By Craig Marx, Editor
The Antigo Red Robins football team has every right to be proud of itself after defeating the visiting Fox Valley Lutheran Foxes 56-20 on Friday night, giving the Robins a Level 1 WIAA Playoff win and a chance to take on Notre Dame next week.
Antigo opened up with a drive that virtually embodied Red Robin football altogether, going 81 yards over the course of nearly eight minutes to eventually be capped by an Adam Schmidt one-yard touchdown run to give Antigo a 6-0 lead from the get-go.
Fox Valley Lutheran (FVL) responded in kind with a much different tempo on offense, ending a drive that began on its own 27-yard line in less than two minutes with a 19-yard TD pass from sophomore quarterback Drew Reader to tight end Cole Barrington in the middle of the end zone. With a successful point-after attempt, the Foxes took a brief lead with 2:56 left in the first quarter.
On Antigo’s next drive, Winter under-threw his intended receiver but a tipped ball by the FVL defensive back fortuitously ended up in the hands of nearby Robins receiver Jack Shinners for a 30-yard completion. After a beautiful throw by Winter to Hunter Bolson went for 34 yards down to the Foxes 1-yard line, the coaching staff again gave Schmidt the call with a one-yard TD rush. Winter would pull off a successful keeper on a two-point conversion try, giving the Robins a 14-7 at the end of the first quarter.
The Foxes crept back closer as FVL’s most prolific rusher in the regular season, Zayne Rodencal, took the ball into the end zone on an outside handoff that went 18 yards for a score. Missing the extra point, however, still allowed the Robins to maintain a 14-13 lead.
Antigo answered in the timeliest of fashions. Senior Will Dixon took the very next kickoff back 90 yards to the house to give the Robins a 21-13 lead following Mitchell Wagner’s successful point-after try.
FVL moved the chains well on its next offensive possession, but the Antigo defense came to play. With the Foxes about to enter Antigo territory, defensive back Deakin Czerneski picked off Reader and returned the ball to midfield. The turnover set up Schmidt for his third touchdown of the evening, this time in the form of a 24-yard rush in which the junior running back hurdled a defender inside the ten-yard line to cross the goal line unhindered.
With 3:16 left in the first half, Antigo led 28-13. Another drive for the Foxes met with a forced turnover by the Robin defense as Jesse Jankowski stripped Rodencal of the ball and recovered it at the FVL 25-yard line. The Robins were again able to capitalize on the turnover as Dixon took a one-yard plunge across the goal line for another Antigo touchdown with 2:24 remaining in the second quarter.
Leading now 34-13, the Foxes went to work on offense. After senior wide receiver Jared Kraftzenk took a 25-yard completion down to the Antigo 34-yard line, a later 10-yard, over-the-shoulder fade from Reader to Barrington gave the Foxes a quick TD before the end of the half. Antigo entered the locker room at halftime still with the lead, cut now to 34-20.
FVL received the kickoff to begin the second half and again strung together a near-successful drive. Beginning at their own 28-yard line, the Foxes would make it all the way down inside the Antigo ten only to turn the ball over on downs after an incomplete pass for TJ Riehle fell short on the Robins goal line.
The backfield package of Dixon, Schmidt, Winter, and Jericho Kelly helped create breathing room for the Antigo offense, beginning its drive in the shadow of its own goalpost. Winter completed a 29-yard pass to Shinners on the drive, this time entirely on purpose, to set up Robins deep inside the red zone. Schmidt would pick up touchdown No. 4 of the night for himself on 3rd and Goal, capped by another Winter keep for another successful two-point try and a 42-20 lead.
Schmidt’s evening was not only an offensive standout – on the Foxes next possession, Rodencal was tackled and fumbled near the sideline after a long rush, where the ball was recovered by Schmidt near the end of the third quarter.
The fourth quarter belonged to Antigo as the defense clamped down on the Foxes’ passing attack and scored on another two rushing plays – a 12-yard, outside rush for Dixon and a final coffin nail rush by CJ Levis from four yards out to seal the game at 56-20 with 2:35 left in the contest.
Schmidt pounded out 111 yards on 15 carries, while Dixon reached the century mark with 100 yards even. Kelly added to the three-pronged threat, rushing 12 times for 81 yards.
The Robins will face a big test next week as they travel to No. 1 seeded Notre Dame in Green Bay to face the Tritons. Notre Dame defeated No. 8 Shawano on Friday night 45-13. Check back early next week as we look ahead to the Tritons and the Robins’ Level 2 playoff matchup.