Rhinelander’s Jacob Ostrander (7) celebrates while Lakeland’s Josh Sennett, prone, and Adam Klappa (30) react to Ostrander’s go-ahead goal in the 87th minute of a Great Northern Conference boys’ soccer game at Mike Webster Stadium Thursday, Sept. 5. (Photos by Bob Mainhardt for the River News)
Rhinelander’s Harrison Shinners converts a penalty kick goal during the second half of a Great Northern Conference boys’ soccer game against Lakeland at Mike Webster Stadium Thursday, Sept. 5.
9/7/2019 7:30:00 AM Breakthrough: Hodags edge Lakeland 2-1 to claim first win
After a tough start to the season, the Rhinelander High School boys' soccer team needed a bounce or two to go its way. It finally happened Thursday night.
Jacob Ostrander deflected in the go-ahead goal in the 87th minute and the Hodags had to withstand a mad Lakeland scramble in the final seconds to knock off the Thunderbirds 2-1 at Mike Webster Stadium.
Penalty kick goals midway through the second half by Rhinelander's Harrison Shinners and Lakeland's Kyle Bengtson canceled each other out and set the stage for a wild finish in which the Hodags got the bounces on their new artificial turf surface.
"It was fun. It was a real back and forth, exciting game tonight. I'm proud of the boys," Rhinelander coach Nathan Bates said after picking up his first varsity win. "They did not quit at all tonight. They kept the intensity, which is what we've been looking for. They played like a team tonight. We had some good passing stuff going on, some through balls, some give and goes. It was a good game. Lakeland brought it hard, too. It was fun to watch."
Rhinelander took the lead for good on an exploratory effort as Joseph Heck sent a high ball into the box from roughly 50 yards out. The ball took one hop over backup keeper Adam Klappa and began its slow roll toward the goal. Initially scored as an own goal off Lakeland defender Josh Sennett, replay showed Ostrander barely getting to the ball and deflecting it into the net before Sennett could clear it.
Lakeland was not done, however, as it tried to salvage what would have been a third consecutive tie between the two conference rivals.
Judson Bybee found Brandon Boh in space 20 yards from goal in the 89th minute, but Boh sent a hurried shot wide right. Then, in the final seconds, Lakeland had one more push as Boh headed a cross into the box that bounced over Rhinelander keeper Gavin Ostermann and rolled toward the right post for Kyle Peterson. Peterson redirected the ball but sent a high kick caroming into the bottom of the crossbar. The ball never crossed the goal line. Ostermann was then able to gather the loose ball, clear it and allow Rhinelander to melt away the final seconds.
"I still feel like my throat has a lump in it," Bates said of the wild finish.
Scoreless and virtually dead even in the statistical department after one half, things began to break Rhinelander's way as it registered a number of shots on goal early in the second half. In the 64th minute, Lakeland starting keeper Vincent Strong left the game with an apparent injury and was replaced by Klappa, a sophomore.
The new keeper was tested right out of the box. Hugh Wiese sent in an exploratory effort from 30 yards that Klappa bobbled and then covered. Klappa then made a leaping save to deflect a hard shot by Joseph Heck over the goal in the 67th minute.
Bates said the directive to his team was clear after Lakeland changed keepers.
"I told the boys to pressure hard on the goalkeeper because he looked a little young," he said. "It looked like he needs a little more work in there. I don't know if he's played any varsity games. I told the kids to start shooting hard because he looked nervous."
Rhinelander drew first blood moments later when Daniel Ritchie was tackled inside the Lakeland penalty area. Shinners took the ensuing penalty kick and beat Klappa to the left post to give the Hodags a 1-0 lead in the 69th minute.
"It was a good call by the refs. It was warranted," Bates said of the penalty. "We put Harry up there. Harry's been very consistent with PKs. He's very, very accurate with his shot so we put him up top and he put one in the back of the net."
Rhinelander's lead was short-lived, however, as Lakeland converted a kick from the penalty spot a little more than three minutes later. Boh made a dangerous run that split defenders attacking in from the right flank and fired a shot from the top right corner of the six-yard box that ended up deflecting off a Rhinelander defender's hands. Bengtson beat Ostermann to the left post on the penalty kick to square the match.
Though possession was roughly even throughout the contest, Rhinelander outshot Lakeland 18-8 in the second half and 27-17 for the match. Rhinelander also collected 11 of its 14 shots on goal in the final 45 minutes and the Hodag defense held an opponent to less than 10 shots on goal (7) for the first time this season.
"The second half we definitely came out with more intensity," Bates said. "We've been working on some new stuff in practice and tonight it seemed like it finally clicked a little bit. I think we're getting our formation down. The players are figuring out where they're going to be playing this season. The older boys and younger boys are starting to come together as a team like we've been hoping all season and they showed it."
Rhinelander (1-4-0, 1-1-0 Great Northern) travels to D.C. Everest tonight to take on the Evergreens in the non-conference Hammer Game rivalry. Rhinelander upset Everest 1-0 last fall to reclaim the Hammer for the first time since 2011.
"We're just going to continue to do what we do," Bates said. "We're going to practice hard and we're going to keep working on our team chemistry. That's our big thing. We definitely have the talent level on the team. The kids just need to come together and they did it tonight. I'm proud of all of them."
Jeremy Mayo may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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