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Robins look to extend recent Bell Game dominance
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The 84th playing of the Gene Shepard Bell Game is set for this Friday night at Antigo's venerable facility, Schofield Stadium.

Nearly as important as the Bell however, is the midseason hopes of two high school football teams, one with big expectations trying to rebound from an unexpected slow start, the other with hopes it can salvage a season dented by two tight losses.

The Antigo Red Robins and Rhinelander Hodags are both 1-3 on the year, but have reached that mark in starkly different routes.

Antigo, nearly everyone's preseason favorite in the Great Northern Conference was blown out in its first two contests against quality opponents in Berlin and Stratford, before heading into conference play and dropping a surprising 26-20 game to Ashland, a team who now appears to be a legitimate title contender after a win against Mosinee last week.

Taking on the Lakeland Thunderbirds this past Friday, an ugly start was erased by a second half rally, with the Robins taking advantage of several crucial Lakeland mistakes in its first win of the season, 28-13.

Rhinelander, picked by most to finish at the bottom of the standings, opened with a 28-6 home win against Prescott before a disheartening 14-7 loss to Tomahawk, and a 13-12 setback against Wausau East.

The Hodags first conference game was last week, falling to Medford 36-7, a game in which the Hodags were competitive early.

Now the records and prior games can be thrown out the window, as the Robins know they will need to bring their “A” game against a Hodags squad that always brings its best efforts in the battle for the Bell.

“It's always a big goal for both of us and we know Rhinelander will come ready to play no matter their record,” Head Coach Tom Schofield said. “Our boys understand the importance of the Bell game and want to keep it ringing in Antigo.”

The Robins are owners of an 11-game win streak in the series, with Rhinelander last capturing the bell in 2006. It is the second longest streak in Bell Game history, with Antigo winning 13 straight from 1961-73, a streak that began in Link Walker's last season as head coach and continued well into the Gordy Schofield era.

With the exception of a 20-14 final three years ago, none of the final scores have been close with the average margin of victory at 27 points. The Robins now hold an overall 54-27-2 record in the rivalry.

Rhinelander can lament a 19-8 win in 2014, a game that was not for the Bell, as the teams squared off twice that season, with the trophy only on the line in the second meeting. The Bell game itself was won by the Robins, 28-7.

This season's edition of the Hodags is led by arguably the best running back in the GNC in junior Drake Martin, a first team all-conference pick as a sophomore a season ago. Martin has 301 yards and five touchdowns on the season, averaging 4.4 yards per carry.

He ran for 79 against the Robins last season in a game that was well decided by halftime with Antigo leading 42-0, on its way to a 48-7 final.

It's Martin's surrounding cast that was in question this season. Senior quarterback Brock Lieder has completed 40 percent of his passes for 228 yards and a lone touchdown, and is also the Hodags' second leading rusher with 130 yards and a score.

Martin also leads the team in receptions with six, while Peyton Erickson leads in yards with 73 for a well-balanced, but limited aerial attack.

Antigo's signal caller, Nevin Cornelius has put up similar numbers, with 247 total passing yards and three touchdowns.

But similar to Rhinelander, Antigo's offense centers around the run, led by Dominic Smith's 331 yards which includes a startling seven yards per attempt. Smith rolled off several big runs in the second half of Friday's win.

He finished with 135 yard against the T-Birds, while C.J. Levis continues to became more of a factor in the backfield, adding 68 of his own. The pair will go against a Rhinelander defense that allowed 368 yards on the ground in its loss to Medford.

Eric Langseth had a nice game on both sides of the ball against Lakeland. He leads the team with five receptions for 116 yards. He also snagged an interception and will likely be matched up against Erickson in the pass game.

As with any matchup against an underdog, turnovers and penalties will be key, as the Robins will hope to avoid the mistakes that have plagued them this season, including a multitude of mishandled snaps.

Preparations for the rivalry game have seemingly gone well in Antigo, with the hopes that those sometimes inexplicable errors are behind them.

“This week's practices have been full of energy,” Schofield added. “We have been working on being both mentally and physically tough, our offense and defense were hitting on all cylinders during the week.”

A win can also keep the Robins in the thick of the conference title hunt, with Ashland and Medford both at 2-0, Antigo is currently 1-1. Ashland will face Merrill Friday, while Medford has a non-conference game with Menominee, Mich.

Antigo and Medford will meet next week for the Raiders' homecoming, but with Rhinelander on the slate, there is little chance the Robins get caught looking ahead.

“The Red Robins are enthusiastic after getting their first win of the season,” Schofield said. “We are eager for more.”

