The Rhinelander High School football team had their final non-conference matchup on Thursday night and came up just short to Wausau East. The Hodags committed four turnovers and fell 13-12 to the Lumberjacks at Thom Field. Not only did turnovers hurts Rhinelander in the loss, but several penalties and only converting one third down on the night also did not help their case.
The Hodags' defense started strong and would force three turnovers and a punt on their first four possessions of the night. Unfortunately, Rhinelander was unable to capitalize on their opportunities. Peyton Erikson returned a punt to East's 23-yard line but fumbled the ball two plays later. RHS got the ball back when Martin had a sack and strip. But then Brock Lieder threw an interception on a fourth-and-13 from the 14-yard line.
Rhinelander gained back some momentum after recovering a fumble midway through the first quarter. Only two plays later Martin scored on a two-yard run to put the Hodags on the board at 5:25. But that would be the only score in the first quarter despite RHS having the ball inside East’s 25 four times. Sam Tjugum intercepted a Jack Kane pass, but once again couldn't convert. RHS held a 6-0 advantage after missing the extra point.
East would respond in the second quarter when Bryce Stalsberg scored on a two-yard run at 5:27. The Lumberjacks would take a 7-6 lead connecting on the extra point after a 78-yard drive.
The Hodags started the second half strong and would score on their opening drive which was 60-yards. Martin capped off the drive on the 10th play and scored at 8:30 in the third quarter. Rhinelander was unsuccessful on their two-point conversion but would pull back ahead 12-7.
Rhinelander's then forced the Lumberjacks to punt on their next possession, but on a long return, Erikson fumbled the ball to give East back the ball. From there, Wausau would hold the ball for the next seven minutes of action which would set up their game-winning touchdown in the fourth. Kane scored on a quarterback keep on a fourth-and-goal inside the one.
Although the momentum shifted, the Hodags would drive down to the Lumberjack's 14-yard line. But a costly chop block call on RHS pushed them back to the 35-yard line and would eventually have to punt. Rhinelander did get the ball back with about two and half minutes left and made back to East's 28-yard line, but Lieder's pass to Erikson was intercepted by Ryan Salby with just over a minute left in the contest.
Rhinelander finished with 190 total yards on the night (70 passing, 120 rushing). While Wausau East had 223 yards of offense (35 passing, 188 rushing). The Lumberjacks convert 8-11 chances on third/fourth downs and would maintain possession for over 12 minutes longer then Rhinelander. The Hodags only converted 1-5 third downs on the night and had three turnovers; one fumble and two interceptions.
Stalsberg led the night in rushing with 101 yards for the Lumberjacks on 25 carries. Will Nash added 53 rushing yards and Trey Buohberger rushed for another 36 for East. Wausau's Gabe Krueger added two receptions for 19 yards and Caleb Gruszynski charted 16 yards on two receptions as well.
Martin led the Hodags with two touchdowns and 75 rushing yards on 17 carries. Lieder rushed for another 29 yards and Josh Francisco added 11 rushing yards. Jackson Labs had one reception for 20-yards and Martin would add another 51-receiving yards on six receptions. Martin would also finish with seven tackles on defense. Sam Tjugum had one interception and five tackles and Walker Hartman added six tackles and a sack for the Hodags.
It marked Rhinelander's second straight loss of the season as they fell to 1-2. The Hodags will kick off their Great Northern Conference season on Friday when they host Medford at Mike Webster Stadium at 7:00PM.