Pictured from left to right in these River News file photos, Drake Martin, Peyton Erikson and Ben Sinclair compete during Rhinelander High School football games this fall. The three were named to the All-Great Northern Conference first team in football, three of 11 Hodag football players to receive all-conference recognition. (Photos by Bob Mainhardt for the River News)
The Great Northern Conference on Monday released its all-conference teams for the 2019 fall sports season.
A total of 29 Rhinelander High School student-athletes received all-conference recognition, including eight first-team selections.
The Hodag football team led the way with 11 all-conference honorees, followed by the girls' tennis team with 10. The Hodag boys' soccer team had six honorees. Both the cross country and volleyball programs had one honoree each. The all-conference girls' swimming team will be determined at this Friday's conference meet in Stevens Point.
All-conference teams for football, boys' soccer and volleyball were the result of votes taken during the GNC fall coaches' meeting held last Wednesday in Tomahawk. The all-conference teams in cross country and girls' tennis were based on performances in each sport's conference meet.
Rhinelander's standout season drew yet another parallel to historically notable RHS teams of the past when the GNC conducted its all-conference voting.
The Hodags had 11 different players receive all-conference recognition from the coaches. That matches the most the team has had in its 10 seasons in the GNC, matching the 11 honorees the team had in 2012 - the last time the Hodags finished .500 in the conference and qualified for the WIAA playoffs.
Three of those players received first-team honors, led by senior Drake Martin - who was recognized by the coaches at three different positions. He was a unanimous first-team running back, a first-team punter and an honorable mention linebacker.
"To be given three honors by my peers and by coaches that saw him play - first of all, it's extremely rare. Second of all, it's an extreme honor to be given those things," coach Aaron Kraemer said.
It marked the third straight year Martin received first-team honors at running back, but his first unanimous selection. He had 761 rushing yards in six conference games, behind only Medford's Wilson. Martin was also far and away the best punter in the conference, averaging 45.9 yards per boot. Overall, Martin's 44.4-yard punting average ranks third best in the state of Wisconsin. Martin had two sacks in conference play, tied for sixth-best in the league.
Peyton Erikson was also back on the all-conference first team for the second consecutive year at defensive back - this time as a unanimous selection. Erikson's 41 total tackles in conference play were the most for Rhinelander and ninth-best in the GNC.
"He's probably the best tackler on our football team in my opinion," Kraemer said. "To see the type of competitor that he has become is amazing. He's someone who turns heads all around our state. He lit up the stat page and as a great defensive leader for us."
Ben Sinclair was Rhinelander's third first-teamer, making the list at defensive line, while also receiving second-team honors on the offensive line. Sinclair was tied for seventh with five tackles for loss in conference play.
"He's someone who continually works hard to get better at what he does as an offensive lineman and a defensive lineman," Kraemer said. "He is our best as far as the motor and the heart that it takes, and the desire that it takes, defensively and offensively to get the job done - to make tackles, to make touchdown-breaking blocks. He is that guy."
Sinclair and Martin were two of several multi-way honorees for Rhinelander. Walker Hartman, Trevor Knapp and Connor Lund all made the list as second-teamers both offensively and defensively. As a running back, Hartman was second in the conference averaging 6.8 yards per carry. As a linebacker, Hartman's 40 tackles were 10th in GNC play. Lund earned second-team honors as a tight end and a linebacker while Kraemer noted Knapp, the Hodags' starting center, lost a tiebreaker for the final spot on the first-team. Knapp was also second team as a defensive lineman.
Senior Max Spaulding, who had two interceptions in league play, was a second-team defensive back. Honorable mentions for Rhinelander included lineman Alex Olson, wide receiver Jackson Labs, quarterback Quinn Lamers and defensive back Payton Johnson.
Of Rhinelander's 11 all-conference honorees, five are juniors.
"To have multiple juniors with those types of awards, that's a privilege as a coach because you know you have somebody you can come back on the following year and somebody who's going to lead and step up," Kraemer noted.
Medford running back and Mosinee quarterback Trey Fitzgerald shared offensive player of the year honors in the conference. Medford linebacker Blaine Seidl was voted defensive player of the year and Medford's Ted Wilson took home coach of the year honors.
A young Hodag squad still received plenty of recognition from the Great Northern Conference, with six all-conference selections.