Kickoff of the Bell Game is set for 7 p.m.
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Robins look to extend recent Bell Game dominance
space
The 84th playing of the Gene Shepard Bell Game is set for this Friday night at Antigo's venerable facility, Schofield Stadium.

Nearly as important as the Bell however, is the midseason hopes of two high school football teams, one with big expectations trying to rebound from an unexpected slow start, the other with hopes it can salvage a season dented by two tight losses.

The Antigo Red Robins and Rhinelander Hodags are both 1-3 on the year, but have reached that mark in starkly different routes.

Antigo, nearly everyone's preseason favorite in the Great Northern Conference was blown out in its first two contests against quality opponents in Berlin and Stratford, before heading into conference play and dropping a surprising 26-20 game to Ashland, a team who now appears to be a legitimate title contender after a win against Mosinee last week.

Taking on the Lakeland Thunderbirds this past Friday, an ugly start was erased by a second half rally, with the Robins taking advantage of several crucial Lakeland mistakes in its first win of the season, 28-13.

Rhinelander, picked by most to finish at the bottom of the standings, opened with a 28-6 home win against Prescott before a disheartening 14-7 loss to Tomahawk, and a 13-12 setback against Wausau East.

The Hodags first conference game was last week, falling to Medford 36-7, a game in which the Hodags were competitive early.

Now the records and prior games can be thrown out the window, as the Robins know they will need to bring their “A” game against a Hodags squad that always brings its best efforts in the battle for the Bell.

“It's always a big goal for both of us and we know Rhinelander will come ready to play no matter their record,” Head Coach Tom Schofield said. “Our boys understand the importance of the Bell game and want to keep it ringing in Antigo.”

The Robins are owners of an 11-game win streak in the series, with Rhinelander last capturing the bell in 2006. It is the second longest streak in Bell Game history, with Antigo winning 13 straight from 1961-73, a streak that began in Link Walker's last season as head coach and continued well into the Gordy Schofield era.

With the exception of a 20-14 final three years ago, none of the final scores have been close with the average margin of victory at 27 points. The Robins now hold an overall 54-27-2 record in the rivalry.

Rhinelander can lament a 19-8 win in 2014, a game that was not for the Bell, as the teams squared off twice that season, with the trophy only on the line in the second meeting. The Bell game itself was won by the Robins, 28-7.

This season's edition of the Hodags is led by arguably the best running back in the GNC in junior Drake Martin, a first team all-conference pick as a sophomore a season ago. Martin has 301 yards and five touchdowns on the season, averaging 4.4 yards per carry.

He ran for 79 against the Robins last season in a game that was well decided by halftime with Antigo leading 42-0, on its way to a 48-7 final.

It's Martin's surrounding cast that was in question this season. Senior quarterback Brock Lieder has completed 40 percent of his passes for 228 yards and a lone touchdown, and is also the Hodags' second leading rusher with 130 yards and a score.

Martin also leads the team in receptions with six, while Peyton Erickson leads in yards with 73 for a well-balanced, but limited aerial attack.

Antigo's signal caller, Nevin Cornelius has put up similar numbers, with 247 total passing yards and three touchdowns.

But similar to Rhinelander, Antigo's offense centers around the run, led by Dominic Smith's 331 yards which includes a startling seven yards per attempt. Smith rolled off several big runs in the second half of Friday's win.

He finished with 135 yard against the T-Birds, while C.J. Levis continues to became more of a factor in the backfield, adding 68 of his own. The pair will go against a Rhinelander defense that allowed 368 yards on the ground in its loss to Medford.

Eric Langseth had a nice game on both sides of the ball against Lakeland. He leads the team with five receptions for 116 yards. He also snagged an interception and will likely be matched up against Erickson in the pass game.

As with any matchup against an underdog, turnovers and penalties will be key, as the Robins will hope to avoid the mistakes that have plagued them this season, including a multitude of mishandled snaps.

Preparations for the rivalry game have seemingly gone well in Antigo, with the hopes that those sometimes inexplicable errors are behind them.

“This week's practices have been full of energy,” Schofield added. “We have been working on being both mentally and physically tough, our offense and defense were hitting on all cylinders during the week.”

A win can also keep the Robins in the thick of the conference title hunt, with Ashland and Medford both at 2-0, Antigo is currently 1-1. Ashland will face Merrill Friday, while Medford has a non-conference game with Menominee, Mich.

Antigo and Medford will meet next week for the Raiders' homecoming, but with Rhinelander on the slate, there is little chance the Robins get caught looking ahead.

“The Red Robins are enthusiastic after getting their first win of the season,” Schofield said. “We are eager for more.”

Kickoff of the Bell Game is set for 7 p.m.
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Phone: 715-623-4191
Fax: 715-623-4193
Mail to: Fred Berner
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