Rhinelander's third postseason trip will have to wait at least one more week.
Trey Fitzgerald, the state's leading passer, hooked up with Cyle Kowalski for three touchdowns - including the go-ahead score on the first play of the fourth quarter - as Mosinee outlasted Rhinelander 21-20 Friday at Veterans' Park in Mosinee.
The Hodags led 20-7 at the break and were driving to begin the second half when Mosinee's Michal Dul stripped Rhinelander receiver Jackson Labs and returned the ball to the Hodag 22-yard line, setting up a Fitzgerald to Kowalski touchdown pass two plays later.
A Rhinelander offense that chewed up Mosinee on the ground in the first half slowed after Drake Martin appeared to injure his left ankle on the second drive of the second half. He missed only a few plays, but was held to only 37 yards on the ground in the second half after rushing for 107 and two scores in the first.
Rhinelander had a chance after Dul threw an interception on a trick play midway through the fourth, but the drive stalled out at the Mosinee 33 yard line.
Fitzgerald finished the night 14 of 18 passing for 217 yards and three touchdowns. He added 51 yards on 12 carries, including a 20-yard scamper on fourth-and-1 with less than two minutes to play that sealed the game for Mosinee. Kowalski caught five passes for 165 yards.
Martin scored the Hodags' first two touchdowns and finished with 144 yards, leaving him 31 yards short of 1,000 for the season. Peyton Erikson had two catches for 38 yards, including a three-yard score with eight seconds remaining in the second quarter to give Rhinelander a 13-point lead at halftime.
Quinn Lamers was 5 of 8 passing for Rhinelander for 81 yards.
Mosinee clinched a playoff berth with the win, moving to 5-2 (4-0 GNC) ahead of a first-place showdown at Medford next Friday. Rhinelander 5-2 (2-2 GNC) needs one more win to become playoff eligible for the first time since 2012. The Hodags return home to take on Merrill next Friday.
A full report will be published in Tuesday's River News.
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