A combination of missed opportunities, and some stellar quarterback play by Caleb Dejong, lead to Merrill's overtime win at Mike Webster Stadium on Friday night.The loss leaves Rhinelander one last opportunity to get their third win and a ticket to the playoffs.
The Hodags offense started out hot as they had a13-0 lead after the first quarter. Rhinelander's first touchdown came on a 7 yard scamper by Drake Martin. Martin was successful in kicking the point after touchdown to give the Hodags a 7-0 lead. Rhinelander's second touchdown came on a 46 yard catch by Peyton Erikson from quarterback Quinn Lamers. Drake Martin missed the extra point, and the Hodags lead was13-0.
The Bluejays would score 21 straight points on touchdown runs by Merrill quarterback Caleb Dejong. The Bluejays Junior quarterback had scampers of 3 yards, 1 yard, and 1 yard. The Hodag defense had no answer for the Merrill offense option keeper. At the beginning of the fourth quarter, Merrill now lead 21-13.
Rhinelander's offense squandered numerous scoring opportunities as the first drive of the game ended in a punt. The Hodag's second possession had the ball on the Bluejay 20 yard line, but resulted in no points as they were stuffed behind the line of scrimmage on third down. This was followed by a number of dropped and overthrown passes. Merrill's six man defensive front continued to win the man to man battles at the line of scrimmage.
The Hodags would put together a last-ditch miracle drive of 73 yards in the last seconds of the game, followed by a 2 yard Drake Martin touchdown run. That was followed by the two-point conversion to tie the game at 21. In the overtime Rhinelander had the first possession, but was not able to score on two missed passing attempts. The Bluejays continued to apply a steady ground game to score the winning touchdown in overtime.
Statistically the Hodags offense had 270 yards to Merrill's 196 yards. In the contest quarterback Caleb Dejong never completed a pass.
Rhinelander has one more opportunity to make the playoffs, as they travel to Ashland for a Friday (10/18) night matchup with the Oredockers.