Hugh Wiese was a unanimous first-team choice, defenders Harrison Shinners and Joseph Heck were on the second team, and Alexx Huff, Charlie Heck and Gavin Ostermann all received honorable mention.
The six selections were the fourth-most in the conference behind Medford (9), Northland Pines (8) and Lakeland (7), but five of Rhinelander's six all-conference honorees are underclassmen. That's tied with Medford for the most in the conference.
"If you looked at the conference this season, by far we had the youngest team of the opponents we played this season," coach Nathan Bates said. "We have a very young team and I hope the kids all come back to play. The future, in my eyes, looks pretty bright for them for the next few years competing at the conference level."
Wiese was the only first-team choice out of the group and was one of only five players to receive unanimous first-team honors. Wiese had only five goals and two assists in conference play, but Bates said the coaches recognized his all-around contributions to the Hodag side.
"Hugh was very well-known by all the conference coaches at that meeting," he said. "He was a solid player. He makes things happen and Hugh, without a doubt in my mind, gives 100 percent all game, every game. I'm very happy for him."
Most of Rhinelander's all-conference honorees came from the defensive side as the team was third in the conference with 12 goals conceded in 10 conference matches - nearly half of those coming in a 5-2 loss Sept. 19 at Medford.
Shinners and Joseph Heck were the only players out of that group, aside from Wiese, to score in conference play. Shinners had a goal and Joseph Heck had an assist. Charlie Heck was a defensive midfielder and Huff possessed speed in the back for Rhinelander. Ostermann, as a goalkeeper, was 3-3-4 in the GNC with a 0.831 save percentage and a 1.29 goals against average.
Northland Pines' Liam Oas was named conference offensive player of the year for the second straight season, this time sharing the honor with Medford's Onyi Ekwueme.
Northland Pines' keeper Colby Kruse was voted defensive player of the year and Northland Pines' head coach Mark Pinski took home his second straight coach of the year honor.
In her second year as head coach, Brianna Scheuermann has her first all-Great Northern Conference honoree. Senior Cynthia Beavers received honorable mention from the coaches this year after the Hodags were shut out from the all-conference list last season.
Beavers ranked eighth in the GNC with 1.94 kills per set.
"It's awesome to see her get this award with how many good athletes are in the conference and her only joining us halfway into the season," Scheuermann said. "With her limited time playing with us she was the leader in our teams stats. She was a great addition to our team with kills and just someone that would sacrifice themselves to get that ball up. I am happy to see her get this award especially with it being her last year."
Beavers was unable to play in the Hodags first three conference matches. It was her first year with the team after transferring from Three Lakes late last fall. She was a second-team honoree in the Northern Lakes Conference for the Bluejays a season ago.
For the eighth consecutive year, Rhinelander had all 10 of its varsity starters on the all-conference team thanks to top-three finishes at the GNC Meet held back on Sept. 28 in Rhinelander.
First-team honors went to Rhinelander's three conference champions - Kenedy Van Zile, Kaylee Pontell and Kat Metropulos at Nos. 2, 3 and 4 singles, respectively.
All three of Rhinelander's doubles teams finished second at conference and earned second-team honors - Jackie Wells and Alex Oestreich, Lisa White and Kathryn Borski and Izzy Haverkampf and Jaiden Thiel. Annika Johnson finished third at No. 1 singles to receive honorable mention.
The No. 1 singles and doubles championship automatically receive player of the year honors. Those awards went to Wausau Newman's Mia Larrain and Pacelli's Marissa Stott and Ella Schroeder. Rhinelander's Bob Heideman won coach of the year. Despite the Hodags' dominance of the GNC, it marked only the second time in the last five years - and first time since 2016 - that Heideman was voted coach of the year by his conference colleagues.
The Hodags had only one all-conference runner in sophomore Cal Laggis, who parlayed a surprising fourth-place run in the GNC Meet hosted by Antigo at the Gartzke Flowage Oct. 19 into a first-team all-conference position.
The runners of the year were the individual conference champions - Mosinee's Eric Kordus and Lakeland's Ashley Peterson. The championship-winning coaches took home coach of the year honors - Medford's Kevin Wellman on the girls' side and Tomahawk's John Zuelsdorf on the boys' side.
Jeremy Mayo may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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