The Hodag Gridiron Club will hold the second annual "Iron Mike" 5K run this Saturday, May 20th. The 5K will be held at Mike Webster Stadium.
The Iron Mike 5K is held not only to honor Mike Webster, Rhinelander native and his dedication to the game of football, but is also to sponsor the Hodag Gridiron Club. The event will help the Hodag Gridiron Glub provide a safe football experience and to raise awareness of reducing concussions in high school football.
The course will begin at Mike Webster Stadium and is listed as an all-terrain course. The race will begin at 10:00AM with registration starting at 8:00AM. Participants will enter through the main gates and register at the registration tent. The fee will be $40 for anyone who registered after May, 13th. Medals and t-shirts will be handed out on a first-come, first-serve basis.
The Rhinelander High School football team was looking to have a breakout season and final secure a Great Northern Conference win, after going back-to-back years without a conference win. But despite starting the 2016 strong against non-conference opponents, the Hodags were unable to keep that going.
For the third consecutive year Rhinelander would go winless in the GNC standings. Although the Hodags were without a conference win, they showed great promise and had several close games throughout the season.
The tables finally looked as if they were going to change, when RHS rushed out to a 2-0 standing after notching two non-conference victories. It also marked Rhinelander’s first 2-0 start since the 2000’s and the Hodags were the only undefeated GNC team after two weeks of action.
In their opening game at Mike Webster Stadium, Rhinelander finished with an impressive 27-8 victory over Prescott. And then RHS would follow that up the following weak with a 31-13 win over Wittenberg-Birnamwood.
But that strong start would quick diminish once the Hodags kicked off their GNC openener. Rhinelander was unable to slow Mosinee on the road and dropped 27-7.
In the fourth week of football, Rhinelander went up against Merrill, who was the preseason favorite in the GNC. Although the Hodags knew they would have a challenge they never backed down from the Bluejays.
The Hodags marched down the field and appeared to have the game tying touchdown, but was taken away due to an illegal motion call on third down. And Rhinelander was stopped short on fourth down and fell 15-9.
In another close GNC game against rival Lakeland, the Hodags would come up just shy again. This time RHS feel 21-14 after junior quarterback Logan Freund threw four interceptions and recorded two fumbles on the night. The final nail in the coffin came with 42 seconds left in the contest when Freund was picked off from Tyler Carroll of the Thunderbirds for the fourth time.
The Hodags then got a break from Great Northern Conference action, but turned out to be one of the worst nights of the year for RHS. Rhinelander fell 64-0 to Amherst, the defending Division 5 state champions.
The Falcons would show no mercy and scored all 64 of their points in the first half and would play the second half with second and third string players. And as if the loss wasn’t enough, the Hodags lost several key players to injuries.
Freund along with linemen Tyler Blomdahl and Matthew Reinthaler all did not finish the game because of injuries. A big concern from losing starting quarterback was who to fill that role after backup Brock Lieder was scratched early in the year due to a leg injury. Cole Spaulding would finish as quarterback, but the damage was already done.
Then as if Rhinelander wasn't beat up enough, in the homecoming game in week seven, the Hodags lost leading receiver Owen White. RHS planned on using White as quarterback before he sustained a knee injury during warmups. Spaulding yet again had to fill the void, but Rhinelander would fall again, this time in a 35-7 loss to Medford.
And the Hodags would extend their conference losing streak to 19 games after falling in their final two match-ups of the year.
RHS returned Freund, Blomdahl, and Reinthaler for the annual Bell Game. But the Hodags would fall on the road 25-6 to Antigo, marking a decade without returning the Bell to Rhinelander.
Looking at Rhinelander's offensive numbers, their rank went unchanged but their defense showed promise and improved from sixth to fifth this season in total defense (333.0yards/game).
The Hodags were sixth in total offense (228.5 yards/game) and were last in scoring offense averaging 11.5 points per game. One of the biggest offensive struggles for Rhinelander was their running game. The Hodags only averaged 87.2 yards on ground per game, with Freund accounting for over 70% of them, with a total of 377 net yards in five GNC games.
Rhinelander will have several voids to fill for the 2017 season, as they lose three first team all-conference players to graduation; Blomdahl, Reinthaler, and kicker Gunnar Millot. RHS will also have to replace their top tackler Jonah Zarda, who finished with 100 stops as safety.
They will also lose tight end Logan Wild to graduation. Wild received honorable mention. But the Hodgas will return Freund and White, who also earned honorable mention in the GNC.
Blomdahl, senior nose tackle and first team all-GNC unanimous selection, was also named to the all-region football team. He was one of only five defensive linemen to make the WFCA’s Northwest region. Blomdhal finished with 55 tackles for Rhinelander in the season.
The Hodags will return three of their all-GNC selections for next season including Freund, White, and Colton Krueger.
Although they didn't make the all-conference team, Rhinelander has several important players returning next year including Spaulding, Jared Fabich (lineman), Alex Monk (linebacker), Alec Kurtz (tight end), and defensive backs/receivers Tyler Olson and Reubon Guzik.
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