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December 11, 2019

10/19/2019 7:36:00 AM
Playoff Bound: Hodags defeat Ashland 16-12, qualify for WIAA Tourney

Jeremy Mayo
Sports Editor

ASHLAND - It was not easy, but the Rhinelander High School football team is back in the WIAA playoffs for only the third time in school history.

Drake Martin and Walker Hartman each rushed for touchdowns as the Hodags withstood a late Ashland comeback attempt to win 16-12 Friday night at Weikal Field. The win was the elusive third conference victory the Hodags sought to make the WIAA tournament for the first time since 2012.

Things got interesting with Rhinelander trying to milk the clock up 16-6 in the fourth quarter. After throwing an incomplete pass on third-and-30, Martin had a punt blocked, giving Ashland the ball at the Hodag 30 with 3:10 remaining.

Less than a minute later, with Ashland facing fourth and 10 at the 19, quarterback Jackson Bonneville found receiver Willy Bearskin in the end zone for a touchdown that trimmed the lead to four.

The Oredockers tried an onside kick, which Rhinelander's Caleb Olcikas smothered at midfield and Rhinelander was able to run out the clock from there.

The Hodags took the lead with seconds remaining in the first quarter as Martin scored from a yard out set up by a 44-yard run from Walker Hartman. Ashland closed to within two points late in the first half as Bonnevill found Alec Lindenberg on a 33-yard completion down to the 1 on third and 29. Isaac Livingston scored from a yard out on the next play to cut the lead to 8-6 at the half.

After forcing Ashland three and out on the first drive of the third quarter, the Hodags got great field position when Bonneville shanked a punt for only six yards and Hartman eventually found the end zone from 19 yards out.

Rhinelander won despite being outgained 223-193 in the game. Martin finished with 73 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries while Hartman added 64 yards rushing on only four carries. Livingston had 81 yards and a score on 25 carries for Ashland while Bonneville was 7 of 13 passing for 82 yards.

Rhinelander (6-3, 3-3 Great Northern) will found out its playoff opponent later Saturday with Level 1 of the Division 3 playoffs taking place next Friday.

A full report will be published in Tuesday's River News.

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