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RHS: Football
Team Review: RHS Football
By Jeremy Mayo | Published: 11/02/2011

     The RHS Football Team finished minus-12 in the turnover table in 2011, a big factor in why a season that began with promise ended with a 1-8 record (Jim Hext photo).

Entering the 2011 season, the RHS Football Team was talking about contending for a conference championship. Yet the Hodags went through a tough first month of the season and was a team gasping for air by the time it hit the heart of the GNC schedule. The result was a 1-8 record, matching the fewest wins in a season in Jim Moore's eight years as head coach. Here's a look back at the season.

     HIGHLIGHTS: A look at the bright spots in the 2011 season has to begin with Rhinelander's lone victory of the season, a 7-6 defensive struggle over the Lakeland T-Birds. On aesthetics alone, the game was not pretty. The teams combined to put the ball on the ground 14 times, leading to 10 total turnovers.

Yet the Hodags were able to answer an early Lakeland's touchdown with one of their own on the ensuing possession and Ben Franson's extra point proved to be the difference. The Hodag D manned-up in the second half as the T-Birds punted twice, fumbled once and turned it over on downs three times, including on 4th and 12 from the Hodag 15 with 3:44 remaining.

“They were just solid all night long,” RHS Football coach Jim Moore said of his defense. “(Defensive Coordinator Blaine) Obey had a solid scheme for (Lakeland). This is the first team that we've played that's run option. That can give you trouble, you've got to continue to do your job and they did a nice job all night stopping their offense.”

Even though the Hodags did not win another game the rest of the season, they can hang their hats on some good play against three playoff teams in their final three games. The Hodags were within a score of Antigo late in the first half of the Bell Game, led Merrill 7-0 at the half, and rallied from 20-0 down against Medford to make it a three-point game late in the fourth quarter.

LOWLIGHTS: Perhaps the Hodags could have parlayed some of those good efforts late in the season into victories, but this squad was a team whose psyche appeared to be severely damaged in a rough four game stretch to start the season.

Rhinelander was down 13-6 to Hortonville in the season opener at the half, but was derailed by four turnovers. Hortonville parlayed each of those turnovers into scores and Rhinelander fell 39-6.

In week 2 the Hodags were in position to match Chippewa Falls opening score with a TD of their own, but a false start on 4th and 1 from the Chi-Hi 11 derailed the drive and the Cardinals scored on a 77-yard touchdown run a few plays later, leading to a 35-0 first half tailspin and a 48-22 loss.

It was deja vu in week three. An early Mosinee score, a stalled Hodag drive in the redzone, and before you knew it the would-be conference champs were up 48-0. Finally in week four, the Hodags had controlled the early portion of the game with Kingsford, but again mistakes proved costly. Two turnovers helped lead to 28 unanswered Flivver points in the second quarter as Rhinelander fell to 0-4 with a 28-8 defeat.

“We moved the ball initially and again ran into those snags and the wheels came off the wagon,” Moore said after the Kingsford game of what seemed to be the recurring theme of the first half of the season.

TOP PERFORMERS: A 1-5 record meant not many Hodags were going to get high recognition from the coaches of the Great Northern Conference, but one player that did catch their eye, and received first team All-GNC honors because of it, was Josie Schaffer. The team's quick starting tackle helped lead a Hodag rushing attack that ended up third in the conference averaging 160.3 yards per game. Defensively, Schaffer bounced between nose guard and defensive tackle in the 3-5 scheme and recorded 37 tackles, three tackles for loss, a sack, and two forced fumbles.

Another player that was solid on both sides of the ball was Nate Crabb. Crabb was Rhinelander's best offensive performer in 2011, leading the Hodags in rushing yards (397) and rushing touchdowns (5). Defensively, Crabb finished third on the team in total tackles (54), was fourth in tackles for loss (4.5) and tied for second in forced fumbles (2) and fumble recoveries (2).

While Kyle Comer had an up and down season under center for the Hodags, he made a big impact on the Hodag defense. Comer led the team in total tackles (62), tackles for loss (8), sacks (2.5), forced fumbles (3) and fumble recoveries (3).

OUTLOOK: While there will be several seniors the Hodags will have to replace in 2012, they can hang their hat on the fact that several impact players are going to return.

One player to keep an eye on will be Richard Klaver. He quietly finished second on the team in total tackles with 58 from his safety position and added an interception. Klaver also had two games as a featured ball carrier while senior Joey Mixis dealt with an ankle injury. Klaver fared well in both games. He went for 86 yards on 11 carries in the game against Antigo and had a team-best 114 yards on 17 carries in the game against Merrill.

Several other players who saw a lot of playing time this season will be back, including Schaffer, Terry Apfel, Matt Quade, Levi Haskins, Connor Johnson, and Bryce Bilogan. There could also be a good quarterback competition between senior-to-be Alec Baumgartner and Jon Konz, a lefty with a big arm who will be a junior next season.

In addition, the Hodags will have back two players that missed a significant amount of time this season because of injury. Linebackers Dylon Wilmot and Codie Knapp missed the better part of three games with their injuries, but both still finished in the top seven on the team in total tackles.

Also, there is a distinct possibility that the playoff sanction that was placed upon the Hodags for leaving the Wisconsin Valley Conference will be non-existent next year. 2012 was supposed to be the final year of a four-year playoff ban for the Hodags, but an interesting precedent was set by Messmer/Shorewood's inclusion in this year's playoff field.

Banned from the playoffs through this year because of leaving their conference in 2007, Messmer/Shorewood was granted a temporary restraining order in Milwaukee County Curcuit Court and deemed eligible for the playoffs. Their situation was similar to Rhinelander's and WIAA Executive Director Dave Anderson told RHS Activities Director Charlie LaHam in an email, “Had Rhinelander had a playoff qualifying record, we may have placed them in the field along with Messmer.”

However the case is not open and shut, Anderson said in the same email, “It’s my understanding that the WIAA’s options include requesting a full hearing on this matter before the court, taking the (temporary restraining order) to the court of appeals and/or simply bringing to the membership revised language which, still reflecting the known membership interests and intents, may make it less vulnerable to misunderstanding within the courts.”

Hodag Sports Library
09/30/2014 Unfinished Business - Hodags Win 14-7
09/27/2014 Hodags suffer 42-20 loss to Medford
09/20/2014 Letdown On Mutual Ground
09/13/2014 Game Slips Out of Hodag Hands
09/09/2014 Fan Bus For Friday's Football Game
09/06/2014 Blue Jays Fly Away with the Game 55-7
08/31/2014 Hodag Football ... Soggy and Unsettled
08/25/2014 2014 Football Outlook: New Coach, New Year
08/24/2014 Green with Envy
08/19/2014 Hodag Football final tune up

The Last Hoorah- Hodags lose to Mosinee 49-14 10/18/2014 It was a cold and windy night at Veterans Park in Mosinee as the Rhinelander Hodags were set to take on the GNC leading Indians.

The Hodags were quick to make their presence known with Jordan
Hard fought 24-21 Homecoming Loss Stings 10/11/2014 If you visited downtown Rhinelander recently, you may have noticed a large array of store windows painted green and white. This is one of the many signs that Hodag homecoming is underway. Since Monday
Ringing in the night- Hodags lose bell game 28-7 10/04/2014 It was a cold, wet, and windy night at Schofield Stadium in Antigo, with a wind chill of 25 degrees. It was senior night for the Antigo Red Robins, but much more was on the line in the October 3 match

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