In front of a jam packed Mike Webster Stadium, the home team christened the brand new turf field with a convincing conference game win against the Lakeland Thunderbirds 25 to 7. The win boosted Rhinelander to their third straight victory and the Northern Axe trophy. Rhinelander has begun the season 3-0 for the first time since1989.
The Rhinelander defense got things rolling early by forcing a Lakeland punt on the Thunderbirds first possession. The Hodags then marched the ball 85 yards down the field and scored on a 13 yard Peyton Erikson scramble to the end zone. After a missed extra point, Rhinelander led 6-0. The Hodags then squandered a number of opportunities after a Ben Sinclair interception off a throw from Lakeland quarterback Michael Ouimette. Both teams then exchanged possessions of the football following a number of third down misses. On the next possession, the Hodags were able to lumber down the field 75 yards that was capped off with an 11 yard Drake Martin touchdown run. Rhinelander again missed the extra point attempt to lead 12-0. Lakeland quarterback Michael Ouimette threw his second interception of the game with just seconds left in the half. The Hodag's then killed the clock to retain the 12-0 lead.
At the start of the second half, Lakeland got on the scoreboard after a Quinn Lamers interception. The Thunderbirds moved the ball down the field 80 yards to score on a Michael Ouimette 4 yard touchdown run. In the third quarter both teams exchanged a series of punts to preserve the 12 to 7 score. In Rhinelander's next possession, the Hodags added 7 points with a Drake Martin touchdown after a 34 yard march down the field.
In the fourth quarter Rhinelander topped off the contest with another Drake Martin 2 yard touchdown run to boost the score to 25 to 7. The Rhinelander defense continued to hold tough in the final minutes of the fourth quarter to send the Hodags to victory.
Senior Drake Martin finished the contest with 25 possessions for 226 yards and three touchdowns." I knew Lakeland was going to come out in the second half swinging. I told the guys you're going to get a punch back but you need to finish. Our guys dominated the fourth quarter and did exactly what we needed to do which was finish" said coach Kraemer.
Rhinelander will host a non-conference game against the Wausau East Lumberjacks on Friday, September 13 at 7pm at Mike Webster Stadium. Both teams are undefeated at 3-0.