight years RHS faced the Lumberjacks. The Hodags' were solid throughout the night and would earn the 28-14 victory. Sophomore running back Drake Martin finished the night with 214 rushing yards and three touchdowns.
But after their first win of the season, Rhinelander would struggle against tough GNC opponents and would go 0-4 from there. The Hodags finally turned the tables on the road at Ashland on October 6th, and would break a 23-game GNC losing streak and upset the Oredockers 20-12 at Weikal Field.
It marked the Hodags' first conference win since 2013. On the night, RHS was led by Martin, who scored all three of RHS's touchdowns. But the biggest testament of the night to Rhinelander's defense.
Ashland had a last second opportunity to score again, but the Hodags' defense stayed strong and denied the Oredockers three times and would earn the upset win. RHS had 188 rushing yards in the win and was led by Martin who had 147 yards on the ground on 30 carries. Senior quarterback Logan Freund went 6-16 through the air for 91 yards and two interceptions. He added 37 yards rushing on 10 carries. Peyton Erikson was the leading receive with three catches for 36 yards.
And ending their season on a high note, Rhinelander kept their momentum going and would defeat Lakeland at home 49-34 for their second straight win. RHS downed the Thunderbirds 49-34 in the Northwoods Axe game held at Mike Webster Stadium.
Freund led the Hodags in his final high school football game with six touchdowns and RHS racked up 508 yards of offense on the night. Freund rushed for one touchdown and passed for five touchdowns to five different receivers including fellow senior Brad Comer, Peyton Erikson, Reese Flores, senior Cole Spaulding, and Sam Tjugum. Rhinelander had 217 passing yards and added 291 rushing yards. Martin finished with 210 rushing on 34 carries and would be the first Hodag running back in nine years to finish the season with over 1,000 total yards on the ground. Tough Losses
Rhinelander started the season with a long road trip and would fall to Prescott, who they defeated in 2016 in a non-conference contest. But coming closer to home, the Hodags' couldn't slow down a 22-point second quarter for the Hatchets at the end of August and would fall 30-14.
But some of their most difficult losses of the year came against GNC opponents. Against Medford and Antigo, Rhinelander would only score two touchdowns; one in each game. First at Medford, the Hodags' defense had streaks of impressive stops and pressure, but was not consistent and were unable to slow down the Raiders' strong running game and would fall 36-7. The Raiders charted two touchdowns in the final two minutes of the first half and used 389 yards of offense, all rushing to gain early momentum. They would add two more touchdowns in the first two possessions of the second half to put the game out of reach.
And in the 83rd annual Bell Game, at the Hodags' hosted Antigo, and would end up with their largest loss of the season, falling 48-7. The Robins dominated from start to finish and put up six first-half touchdowns to keep the Bell. The last time RHS won the Bell was in 2007. Antigo finished the GNC contest with 414 yards of offense, while holding RHS to 197 yards.
The other two losses in the second half of their season came on the road against Mosinee, where the Hodags' were blanked for the first and only time this season; 35-0. And then Rhinelander put up a fight at home against Merrill, but two touchdowns in the third quarter separated them by three scores. The Hodags' were unable to make up the ground they lost and would go on to fall 41-21 and were eliminated from the WIAA playoffs for the fifth straight year.
The Hodags had a large senior class on the varsity team, consisting of 17 players, who also made up 19 of the 22 starting positions on the squad. Six Hodags seniors out of seven players earned all-conference recognition. Martin was the only non-senior and only Hodag to earn first team all-conference honors as a running back.
Seniors Alec Kurtz and Colton Krueger each earned two all-conference titles. Kurtz was second team all-conference for defensive line and was also honorable mention for offensive line. While Krueger received second team honors as a punter and earned honorable mention as a linebacker.
Offensively, senior Brad Comer received second-team honors as wide receiver. And fellow senior Jared Fabich earned second team all-conference for offensive line.
