Running back Drake Martin gets a block from Max Spaulding (5) on a long touchdown run during Rhinelander High School football Green vs. White Day practice in front of Mike Webster Stadium Saturday, Aug. 10. Martin had three touches for 96 yards and a touchdown during the practice. (Bob Mainhardt for the River News)
8/13/2019 7:30:00 AM Green, White squads even in intrasquad practice
The Rhinelander High School football coaching staff aimed to split its team up equally for its annual Green and White practice Saturday in front of Mike Webster Stadium. Based on the outcome, it was mission accomplished.
Both squads recorded a touchdown and both squads made some key stops defensively during two, 20-minute scrimmage-like sessions as the team wrapped up week one of practice for the 2019 football season.
Senior running back Drake Martin touched the ball only three times, but racked up 96 yards on those touches - including a 64-yard touchdown run for the Green team. Junior Quinn Lamers, who is battling senior Nathan Kempf for the starting quarterback position, lofted a 36-yard touchdown pass to Jackson Labs.
"We have about 45 kids on our varsity roster from sophomore to senior," Kraemer said. "We wanted to see how the gelled together, give them all reps. That's what it's about the first week. We need to make sure kids are comfortable with our base plays."
Martin, last year's Great Northern Conference rushing champion, shined in his limited touches. After being held to two yards on an outside stretch play on the first carry of the practice, he came back on a third-and-4 run, pressed a hole off left tackle, juked outside containment and sprinted 64 yards down the left sideline for the score.
Four plays later, with the Green offense facing fourth-and-10, Martin got open underneath and Kempf found him for a catch and run of 30 yards. Downfield blocks by Jacques Tulowitzky and Ian Miller added to Martin's yards after the catch.
"We've worked on throwing that rush route, which is the quick route to the sideline on our rollout passes. We've worked on that all week and (Kempf has) been hitting that consistently, so I'm proud of that, but I was more proud of the blocking down field with our receivers," Kraemer said. "We've been working on blocking with our receivers more than we ever have because, frankly, there's fewer plays for receivers when you're in an I formation. They blocked well there."
Peyton Erikson, Walker Hartman and Tim Fox each had runs of 10 yards during the White team's offensive session, but the big play came with the White squad facing fourth-and-12 as Lamers lofted a pass to Labs in the end zone, who made a leaping catch over tight man-to-man coverage provided by Nick Kriesel.
"I was not surprised about the throw. It was a great throw by Quinn," Kraemer said. "And (it was) a heck of a catch, too. Jackson is one of the best receivers I've seen in terms of body position, throwing it all they way back to Bryce White. Bryce was gifted with being a lot taller, but Jackson uses his body well and gets up."
The event was put on by the Hodag Gridiron Club, the booster club for the Rhinelander football program. In addition to varsity practice, the freshman squad had a couple of non-contact sessions, the middle school program received its equipment, split into four groups and did a 7-on-7 tournament.
The day ended with the YMCA of the Northwoods Flag Football program holding its first session of the summer. YMCA Youth and Family Director Matt Steingraber estimated 60 kids in grades 1-6 took part in the session.
Other notes from Saturday's practice:
Defense does it
Aside from the three explosive plays, the sessions primarily belonged to the defense, which Kraemer said mirrored the team portion of Friday's practice. The lone turnover came only two plays into the Green offensive session when Kempf fumbled a snap that was recovered by sophomore Mason Davis. Connor Lund and Walker Hartman recorded a sack on Kempf later in the session. The Green defense turned the White offense over on downs on the White team's first drive. Martin and sophomore Caleb Olckias combined to sack Lamers on the final play of the session.
"I thought they did well today," Kraemer said of the defense. "For me, it was about working on the base plays. For (defensive coordinator Gary Zarda), it was about let's install (the defense) and let's work the rest of it. They're working on a larger play card than we've had in the past for this first session and I thought they did pretty well."
On the line
The only exception to the split Green/White philosophy was on the offensive line, where the team put out its current No. 1 unit for the first 10 minutes of each session. Returning second-team all-conference lineman Trevor Knapp centered the line. Ben Sinclair and Kirk Mathews were at left guard and left tackle. Brothers Alex and Tyler Olson played right guard and right tackle.
"This is the first time they've really had a chance to work and chat and communicate together. The first session, there were bumps and bruises there. The second session they did well. Our young offensive linemen, they're coming along. They really have strong heart. They believe in each other and coach (Paul) Ellenbecker is getting them to believe in themselves."
In the quarterback battle, Lamers was 2-for-5 passing for 42 yards and a touchdown while Kempf's only completion in four attempts was the 30-yard pass play to Martin.
Martin had two carries for 66 yards and a score. He also had a punt of 53 yards during the Green offensive session. Hartman finished with the most carries on the day, with seven rushes for 29 yards. Olckias had three carries for 18 yards, Erikson finished with four rushes for 16 yards and Tim Fox carried three times for 10 yards.
The tenor will shift a little this week, as the team is allowed to practice in full pads and devote up to 75 minutes of full-contact practice ahead of a four-team scrimmage Friday at Northland Pines High School in Eagle River. Northern Elite will also be in attendance along with GNC-rival Lakeland.
"We'll put in a few protecting plays - screens and draws - that protect our inside zone and our stretch play, which are our two best plays you saw today," Kraemer said of this week's practice plan. "We'll do some other things that get our athletes the football, add a few short passing concepts. Otherwise, it's more of the same. We're run our counters, our zones, our dives and our stretches and make sure we're prepared to play against Prescott in Week 1."
Jeremy Mayo may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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