Rhinelander's Drake Martin rushed for 138 yards in last week's win at Ashland and is 88 yards away from 1,000 on the season. (Bob Mainhardt for the River News)
Lakeland's Tyler Carroll intercepted four passes in last year's 20-14 win for the T-Birds in the Axe Game. (Bob Mainhardt for the River News)
10/12/2017 7:32:00 AM Mayo & Sabato: Why each team will win (or lose) the Northwood Axe Game
By Jeremy Mayo & Nick Sabato
Our sportswriters detail why the team they cover will win Friday's Northwoods Axe Game between Rhinelander and Lakeland, and why the other team will lose.
Jeremy Mayo - River News Sports editor
WHY RHINELANDER WILL WIN: The running game - more specifically sophomore tailback Drake Martin, who has impressed in his first year as the starter for the Hodags. He comes into Friday night's game needing only 88 yards to reach the 1,000-yard plateau for the season. Martin has rushed for 100 or more yards in five of the Hodags' eight games this season, including a 214-yard effort in a non-conference win over Wausau East. He had 148 total yards and three touchdowns in last week's win against Ashland. Expect Martin to have a field day against a porous Lakeland rushing defense. Over the last six games, Lakeland has allowed 333 rushing yards per game, 6.9 yards per carry and six 100-yard rushers.
WHY LAKELAND WILL LOSE: Injuries. A Thunderbird team projected to contend for a playoff berth at the start of the season is playing only for pride and the Axe this week due, in part, to a season riddled by injuries. Starting quarterback Michael Ouimette was lost for the season with an ACL injury prior to the Week 5 game against Mosinee. Tyler Carroll has filled in admirably in his stead, but missed last week's loss at Marquette with a knee injury of his own. The T-Birds were missing 10 starters from that contest due to injury and, as of this writing, it is uncertain how many of those players will be able to play in Friday night's game.
Nick Sabato - Lakeland Times Sports Writer
WHY LAKELAND WILL WIN: Tyler Carroll. These two teams might be fighting to avoid finishing in last place in the Great Northern Conference, but the game will feature the best player in it. With all due respect to players like Zach Mootz of Merrill, Antigo's Matt Winter or Mosinee's Justin Stubbe, there isn't a player more explosive or versatile than No. 12 in black and white. Carroll has accounted for 1,171 all-purpose yards and 13 total touchdowns. He's also one of the leading tacklers in the GNC from his safety position. The senior missed last week's game, but the week before he racked up 433 yards of total offense. Let's also not forget his four interceptions against Rhinelander in last year's game.
WHY RHINELANDER WILL LOSE: Lakeland needs to win this game. Playoffs may not be on the line, but pride is. The Thunderbirds did not have a good showing - albeit with an injury-depleted team - against Marquette last week in the Superior Dome. Given how high expectations were after a 2-1 start to the season, Lakeland cannot afford to end the season on a six-game losing streak. Dan Barutha is trying to build a culture in his program where T-Bird players come to play for 48 minutes, every week and it is important that it starts against Rhinelander. It's crucial to end the season on a high note, particularly if Lakeland wants to continue its upward trend in rebuilding the program.
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