When it comes to playoff chances, the Rhinelander High School football team is down to its final strike.
Eddie Collinsworth scored from a yard out in overtime as Merrill stunned the Hodags 27-21 Friday at Mike Webster Stadium.
It marked the second straight week Rhinelander blew a halftime lead. This time the Hodags were up 13-0 less than six minutes into the game following a Drake Martin 7-yard score and a 46-yard screen pass from Quinn Lamers to Peyton Erikson.
Merrill got back within a score with 7:51 left in the half as Caleb DeJong scored from three yards out to make it 13-7 Hodags at the break.
DeJong and the Merrill option attack could not be stopped in the second half. He scored from a yard out with 1:35 left in the third quarter, and again with 2:40 left in regulation, to put Merrill up 21-13.
Rhinelander responded to force overtime. Facing fourth and 10 from its own 26, Lamers from Erikson for 15 yards to move the chains and then Travis Towne caught a deflected pass on a deep ball down at the Merrill 11, setting up a Martin two-yard score with 14 seconds left in regulation. Martin scored on the subsequent two-point conversion to send the game to overtime.
Martin rushed 22 times for 130 yards and two touchdowns and, in the process, eclipsed the 1,100-yard mark on the season for the third time in his career. Lamers finished 5 of 19 passing for 105 yards and a touchdown.
DeJong rushed for 143 yards and three scored for Merrill (2-6, 2-3 GNC) as the Bluejays won despite being outgained 270-196 in the contest.
Rhinelander (5-3, 2-3 GNC) travels to Ashland next week and must win to become playoff eligible.
A full report will be published in Tuesday's River News.
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