The Hammer went to the home team for a third consecutive year.
That was bad news for the Rhinelander High School boys' soccer team, which lost on the road 4-1 at former Wisconsin Valley Conference rival D.C. Everest Tuesday in Weston.
The trophy, akin to the Bell Trophy at stake in the Rhinelander-Antigo football rivalry, went to Rhinelander after a thrilling home victory last year. There would be no such dramatics this year as Everest scored late in the first half to take a 1-0 lead and added two goals in the first 11 minutes of the second half.
"We let in two long-range bombs that caught Conar (Labelle) out of position. We didn't defend them pretty well because we didn't put any pressure on the player taking those shots," RHS boys' soccer coach Dan Millot said.
The Hodags were without starting defender Colton Volkmann Tuesday, who was forced to miss the match after accumulating five yellow cards during the course of the season. Rhinelander also only had a couple of days to rest after a grueling stretch of four games in 36 hours that resulted in a win and three ties.
"I think fatigue was an issue, but I think the bigger issue is we did not have a lot of chemistry tonight," Millot said. "We moved players around to fill positions and we didn't adjust to that."
Everest took the lead in the 37th minute of the match as Mitch Depke deposited a loose ball in the Rhinelander net following an Everest corner kick.
"We played a pretty decent first half. We made Everest work for every shot that they got. Everest made us work for every shot that we got," Millot said.
But Everest took the momentum from the late first half goal and tacked on three in the second half - two from Aaron Mourey and one from Ben Gorichs. Everest build a 4-0 advantage by the 64th minute.
"When they came out and scored early in the second half, that wasn't something we were hoping for by any stretch of the imagination," Millot added.
Rhinelander finally cracked the scoreboard in the 75th minute as Ben Franson scored following a corner kick.
D.C. Everest controlled play, outshooting Rhinelander 15-8 overall and 12-5 in shots on goal. Labelle had eight saves in the loss.
The Hodags (10-4-3, 6-0-1 Great Northern) get right back at it tonight at Lakeland. The Thunderbirds (8-8-2, 4-3-0 Great Northern) are still mathematically alive in the GNC race, but must win tonight to have any chance at the conference title. Rhinelander, meanwhile, can clinch a share of the GNC with a win and a Medford loss or tie. Medford hosts Northland Pines this afternoon. Rhinelander defeated Lakeland 3-1 Aug. 30.
"It's going to be a good match," Millot said. "Lakeland's playing some good soccer right now. It's going to be a tough game. We're approaching it as one game. Our goal still is to win a conference championship, but we need to take care of our business and it starts on Thursday with Lakeland."
Jeremy Mayo may be reached at email@example.com.
The Northwoods River News | Walker Communications, LLC 232 S. Courtney Street, Rhinelander, WI 54501 | Office (715) 365-6397 | Fax (715) 365-6361
Corporate billing office: The Lakeland Times / Lakeland Printing Inc. | P.O. Box 790, Minocqua, WI 54548 | (715) 356-5236 | Fax (715) 358-2121 Members of the Wisconsin Newspaper Association, Wisconsin Community Papers, Rhinelander Area Chamber of Commerce, Minocqua Area Chamber of Commerce