By Craig Marx, Editor
The Antigo Red Robins (2-2 overall, 1-0 in the Great Northern Conference) take a 39-26 home win against Ashland this past Friday onto the road against a Mosinee Indians squad that is starkly different from years past.
The Robins ended their first GNC test having beaten an Oredockers team that Antigo has usually dominated in years past. Unable to fully put the game away, fourth quarter rushing touchdowns from Dominic Smith and Adam Schmidt helped create breathing room before a Luke Berner interception helped seal the deal in the final seconds.
Antigo now travels to Mosinee (1-3, 1-1) to face an Indians team that has lost a lot of all-conference talent, including a Co-Offensive Player of the Year in quarterback Landon Stepan (who coincidentally shared that title with the now-graduated Robin running back Max Nowinsky). Stepan was the lifeblood of the Indians’ passing attack last season and the lack of presence has been fully felt without the now-departed signal caller.
In 10 games, including two rounds of the playoffs, Stepan threw for 2,048 yards, 14 TDs, and 12 picks. Airing it out to his favorite target that has also graduated, Bryce Graveen, who caught 54 receptions for 889 yards and seven touchdown catches, the Indians offense after four games has seemingly lost some of its luster.
In 2016, the Indians have utilized two different quarterbacks with almost equal playing time – senior Jace Baumann and junior Ben Vandehey. With attempts and completions split nearly right down the middle, the two upperclassmen have combined for 336 yards through the air, two TDs, and 10 interceptions now on the season.
Mosinee is also at a further loss in the backfield with the leaving of their 2015 leading rusher Chase Wiedow. Wiedow racked up 792 yards and 13 TDs on the ground last season, averaging 79.2 yards per game. An attempt to fill Wiedow’s role in 2016 has been given to senior running Parker Samples, who coming into Week 5 has 367 rushing yards and two scores on the new year. Samples is one of the only returning offense skill position players to receive any touches last season (just eight carries for 75 yards).
Speaking of last season, the 2015 Mosinee squad finished 6-4 overall including the playoffs, 4-2 in the GNC’s regular schedule, and 1-1 against conference teams in the playoffs. The Robins split their two meetings with the Indians 1-1, losing the more important of the two outings in the Level 1 round of the WIAA Playoffs.
Antigo beat Mosinee 34-30 at home on Sept. 17 last year following standout performances from Alex Nagel, Caleb Hunter, and Nowinsky. Later in the year, a week after claiming a co-share of the GNC title with the Medford Raiders, Antigo would lose to the Indians 21-0 at home in the first game of the postseason. Wiedow rushed for 135 yards and two TDs, while Stepan was 8 for 15 for 106 passing yards, a TD, and a pick.
The Indians would go on to the Level 2 playoff round only to have their tournament run dashed by Medford 21-12 on Oct. 30. The 2016 Mosinee team will be without the services of many of its key personnel from last season, and the Robins have the chance to come away with a quality road win come Friday night.