Nathan Kempf, above, and Peyton Erikson, below, prepare to throw passes for the Rhinelander High School football team during a 7-on-7 game against Lakeland at Northland Pines High School in Eagle River Thursday, July 11. Kempf, a senior, is battling fellow senior Erikson and junior Quinn Lamers for the starting quarterback job for the Hodags this fall. (Photos by Bob Mainhardt for the River News)
7/16/2019 7:32:00 AM RHS football team wraps up 7-on-7 Kraemer: Three-way QB battle entering camp
The Rhinelander High School football team wrapped up the 7-on-7 portion of its offseason schedule Thursday night, and is now in the midst of its final organized team activities prior to the start of the 2019 season.
The Northwoods Passing League concluded Thursday night in Eagle River with the Hodags taking on Great Northern Conference rival Lakeland. Typically a six-week league, it was cut to three this year. Thunderstorms wiped out a scheduled Thursday night in Tomahawk, the Fourth of July falling on a Thursday took out another week and the Hodags are conducting their four-day team camp this week, on what typically was the final week of the league.
"It's always good to see several kids coming out and competing on a week-by-week basis. Last night was no exception to what we've done this summer," RHS football coach Aaron Kraemer told the River News Friday. "The opportunities have been slim, but with the three 7-on-7s, plus the Eastbay, we've had tremendous participation where we've been able to play JV games and varsity games with a split squad. To have enough guys to do that, with subs, is good.
"It's always fun to see your kids compete in a football setting. I think that during the summer our athletes are pushed even more than they are in the school year because they have the options to play multiple sports and be involved in multiple things, different programs throughout the summer. It's always good to see the participation when you have voluntary football activity - kids coming out and competing and getting better and ready for the season."
Kraemer said he's less worried about results and more worried about participation during the 7-on-7 season. He said it provided him an opportunity to get a better feel for some of the younger players on his roster.
"I think I learned more about the young guys than the varsity guys. I think I know what to expect from those guys, having worked with them over the last couple years," he said. "7-on-7 a lot of the times I think is just something were you can let the kids have a little fun. It's really unstructured. To me, it's not the best picture of what you're going to have during there season."
The Hodags have several pieces of their offense returning from last season, including back-to-back 1,100-yard rusher Drake Martin. The biggest question in the offseason has been who will take the snaps under center this fall as three players vie to replace the graduated Brock Lieder.
Junior Quinn Lamers saw some time late last season when Lieder was benched following a spate of turnovers. He and seniors Peyton Erikson and Nathan Kempf have split reps at QB this summer, and the clarity of the battle was further muddied last Thursday when Lamers re-aggravated a hand injury he sustained playing baseball this past April.
"He was devastated yesterday," Kraemer said. "He's been working hard this summer at multiple camps, coming in lifting weights and I think he wants more than anything to be able to throw the pads on and get started. I know yesterday was a setback for him, but I told him it's better that it happened now than four weeks down the road where we're looking at missing the first three, four games because of his hand."
Whether its Erikson, Kempf or Lamers who ultimately lands the starting job, Kraemer said he's confident about what each player brings to the table.
"All three of them have their strengths - Quinn with his smarts and his playmaking ability, Nate with his reliability and command of the huddle and the fact that he's a senior, and Peyton with his athletic prowess and ability to move," he said. "All three of them present different challenges for defenses in our league. Also, all three of them understand that if they're not the quarterback of this team, they're going to be asked to contribute in multiple other ways. They've kind of taken to that challenge."
It will likely be Erikson and Kempf handing the quarterbacking duties this week during the team's four-day camp. Kraemer said the camp will be used to lay the foundation and begin to install the systems the team will put in place once fall practice officially begins Aug. 6.
"What we're going to focus on over the next couple of weeks are the fundamentals of our offense and defense, making sure that we have an offensive and defensive line that's prepared to play," he said.
"7-on-7 you don't have an offensive line so you really can't tell. We've got to put a premium on that offensive and defensive line and get our foundations set there."
Jeremy Mayo may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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