Friday’s GNC gridiron duel between Mosinee and Merrill carried both its share of implications in terms of the conference pecking order this season as well as similarities between the two squads.
Both teams had certainly taken their share of shots on the chin this season.
The Jays were blind-sided by a high-octane Superior team (20-50) in their season opener and then proceeded on a 3-game run of defensive shutouts before squeaking past Medford 19-12.
Antigo dealt the guys another sobering blow on Homecoming, leaving them with a 14-0 defeat and stricken with the injury bug. The effects were quite visible last week at Ashland when the Jays did not attempt a single pass without starting quarterback Drew Hoff and were plagued with injuries across the board.
Despite being bruised and a bit hobbled, the guys managed to pull off the 20-14 win in front of an anything but friendly Oredocker Homecoming crowd.
The Indians also dropped their season opener (21-14) with Stratford and brought home a pair of wins over Rhinelander and Onalaska, before falling in a pair of conference shootouts with Medford (44-35) and Antigo (34-30).
Unfortunately, when the smoke cleared at Jay Stadium Friday night, the Indians and their top-ranked GNC offense would prevail in anything but a shootout; 33-16.
Mosinee went to work early as quarterback Lance Steffen drew first blood on a 10-yard scoring run. A missed extra point put the Indians up by six just under two minutes into the game.
That lead was doubled early in the second when Mosinee running back Chase Wiedow punched it in on a 4-yard scoring plunge.
The Jays answered midway through the 2nd quarter when Hoff found the end zone from a yard out. A two-point conversion run by sophomore scat back Nevada Laabs narrowed the span to 14-8.
Despite the score, the Mosinee offense would continue to build momentum and flex a bit of muscle as Stephan connected on two scoring passes (47 yds and 15 yrds) in the final two minutes of the first half.
The Indians locked down the win with a TD run from Wiedow early in the fourth.
Running back Austin Reissmann signed off for the Jays on a high note with a 20-yard TD reception from Hoff in the waning minutes of the game.
The lethargic Bluejays limped to a season low 263 yards and the once top-ranked GNC defense gave up 385 yards of total offense, 206 coming on the ground.
“It was a rough one,” comments head coach Nick Sturm.
“We hoped to win of course, but we missed some opportunities and we didn’t execute as well as Mosinee did. But considering how banged up we are, I still saw some good things on the field. We were cycling lot of kids in and out who don’t have a lot of varsity experience.”
As luck would have it, due to a scheduling conflict, the guys will have this week to rest before the first round of the 2015 WIAA State Tournament kicks off next week.
“We very much in need of this break,” he adds. “It was frustrating when we were unable to schedule a non-conference game, but with the current circumstances we are better off not playing. We have a lot of kids out right now and some others who aren’t 100%. After this week to rest up, it looks like we will have everyone back by the start of the playoffs.
“We haven’t been at 100% in a few weeks and it’s been frustrating both for our staff and the kids. When you are practicing for that long without knowing for sure who will be ready and who won’t, it leaves a lot of things up in the air. When you can practice and play as a team every week, you are able to build rhythm and confidence. Those were two of our strengths early in the season and we have been missing that for the last few weeks. I’m excited for the break this week to re-group and get back to playing the type of football we know we are capable of.”
MNE: 6 20 0 7- 33
MER: 0 8 0 8- 16
Passing: Hoff: (10/19, 128 yards, TD, INT). Rushing: Hoff (15/82); Braeden Dorn (8/21); Nevada Laabs (9/16). Receiving: Austin Reissmann 4/68; Scott Wallace (4/46); Troy Pike (1/11). Defense: Christian Kleinschmidt (5s, TFL, sack); Dorn (4s); Nate Grefe (4s, 2a); Jared Schmeltzer (6s, 2a, PD).