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 football team closed their 2017 season on Friday night with a victory over Lakeland to earn the Northwoods Axe at Mike Webster Stadium. The Hodags defeated the Thunderbirds 49-34 in their second straight Great Northern Conference win on Friday night.
Senior quarterback Logan Freund led the way with six total touchdowns, as Rhinelander racked up 508 yards of offense on the night. Freund rushed for one touchdown and passed for five touchdowns to five different receivers. Brad Comer, Peyton Erikson, Reese Flores, Cole Spaulding, and Sam Tjugum also scored for RHS.
Not only did Rhinelander finish with 217 passing yards, they tallied 291 rushing yards. Drake Martin led the offense rushing with 210 yards on 34 carries and finished the season with over 1,000-yards on the ground.
The Thunderbirds took an early lead with 8:30 left in the opening quarter. Lakeland used 10 plays for 74 yards in their opening possession and was capped off by a one-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Tyler Carroll to Jake Rexroade. The Thunderbirds would take their only lead of the night, and was denied the two-point conversion attempt.
Rhinelander responded the next possession when Peyton Erikson had a 49-yard catch and run to spark the offense. Freund then found Erikson for an eight-yard touchdown pass with 2:39 left in the first. Joseph Schmitz added the extra point, and RHS would take a 7-6 lead and never looked back.
After a 3-and-out from Lakeland, the Hodags once again marched their way down the field. Freund found Spaulding for a 14-yard score with 7:18 left in the second quarter. Schmitz extra point was good to put RHS up 14-6.
The Thunderbirds still stuck around, and would tack on another touchdown with 2:52 left in the half on a 23-yard touchdown pass from Carroll to Ray Rentmeester. Again, Lakeland was unsuccessful on the two-point conversion attempt putting the Hodags up 14-12.
But the Hodags had plenty of time to march down the field and strike again. This time just 14 seconds before the break, Freund found Comer on a 20-yard strike and RHS would take a 21-12 lead at halftime.
The two teams would exchange touchdowns from there, starting with the Hodags scoring on their opening drive in the third quarter. Freund had the three-yard quarterback keep to cap off the drive. But Lakeland responded on a one-yard touchdown run from Tanner Nicklaus to bring Lakeland with ten at 28-18.
Midway through the third, after Rhinelander's defense denied Lakeland in the red zone, Freund slipped and fumbled the football on Lakeland's 42-yard line. The Thunderbirds recovered the ball on RHS's lone turnover, and Freund was slow to get up. But in his final high school game, not even a minor ankle injury would stop him from coming back in. Not only did he return, but the Hodags scored three big touchdowns in the final quarter.
The fourth quarter Rhinelander added three additional scores, but Lakeland kept things interesting and had two touchdowns of their own and converted on both two-point conversions.
Freund found Reese Flores open in the end zone on a 14-yard pass with 8:50 left in the game. And Freund found Sam Tjugum on play-action for a four-yard score with 5:49 left. And Martin capped off Rhinelander's scoring on the night with a 14-yard run. Schmitz was successful on all three final extra points.
Lakeland's Rentmeester scored on a 14-yard pass from Carroll. And Lakeland's final strike of the night was a five-yard run from Carroll. The Thunderbirds added four more points after converting their final two-point conversions.
But the final nail in the coffin came from the Hodags' defense with about a minute and a half left on the clock. Senior outside linebacker Matthias Schneider tipped a Lakeland pass, and fellow senior safety Reuben Guzik and was there to complete the interception.
After shaking hands, senior captain Colton Krueger took the honors of receiving the Axe from athletic director Brian Paulson and was followed by his teammates as they stormed the end zone.
Freund finished the night completing 12 of 18 passes for 217 yards and five touchdowns. He added another 70 yards on the ground and one additional score. Tjugum was Freund's leading receiving, catching five passes for 74 yards.
Martin also became the first 1,000-yard season Hodag rusher since 2008 (Austin Murphy) and finished with 210 yards rushing on 34 carries on the night.
Lakeland had 350 yards of offense on the night including 233-yards passing. Carroll accounted for four touchdowns in the loss. Rhinelander converted 13 of 15 third-down plays while the Thunderbirds went 4 of 8 on third downs.
RHS finished 3-6 overall and tied for fifth place in the GNC standings at 2-4. Lakeland finished last in the seven-team conference at 1-5.
It was Rhinelander's final game for the 17 seniors (Guzik, Flores, Comer, Freund, Tyler Olson, Kenny Baumgardner, Alex Monk, Spaulding, Schneider, Alec Kurtz, Krueger, Tyler Fredrick, Ryan Holly, Jared Fabich, Scott Fox, Justin Huber, and Schmitz). Despite losing a large senior class; RHS finished the season on a high note and won back-to-back GCN games proving the Hodags have plenty to look forward to in the future.
Disclaimer: All information deemed reliable but not guaranteed and should be independently verified. By Request LLC shall not be responsible for any typographical errors, misinformation, misprints and shall be held totally harmless.