Rhinelander’s Shane Petrick (27) has the ball taken away on a slide tackle by D.C. Everest’s Oliver Nazari-Witt (4) during the first half of a non-conference boys’ soccer game in Weston Saturday, Sept. 7. D.C. Everest defeated Rhinelander 6-0 to win the Hammer Game for the ninth time in 14 playings. (Jeremy Mayo/River News)
9/10/2019 7:31:00 AM Hammered: Everest downs Hodags 6-0 in rivalry game
WESTON - The Rhinelander High School boys' soccer team could not keep up with D.C. Everest - figuratively and literally - Saturday night.
Everest's Tamirat Knutson scored three goals, recorded two assists and led the Evergreens to a 6-0 victory over the Hodags in the annual Hammer Game between the two former Wisconsin Valley Conference rivals at the D.C. Everest soccer complex.
Everest scored three times in each half and outshot the Hodags 49-3. The Evergreens' speed, especially at the top of their formation, gave Rhinelander fits all night and produced numerous quality scoring chances.
"Everest's speed was pretty impressive," Hodag coach Nathan Bates said. "Even with Harry (Shinners) back there - Harry's faster than heck - and Alex Huff. They both have wheels. This team has more speed than I've seen in a long time."
Knutson, and running mate Gabe Carter provided most of the difficulty for the Hodags' back line as Everest jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead and never looked back.
Carter scored each of the first two tallies with Knutson's help. The first strike came in the sixth minute as Knutson put Carter on a through ball that got Carter behind the defense. A shot tucked inside the left post gave Everest and early 1-0 lead. Carter doubled it in the eighth minute, getting on the back post for a rebound after Knutson's breakaway attempt was denied by keeper Gavin Ostermann.
Bates said Everest's speed put Rhinelander's defense in a compromised position at times.
"Sometimes it looked like we were playing chase with their speed, which was pulling us out of position, which was allowing them to open up more passes," he said. "We talked to the boys about that. You can't play the game of chase. If we fall into their trap, they're going to eat us up. We did do that for a while because the kids were getting frustrated with how fast they were."
Rhinelander's defense settled in after the fast start, keeping Everest off the board of a long period in the first half. Part of the strategy involved using Everest's speed against it, pushing defenders up the field in an effort to catch the Evergreens offsides. Everest committed 14 fouls in the first half, of which more than half were offsides violations. Connor Schommer's goal in the 39th minute was disallowed because he was offsides.
"We had to switch the back lineup a bit and put a sweeper back there to try to contain them a little bit more," Bates said. "After we did, it seemed like we did a little bit better back there with them. We started working an offsides trap because Everest was extremely jumpy and they wanted push up as high as they could. I don't know how many we caught them on, but it was a lot."
There was no stopping Knutson, however. He scored moment's after the Schommer goal was disallowed to put Everest up 3-0 going into halftime. Knutson scored again the 49th and 68th minutes to put the Evergreens ahead 5-0.
Colin Belton finished off the scoring for Everest in the 87th minute.
"The first half they pounded us pretty good and then the second half we ran out of gas," Bates said. "We have a lot of kids injured, a lot of kids out right now. We ran out of gas toward the end of the game and it pretty much turned into a shooting gallery for Everest for the last 12-14 minutes of the game."
Everest launched 30 shots on the Rhinelander net. Ostermann, a sophomore, recorded a career-high 24 saves in the defeat, including several of the highlight reel variety.
"Gavin had a heck of a game," Bates said. "Like I told you earlier in the year, in my opinion Gavin is one of the best keepers in the conference. He does a great job for us. If it wasn't for Gavin, the score could have been 15-0. He had a lot of big saves."
Rhinelander recorded only two shots on goal in the match. Hugh Wiese made a sliding attempt that was stopped in the fifth minute. The Hodags did not put another shot on frame until the 80th minute when Taylor Plouff's shot from 25 yards was stopped easily.
There were a few other opportunities where Rhinelander had the ball deep in the attacking third of the field but was unable to pull the trigger.
"I would say we had four opportunities (to shoot) that should have been pretty much gimmes," Bates said. "It is what it is. The kids wanted to get one more touch on the ball instead of taking the shot. We were within the 18 at least 4-5 times where we could have put some scores up on the board and we just didn't do it."
Saturday's game marked the 14th playing of the Hammer Game, a series that started somewhat lightheartedly in 2005 when Rhinelander found a sledgehammer sitting behind its bench prior to a game at D.C. Everest. The teams have played for the Hammer every year since, with the exception of 2016. The Hodags defeated Everest 1-0 last year to win the Hammer for the first time since 2011. Everest holds a 9-5-0 advantage in the series.
"Everest, great team, they always are," Bates said. "If you look at the Hammer, we've only had it (five) times in the 14 times we've played them. It is what it is. It's a fun game and it gets the kids more practice out on the field."
Next up, Rhinelander (1-5-0, 1-1-0 Great Northern) travels to Mosinee on Thursday.
Jeremy Mayo may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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