By Craig Marx, Editor
It was definitely a tale of two halves for the Antigo Red Robins football team on Friday, as the Robin boys were able to escape Minocqua and the Lakeland Thunderbirds with a 19-14 win that went down to the wire after a sleepy first 24 minutes.
With 1:26 remaining in the third quarter, Antigo extended a newly-established lead to 13-0 after going scoreless in a turnover-laden first half. Adam Schmidt gave the Robins the two-score lead, punching in a rushing touchdown from a yard out.
Lakeland had started with junior quarterback Tyler Carroll, but made what would eventually be a great replacement in swapping Carroll out for senior Max Wohlleber. Trailing 13-0 as the third quarter ended, Wohlleber threw a pick to Luke Berner to help give Antigo a chance to put the game away.
No such luck for the Robins. Unable to score points from the opportune turnover, the Thunderbirds would convert a 4th and 5 on their next possession with a completion from Wohlleber to tight end Garrett Holtz. On the next play, Lakeland’s second half QB completed a 41-yard strike to wide receiver Jake Rexroade on a seam route for the TD with 7:23 remaining in the game.
The Antigo lead now cut to 13-7, Jericho Kelly quickly silenced the Lakeland squad that had now gotten back into the game, taking the kickoff return back for a touchdown with just 12 seconds gone from the clock after the Thunderbirds’ previous score. A two-point keeper attempt for Wade Farmer, playing in place of starting QB Matt Winter (out with a shoulder injury), would come up short and leave the Robins with a 19-7 advantage.
Wohlleber threw his third pick of the night on the next drive, where he was picked off by Hunter Cornelius to even the turnover margin at four apiece.
As Antigo would then turn the ball over on downs on their next offensive possession following Cornelius’s pick, Wohlleber and the Thunderbirds receivers went back to work against an Antigo defense that was missing two of its ends and its starting safety. Wohlleber would convert a 4th and 19 with a pass to Carroll inside the Antigo 10-yard line with 3:19 remaining, setting up a pass to Rexroade on back corner route to bring the game within five following a Jake McClintock extra point.
The Robins now led just 19-14. A week after trying its own onside kick, the hands team of the Robins was unable to recover the McClintock onside attempt, setting up Lakeland with the ball in great field position with 2:16 left in the game.
Wohlleber found his tight end Holtz for two big completions of 14 and 15 yards to begin the final drive. Reaching as far as the Antigo 10, a final pass attempt on 4th and Goal with 38 seconds left was batted down near the goal line by Robin linebackers. After running out the clock, Antigo had put an end to what was Lakeland’s homecoming week.
The Antigo defense stepped up on the last drive after playing well in the first half and then being gashed in the second. Wohlleber only played 24 minutes at the QB position but racked up 230 passing yards, two TDs, and three picks on a 20 for 31 performance. The defense forced four total turnovers on the night and held the Thunderbirds to just 23 total yards in the first half after Antigo’s offensive miscues resulted in four Robin turnovers and very little rest time for the Antigo defense.
The Robins did all their offensive work on the ground, where they put up 278 yards rushing. Will Dixon had 20 carries for 140 yards, while Schmidt added 91 on the ground and two touchdowns, including a 46-yard rush in which he dragged tacklers across the goal line to give Antigo its first score of the evening early in the third quarter.
Antigo escapes Lakeland with a 4-3 record overall and a 3-1 posting in the Great Northern Conference. The Robins will have a super-celebration this coming Friday, when they host the visiting Rhinelander Hodags for both homecoming and, of course, the famous Bell Trophy Game.