Rhinelander’s Drake Martin scores a touchdown during the second quarter of a non-conference football game against Tomahawk at Hatchet Field Thursday, Aug. 29. Martin scored four rushing touchdowns and the Hodags routed Tomahawk, 48-6. (Photos by Bob Mainhardt for the River News)
Rhinelander’s Travis Towne beats Tomahawk’s Cody Jablonski for a touchdown during the first quarter of a non-conference football game at Hatchet Field Thursday, Aug. 29.
8/31/2019 7:30:00 AM Tomahawk, chopped Hodags bury Hatchets 48-6, move to 2-0 on the season
TOMAHAWK - If a season opening shutout victory at Prescott was a statement by the Rhinelander High School football team, then what it did Thursday night to Tomahawk was a proclamation written in all capital letters and 90-point font.
Rhinelander was never stopped in the contest - scoring seven touchdowns on seven offensive possessions. Drake Martin rushed for four touchdowns, Quinn Lamers passed for two more and the Hodags dominated the Hatchets 48-6 in a non-conference contest at Hatchet Field.
A Great Northern Conference rival in every sport except football, Tomahawk was no match for a Rhinelander juggernaut that averaged more than 10 yards per play, amassed 409 yards of offense overall and built a commanding 35-0 lead at halftime.
It was vindication for a Hodag team that has struggled with Tomahawk in recent years. The win was Rhinelander's first over the Hatchets since 2010.
"For the second week in a row, we managed to keep our kids healthy," coach Aaron Kraemer said as the Hodags got off to their first 2-0 start since 2016. "We needed to make sure our kids are prepared to go into the GNC, which is the most important thing for us."
"I think you saw today our depth compared to Tomahawk's and our fresh legs. They paid off today for us," Kraemer added.
It didn't take long for the Hodags to take it to the Hatchets. Tomahawk fumbled on the third play of the game. The ball was recovered by Martin to set the Hodags up on the Hatchet 22-yard line. Five plays later Lamers found junior Travis Towne on a slant route for a 12-yard score to give Rhinelander the lead less than five minutes into the game.
After forcing Tomahawk to go three and out on its next possession, the Hodags went to the air again, this time with Petyon Erikson catching a bubble screen from Lamers deep in his own territory and racing all the way down the left sideline for an 89-yard score.
After holding Martin to a season-low 49 yards in a 14-7 win last year, Tomahawk again geared up to stop Rhinelander's top rusher early in the contest and was caught off guard by the Hodags' passing game.
"One of the things we wanted to do was get Quinn comfortable," Kraemer said. "Last week he was not comfortable throwing the ball and you could tell. This week at practice he was a little bit down on himself because of his percentage."
The early passing success opened holes in the Tomahawk defense. Martin rushed for touchdowns of 10, 74 and seven yards in the second quarter to give Rhinelander a 35-0 lead at the break. Martin capped off Rhinelander's opening possession of the second half with a four-yard scoring run. He finished the night with 176 yards on 17 carries.
So far this season, Martin has averaged only 18 carries a game - well down from his average of 24.6 carries per game as a sophomore and junior.
"It just keeps him fresh and ready for the next week," Kraemer said. "He's going to have to toe the line next week against Lakeland, a team that's going to want to stop him again. He came to the sideline and said, 'Hey, (the defense is) calling my number.' I said, 'Good, that means the rest of the guys are going to get touches and you're going to free them up too, which is part of your job.' Every game he should be expect to be the one they're trying to stop."
Rhinelander scored once more in the fourth quarter. After Tim Fox intercepted a pass and returned it to the Tomahawk 15, backup quarterback Nathan Kempf took the reins of the offense and ended up scoring on a one-yard quarterback sneak.
Tomahawk's only touchdown came in mop-up duty against the Hodag reserves as Cody Scholz scored from 11 yards out with 1:10 remaining. It was the only blemish on an otherwise flawless night for Rhinelander.
"It was a little bit of a letdown for us," Kraemer said. "We wanted to keep them off the board and make sure we remained zeroes. But, we had so much good happen in the game that we can't let that sour our attitude."
Lamers finished the night 5 of 7 passing for 155 yards and two scores. Erikson ended with 140 yards (119 receiving, 21 rushing) on only six touches and Walker Hartman added 45 yards on seven carries.
Scholz led Tomahawk with 81 yards on 17 carries, the majority of that production coming in the second half. Tomahawk was held to 123 yards of total offense.
The win sets the stage for what should be an exciting Great Northern Conference and home opener for the Hodags next Friday night against Lakeland. It will be the fifth playing of the Northwoods Axe Game, a series Lakeland leads 3-1, and will be the first game on the new artificial turf surface at Mike Webster Stadium.
Kraemer said it should not be difficult to get his team excited to play this coming week.
"It's the Axe Game. It's at home, on the turf in a new environment for us," he said. "There are a lot of good things happening in our community. We appreciate all the community support. It was great tonight out here. I expect them to be ready to go. I think it might be me saying, 'Hold on young buck. Let's slow down here.'"
Lakeland was 1-0 on the season heading into a Week 2 contest at Northland Pines, which concluded after deadline.
Jeremy Mayo may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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