The Rhinelander High School football team closed out their 2018 season and came up short on the road in Minocqua on Friday night. The Thunderbirds would edge the Hodags 24-18 in the Northwoods Axe Game at River Valley Bank Field in both teams final contest of the season.
Rhinelander started the night strong and scored on their first two possessions of the game. On their first drive they marched 72 yards on nine plays and scored the first touchdown of the night on a one-yard run from junior Drake Martin.
The Thunderbirds answered when Jake Rexroade scored a 54-yard touchdown on a screen pass to tie the game up 6-6, after both teams were not successful in converting the two-point conversion. RHS was also without senior kicker Freddy Wisner who was ill, as the Hodags went 0-3 on their two-point conversions on the night. Lakeland was 0-4 on PATS; two low extra point attempts and two missed passes on two-point conversion attempts.
Sophomore quarterback Quinn Lamers would score the Hodags' next touchdown to put RHS back ahead 12-6. Rhinelander drove down 60-yards on 12 plays and Lamers capped off the drive with a one-yard run.
But from their the Hodags struggled to close out the first half and Lakeland took full advantage. Senior receiver Josh Francisco had a deep pass from Lamers slip through his hands which potentially could have been another score. Rhinelander went three-and-out on their next possession.
The Hodags had a bad snap on the punt in which Martin had to pick the loose ball up in the end zone and quickly make the quick. The Thunderbirds would get the ball on the 26-yard line and had excellent field position. Lakeland went 26 yards on five plays. Brandon Slavinsky finished the drive with a two-yard gain and tied the game up 12-12.
Rhinelander was hoping to gain back some momentum that quickly faded, but would have yet another three-and-out which would give the Thunderbirds back the ball with plenty of time to score and they did just that. Lakeland would march down 70 yards on seven plays. The drive was capped off with 26 seconds remaining in the half with a four-yard touchdown by Slavinsky to give the Thunderbirds an 18-12 lead at the break.
The Hodags were able to tie the game up again after scoring first early in the third quater. Martin had a one-yard touchdown, marking his second of the nigh to even the score 18-18. But that would be their only touchdown of the second half and Rhinelander’s defense was unable to keep Lakeland off the board.
Lakeland converted on an third and 18 with a 34-yard reception from quarterback Michael Ouimette to Ray Rentmeester. The Thunderbirds finished the drive with a 19-yard catch from Rexroade in the back of the end zone over Rhinelander defensive back Payton Johnson. It also was Lakeland's final touchdown of the night, which proved to be enough to edge Rhinelander.
Later in the fourth, the Hodags had several opportunities to draw even but could not get the job done. At Lakeland's 5-yard line, Martin misfired a trick play to Lamers who was wide open in the end zone. Then on the fourth down, Lamers throw was incomplete after a nearly fumbled snap. RHS got the ball back with just under five minutes left, but a pair of penalties pushed the Hodags back and they were forced to punt back to Lakeland.
The Thunderbirds would burn up most of the clock from there. Rhinelander got the ball back with 26 seconds left, but had no timeouts left and only made it back to their own 40-yard line.
RHS finished 1-8 overall and 0-6 in the Great Northern Conference, marking their fourth conference season without a win the past five years.
Lamers went 8-20 passing and had one interception. Martin was Rhinelander's top rusher, and charted 150 yards on 30 carries on the night and finished with two touchdowns. Junior Peyton Erikson was Lamer's top target and finished with 39 yards on three catches.
Lakeland had a balanced attack offensively, where Ouimette completed 9-14 passes for 201 yards. All his completions were to Rexroade and Rentmeester. The Thunderbirds had 366 yards of total offense while RHS finished with 310 yards.
Rexroade had two touchdowns and finished with 133 receiving yards on five passes. While Rentmeester had 68 reception yards on four catches. Ouimette had 73 yards rushing on 16 carries and Slavinsky had 76 rushing yards on 16 carries.
The Hodags graduate 10 seniors including; Brock Lieder, Josh Francisco, Sam Tjugum, Isaiah Piosalan, Isaac Ratliff, Freddy Wisner, Grant LaBrasca, Jeremiah Bellow, Brandon Cox, and Anthony Kowalski. But Rhinelander is optimistic for 2019 and will return several starters in including Martin, Erikson, and Lamers. RHS also will look to bring a solid squad in from their JV and JV2 teams who each only lost two games on the season.