While senior Reuben Guzik received honorable mention in the GNC as defensive back. And senior Kenny Baumgardner also earned honorable mention as offensive linebacker.
The remaining seniors included Freund, Scott Fox, Joseph Schmitz, Cole Spaulding, Alex Monk, Tyler Olson, Reese Flores, Matthias Schneider, Kevin Albrant, Ryan Holly, and Justin Huber.
After losing a large senior class, Rhinelander will only be returning three seniors from their starting lineup; Martin, Josh Francisco, and Nathan Kempf. Despite having to fill large voids, the Hodags still had a number of underclassmen see some valuable varsity playing time, but will have a young team for 2018 to build on the momentum left at the end of the 2017 season.
The Rhinelander High School girls' swim team sent four athletes to the 2017 WIAA Division 2 State Meet on Friday night in two different events. Freshman Makenna Winnicki tied for ninth place in the 500-yard freestyle. While the Hodags' 200 medley relay team of fellow freshmen Lisa Kennedy, Marissa Martin, Winnicki, and junior Grace Heck finished 14th at the UW-Madison Natatorium.
Rhinelander's top finisher was Winnicki, who charted a top-10 finish in her first appearance at the WIAA State Swimming Meet. She tied forth ninth place in the 500-yard freestyle, clocking in at 5 minutes, 21.00 seconds.
Winnicki swam in the second of two heats, and tied with senior Maya Schneider of Shorewood. Senior Kelly Rodriguez of Edgewood won the 500-free, swimming the second heat and finishing at 4:53.64, and was the lone swimmer to crack the five-minute mark.
Also improving her seeded sectional time, Winnicki finished 1.27 seconds better and improved one position in the seedings. Senior Grace Fanshaw of Whitewater gradually pulled away from a four-way battle which included Winnicki, Schneider, and senior Gabby Hrdlick of Brookfield Academy.
Winnicki had a strong start in her swim and was second after a 28.43 second split in the first 50. Her times from their tapered off, but closed the final 50 with a 31.13 split to make her way back to tie Schneider and beat Hrdlick to the wall by 0.19 seconds.
The Hodags' started the opening event of swimming portion of the meet with the 200-yard medley relay, where Kennedy, Martin, Winnicki, and Heck finished 14th out of 16 total teams. The RHS team finished 0.58 seconds slower than their seeded sectional time, and would fall one position in the standings, finishing at 1:55.64.
Kennedy kicked off the opening backstroke, finishing her portion of the race in 29.63 seconds. Following was Martin in the breaststroke, where she was able to gain some ground for RHS, clocking in with a split of 32.46 seconds. Winnicki had a 27.76 split in the butterfly. While Heck anchored the relay with the freestyle, clocking in at 25.29 seconds.
Great Northern Conference rival, Tomahawk finished fourth overall in the team standings at state. The Hatchets 200-yard medley relay team finished 9th with the team of Megan Marcks, Kirstin Marcks, Katy Volz, and Kaylie Svacina. Edgewood team of Kaitlyn Barth, Jenna Silvestri, Issy Petersen, and Maeve O’Driscoll, set a new D2 state record in the 200-yard medley relay with a time of 1:44.59.
In the overall team standings, RHS charted 14 points and finished 30th out of 37 total teams. Edgewood easily won the Division 2 title with 346 points. New Berlin Eisenhower finished runner up with 202 points and were followed by McFarland in third with 194.5 points. Tomahawk finished fourth with 142 points and Whitefish Bay rounded out the top-five with 134.5 points.
Besides the Hatchets, fellow GNC opponent Ladysmith co-op also competed and finished in 27th place overall at state. Merrill who competed in the same sectional as RHS finished last in 37th.
The relatively young RHS girls' swimming team finished near their seeding times and gained invaluable learning experience as three swimmers competed in their first WIAA State Meet. Although Rhinelander loses a few seniors for the 2018 season, they return a core group of swimmers for the upcoming season and are optimistic about what the future holds.
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