MOSINEE – Mosinee and Rhinelander were expected to put on an offensive show in Friday’s matchup between the two undefeated teams in the Great Northern Conference.
Instead, it was special teams and defense that told the story.
Mosinee recovered a blocked punt for a touchdown and put together one solid drive in the second half to pull away with a 14-7 victory at Mosinee High School.
Mosinee is now 7-1 overall and 5-0 in the GNC, while Rhinelander is 6-1 and 4-1 in the conference, falling into a second-place tie with Medford.
After a scoreless first half four punts, an interception and two series ending on downs, Mosinee was on the positive end of the first big break of the game.
Rhinelander was punting on its second possession when the snapped sailed wide of punter Cayden Neri, who recovered and tried to get a kick away. Nolan Harris blocked it, the ball rolled into the end zone and Barnes Bunkelman recovered to give the Indians a 7-0 lead after the extra point.
Rhinelander’s defense came up with its own big play on Mosinee’s next possession. Trevor Garski threw a dump off pass out of desperation and it was tipped and picked off by Arik Beske, who returned it 21 yards to tie the score with 2:46 to go in the third quarter.
Mosinee responded with an eight-play drive that bridged the end of third and start of the fourth quarter. Garski hit Davin Stoffel for a 7-yard touchdown in the left corner of the end zone for what proved to be the game-winning score.
“My favorite part of the game, this seems weird, was the turnover that got (Rhinelander) the touchdown, and our guys stepped up and responded,” Mosinee coach Craig Martens said. “That’s what we do, so I’m super proud of their response.”
Mosinee held Rhinelander to just 133 total yards and without a first down in the second half.
Garski finished 15-for-24 for 150 yards, with Keagan Jirschele catching seven passes for 86 yards.
Mosinee will travel to Medford next Friday, Oct. 8, for what could be a conference-title clinching game for the Indians. The game will be at 7 p.m. and will be live at zaleskisports.com.
Indians 14, Hodags 7
Rhinelander 0 0 7 0 - 7
Mosinee 0 0 7 7 - 14
M – Barnes Bunkelman recovered blocked punt in end zone (Eli Miland kick), 5:16.
R – Arik Beske 21 interception return (Caden Neri kick), 2:46.
M – Davin Stoffel 7 pass from Trevor Garski (Miland kick), 11:06.
First downs: Rhinelander 8; Mosinee 14.
Rushing (att-yards): R 35-98; M 31-78.
Passing (comp-att-yards-int): R 9-17-35-1; M 15-24-150-2.
Total yards: R 133; M 228.
Penalties (no.-yards): R 10-60; M 3-36.
Fumbles (total-lost): R 4-0; M 2-0.
Rushing: R, Cayden Neri 21-71, Caleb Olcikas 10-16, Jacksen Smith 3-6, Caleb Shefveland 1-5. M, Trevor Garski 9-32, Keagan Jirschele 8-21, Barnes Bunkelman 6-16, Wyatt Harris 8-9.
Passing: R, Smith 9-17-35-1. M, Garski 15-24-150-2.
Receiving: R, Neri 5-20, Olcikas 2-13, Kaleb Winter 2-2. M, Jirschele 7-86, Davin Stoffel 3-38, Evan Utphall 3-25, Drake Grod 1-2, Harris 1-minus 1.
Interceptions (defense): R, Arik Beske, Winter. M, Garski.
Records: Rhinelander 6-1, 4-1 Great Northern Conference; Mosinee 7-1, 5-0 Great Northern Conference.