The Rhinelander High School football has had had a great 2019 season but on Friday night were shown there is still progress to be made. The Hodags were knocked out of the WIAA Division 3 playoffs by River Falls in the Level 1 match up. The No. 3 seed, the Wildcats raced out to a 22-0 lead in the first quarter and eventually earned a 43-8 victory at Ramer Field at UW-River Falls.
From early on, Rhinelander struggled competing against River Falls who proved to be a more physical, faster, and bigger team. Senior tight end Joe Stoffel and Division 1 college recruit and the No. 1 tight end and 16th player in the state (WisSports) showed why he was rated so highly. Stoffel recorded three touchdowns on the night including a 43-yard interception that would put River Falls up 43-0 at halftime.
The Wildcats dominated the first 24 minutes of the game and set the tone early, marching down 75-yardes on the opening possession. They capped off the drive with an 11-yard run from Michael Krueger just 3:34 into the first quarter. The Hodags started with the ball deep in their own territory and took its toll after junior quarterback Quinn Lamers was called for intentional grounding in the end zone, giving the Wildcats a safety.
Less than three minutes later, River Fall struck again. This time Krueger scored again on an eight-yard run to push their lead to 15-0. The Hodags offense turned the ball over two plays later on fumble on an exchange from Lamers to senior running back Drake Martin. The Wildcats took advantage of the short-field advantage and quarterback Peter Noreen had a 25-yard touchdown pass to Stoffel and they would go ahead 22-0 in under eight minutes.
Rhinelander's defense buckled down and forced River Falls to punt on their next two possessions but that momentum did not carry over to their offense. With just over five minutes left in the half, Martin had a punt partially blocked to put the Wildcats inside the 35. Noreen found Stoffel again for a 2-yard score just two players to extend their lead to 29-0.
The Hodags offense took over and went for it on a fourth down at their own 40-yard line, when Stoffel intercepted Lamer's pass that was meant for senior Peyton Erikson and returned it 43-yards to give the Wildcats a commanding 36-0 lead.
After a three-and-out by Rhinelander, junior Travis Towne had a short punt, which would again give River Falls good field position. And in their final touchdown of the night, Noreen and Stoffel again connected from 13-yards to give the Wildcats a 43-0 lead at halftime. Rhinelander's only touchdown of the night came against River Fall’s second string with 1:23 left in the game. The Hodags moved down the field 85-yards and which was capped off by a 10-yard pass from Lamers to Martin. Fellow senior Trevor Knapp converted the two-point conversion for the final margin.
Despite not being at 100% after an ankle injury in Ashland, Martin hit two big milestones. He was able to reach 1,200 yards for the season and got to 3,500 yards for his high school career. Martin finished the night with 71-yards on 13 carries and recorded the Hodags’ only touchdown.
River Falls outgained RHS 269 to 157 on total yards on the night, while the Hodags had a 139-112 edge on rushing yards. The biggest different was the Wildcats finished with 157 passing yards compared the Rhinelander's 18. Lamers went 9 of 16 through the air on the night. Walker Hartman recorded 30 receiving yards.
Noreen went 8 of 9 passing for 153 yards and three touchdowns while Stoffel finished with 105 yards on five catches and three touchdowns. Krueger had 13 carries for 97 yards and added a pair of scores for the Wildcats. River Falls advanced to 8-2 and will travel to Medford next Friday for the Level 2 of the WIAA Division 3 playoffs. The Raiders routed Hayward/Lac Courte 53-0 in the Level 1 game.
Rhinelander finished the season 6-4 overall and marks their best single-season record in 25 years. The Hodags also made playoffs for the third time in RHS history and also earned big rival wins in the Axe and Bell Games against Lakeland and Antigo this season. It was the final high school football game for nine seniors; Martin, Erikson, Knapp, Max Spaulding, Nick Kriesel, Nate Kempf, Payton Johnson, Jaycen Neri, and Connor Lund . Coach Aaron Kraemer and the RHS football program made great strides for the 2019 season and will continue to work hard in the off-season as they prepare 2020.
The Rhinelander High School football team cashed in on a Great Northern Conference win at Ashland on Friday and are now playoff bound, marking only the third time in RHS history. The Hodags got touchdowns from senior Drake Martin and junior Walker Hartman and their defense fended off a late Oredocker comeback at Weikal Field. It was also the first time RHS made it the WIAA playoffs since 2012.
Rhinelander's defense started strong and Hartman forced an Ashland fumble and recovered the ball at 4:22 in the first quarter. The Hodags moved the ball down the field on a 24-yard screen pass from junior quarterback Quinn Lamers to Martin. And than on a 3rd and 11, Hartman broke out with a 44-yard run to set up RHS's first score of the night. Martin capped off the drive with a one-yard score and also added the two-point conversion to give Rhinelander an 8-0 lead.
The Hodags had trouble stopping the Oredocker's run game after the first, and that was especially evident in the second quarter. Ashland was able to keep Rhinelander off the board and maintained offensive possession a majority of the second. Facing a 3rd and 29, junior quarterback Jackson Bonneville completed a pass to junior receiver Alec Lindenberg to get to the one-yard line. Senior running back Issak Livingston scored on the one-yard run with 15 seconds left in the first half. Ashland was unable to complete the two-point conversion and RHS would take an 8-6 lead at halftime.
On the first drive of the second half, the Hodags forced Ashland to a three and out. Bonneville botched a punt to give RHS the ball on Ashland's 33-yard line. Rhinelander took advantage of the field position and Hartman scored on a 19-yard counter at 6:03. Martin scored the two-point conversion to push Rhinelander ahead by 10 midway through the third.
The Hodags defense would force two more Oredocker punts on their next two possessions but their offense was unable to tack onto their 16-6 lead. Early in the fourth junior Ben Sinclair had a sack to push Ashland to a third and 30. Rhinelander got the ball back but after facing a third and 30, Lamers had an incomplete pass forcing RHS to punt. Martin's punt was blocked and Ashland got the ball on the Hodag's 30 with 3:10 left in the contest.
The Oredockers took advantage and Bonnewille found senior Willy Bearskin on a 19-yard pass to the corner of the end zone on a fourth and 10. The two-point conversion was unsuccessful and Ashland pulled within four at 16-12.
Ashland attempted an onside kick and sophomore Caleb Olcikas covered it up near midfield. From there, the Hodags were able to run the clock out and would hold on to win 16-12 and secured their spot in the playoffs.
Rhinelander was outgained 223-193 in total yards on the night but had a 155-141 edge on rushing yards. Ashland passed for 82 yards while RHS was held to 38 passing yards. Rhinelander converted 3-7 third downs while the Oredockers converted 9-18 on the night. Livingston led Ashland with 81 yards and a touchdown on 25 carries while Bonneville was 7-13 passing for 82 yards.
Lamers finished with a 42.9% completion rate for 38 yards. Despite tweaking his ankle in the first-quarter, Martin finished the night with 73 yards on 22 carries. Hartman had four carries for 64-yards on the night and also added 7.5 tackles on defense and a forced fumble. Sinclair charted 4.5 tackles and a sack and junior Jacques Tulowitzky chipped in four tackles.
Rhinelander finished the regular season 6-3 overall and 3-3 in the GNC standings. The Hodags received No. 6 seed in the WIAA Division 3 playoffs and will travel to River Falls on Friday, October 25th to face the Falcons and No. 3 seed. The game is set to start at 7:00PM at UW- River Falls.
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.