Rhinelander’s Alec Kurtz (57) attempts to tackle Medford’s Garret Hill (24) during the first quarter of a Great Northern Conference football game at Raider Field in Medford Friday, Sept. 8. Hill rushed for 202 yards an three scores in Medford’s 36-7 victory. (Bob Mainhardt for the River News)
9/12/2017 7:30:00 AM Raiders run roughshod Medford rushes for 389 yards, routs Hodags 36-7
MEDFORD - Heading into Friday's Great Northern Conference matchup against Medford, Rhinelander coach Chris Ferge called the Raiders a tough, physical opponent that loves to run the ball.
Medford lived up to the billing, racking up 389 yards of offense - all on the ground - and routing the Hodags 36-7 at Raider Field.
Two touchdowns in the final two minutes of the first half gave the Raiders a 21-0 lead at the break and Medford tacked on two more touchdowns in its first two possessions of the third quarter before turning the game over to its reserves.
Rhinelander managed only 26 yards of offense through the first three quarters and didn't score until midway through the fourth when Logan Freund found Brad Comer for a 38-yard score against the Medford backups.
"There isn't a lot of good in this game," Ferge said afterward. "We need to look quickly at it, but we need to move on."
Rhinelander's defense held up well in the first two possessions of the game, forcing a Medford turnover on a fumble during the first drive and nearly forcing another turnover on the second. That second fumble came on a third-and-4 at Medford's own 45, but lineman Nick Retterath received the loose ball and rolled forward for a first down. Two plays later, Garret Hill sprinted through the Rhinelander defense for a 49-yard score to put Medford up 7-0.
Meanwhile, the Hodags were sputtering offensively. Dropped passes stalled Rhinelander's first two drives. Overall, Rhinelander had just one first down and six three-and-outs in its first seven possessions.
"It wasn't anything we didn't prepare them for. It was there, we just didn't make plays tonight, offensively or defensively," Ferge said. "We gave them a short field. We game them three-and-outs. Defensively, we fought back a little bit in the first quarter, but things started sliding."
Hill rushed for a one-yard score with two minutes remaining in the half and Medford quickly got the ball back after another Hodag three-and-out. Quarterback Ben Lindgren broke off a 41-yard run to get the Raiders into the red zone and, three plays later, dove into the end zone from a yard out with one second remaining in the half.
Hill busted loose for a 52-yard score two plays into the second half and Ean Wilson scored from five yards out with 5:51 remaining in the third to send the game into running time.
Hill finished the night with 202 yards and three touchdowns on 18 carries, while Wilson had 15 caries for 107 yards and a score.
"Ultimately it goes down to our fundamentals and our tackling was not there," Ferge said. "We're not taking blocks the right way. We're not pursuing the right way. They're going to beat you if you can't do those things."
Rhinelander, meanwhile, was held to zero net rushing yards in the game a week after sophomore tailback Drake Martin became the Hodags' first 200-yard rusher in a game since 2013. He was limited to eight carries for 18 yards Friday. Logan Freund was credited for minus-18 yards rushing on 10 attempts, but that total included six sacks against a Medford pass rush that only intensified one Rhinelander was forced to go to the air.
"They're going to put a lot of guys in the box and we needed to pass out of it," Ferge said. "We still could have ran in certain situations, pulled and got behind some powers and stuff like that, but it didn't happen. We didn't have the line play. We didn't have the drive we needed to win tonight."
Freund finished the night 7 of 16 through the air for 89 yards. Sam Tjugum dropped what looked to be a sure touchdown pass midway through the fourth on a fade route deep in Medford territory. The Hodags dialed up the same play call to the opposite end of the field where Comer got behind the defense and hauled it in for a 38-yard score. Comer finished the night with three catches for 62 yards.
Rhinelander's GNC losing streak is now at 20 games dating back to 2013. The Hodags return home to take on Antigo in the Bell Game, having lost the annual rivalry game each of the last 10 years.
Antigo, like Medford, is a run-happy team and Ferge said he expects to see another healthy dose of the ground game this Friday.
"They're not going to change what they do. They run different formations, but they can run the football and that's what they'll do until we show we can get off blocks, make plays and tackle," he said.
Jeremy Mayo may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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