9/12/2017 7:26:00 AM MOMENTUM KILLER Antigo runs it up on the T-Birds
Photo by Laura Harvey of the antigo daily journal
Lakelandís Ray Rentmeester (13) fights through a host of Antigo tacklers for a touchdown during the first quarter of a Great Northern Conference game on Friday, Sept. 8, at Schofield Stadium.
Photo by Laura Harvey of the antigo daily journal
Tyler Carroll tries to avoid a tackle from Antigoís Korbin Krueger (40) during the first half of Lakelandís 47-8 loss on Friday, Sept. 8, at Schofield Stadium.
ANTIGO - Momentum is a critical aspect of high school sports. It can allow a less talented team to hang around in a game against a more talented team and it can quickly turn a game between evenly matched teams into a blowout.
After last week's defensive stand to beat Medford, Lakeland Union High School waltzed into Schofield Stadium to battle Antigo with some momentum. Early on, it appeared as if it might carry over. The Thunderbirds held an 8-6 lead after the first quarter, which included some helpful bounces, but a series of plays at the end of the first half and start of the second quickly led to an Antigo rout.
The Red Robins went on to score 41 unanswered points in the final three quarters to hand Lakeland a 47-8 drubbing.
"I talk about the mental edge and it didn't seem like we had that tonight," LUHS head coach Dan Barutha said. "We were ready to play, the first quarter was pretty solid and then they went down and scored. We had couple more possessions and just couldn't matriculate the ball down the field. I feel like we lost that killer instinct, that killer edge and when you lose the mentality battle it becomes self-preservation."
Lakeland had the ball first, but quarterback Michael Ouimette was intercepted on a deep pass down the middle of the field and Antigo quickly turned that into a touchdown on a 52-yard run by Korbin Krueger two plays later.
The T-Birds were able to bounce back quickly however, marching 70 yards on 13 plays, capped by a 10-yard touchdown pass from Ouimette to Ray Rentmeester on a fourth down. They even got some luck as the extra point was bobbled and kicker Austin Wanty was forced to heave the ball into the end zone, right into the hands of Rentmeester to give Lakeland an 8-6 lead.
Antigo responded by scoring on a 10-play drive on the ensuing possession as Jericho Kelly scampered in from seven yards out on the first play of the second quarter to take a 12-8 lead.
The game then turned into a defensive struggle for much of the second quarter. Lakeland had a drive stall inside the Antigo 20 and then both teams exchanged punts.
The biggest swing of the game, however, came with time ticking down in the second quarter.
The Red Robins were on the move, but the T-Birds came up with a few huge plays to force a fourth and goal from the 17. A quick tackle would send them into halftime down just four, but quarterback Matt Winter evaded several Lakeland tacklers and found his way into the end zone to take an 18-8 lead with 34 seconds left on the clock.
To compound matters, Antigo received the kickoff to start the second half and this time Winter tortured the T-Bird defense with a touchdown run on a third down scramble from the 12 yard line, busting the game wide open and sucking up all of the momentum.
"I felt like that really took the wind out of our sails," Barutha said. "We talked at halftime that it was very similar to last week when we played Medford and it was a huge opportunity for our defense to make a stand. At that point I think we were really low on gas in the tank and they went down and scored. Then our morral was really down."
Antigo finished the game with 462 total yards, with 369 coming on the ground.
It marked the second straight week in which Lakeland allowed more than 300 yards rushing, but the big difference this time around was the amount of long runs allowed. The Red Robins broke off 16 runs of 10 yards or more, seven of at least 15 yards.
"We weren't tackling," Barutha said. "We had one of our outside linebackers tell us in the middle of the game that wasn't able to hear the call and he said it happened multiple times. If it's something that is happening then we need to address it during the game, but if we don't know about it, we can't address it. Our linebackers, early on, it seemed like they were playing on their heels, there were times our defensive line got too deep, we just missed our responsibilities, we just didn't play with the edge we usually play with."
Antigo seized control of the game before the fourth quarter even began, but the final 12 minutes did not come without controversy.
Rather than insert some backups and ran out the clock, the Red Robins not only kept in the first team offense deep into the fourth quarter, but they also threw passes, three of their seven in the fourth quarter, including a 19-yard touchdown pass from Winter to Hunter Bolson with 6:50 to play to make the score 47-8.
"We're not able to run the ball when there's still eight guys in the box and they're sending (linebackers)," Antigo head coach Tom Schofield said. "I feel like it's something that we to do to improve on. Our passing game is not the best. We were having to work on that in practice. (Last week) against Ashland we weren't able to complete passes. We ran play-action passes and it's something we needed to improve on. We had to put it in the air because there were so many guys in the box, it was hard to run against."
The facts disagreed with Schofield's assessment. Antigo averaged 7.9 yards per carry and only threw a total of seven passes for the entire game and the result was no longer in doubt.
When pressed on the issue and presented the facts, Schofield stuck with his decision to run up the score.
"It's a varsity sport and we needed the rest and we needed the practice," Schofield said. "I think if they need to run that and they still have everybody playing their gaps and sending linebackers, that's something that we have to practice to get better for the season, for the conference and we did."
Ouimette finished the game 19 for 27 for 140 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. Jake Rexroade had nine catches for 70 yards before leaving with an injury, while Rentmeester added seven grabs for 62 yards despite missing parts of the second half with an injury of his own.
Lakeland (2-2, 1-1 GNC) hosts Mosinee on Friday. The Indians notoriously kept the T-Birds out of the playoffs each of the last two seasons by winning on the last play of the regular season.
Nick Sabato may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @SabatoNick.