Inside the Helmet: Waupaca in Sight
After finding out that the Hodag football team would be playoff eligible, contemplation regarding their first round opponent began to swirl. Teams from all corners of the state were thrown around within the locker room and on the practice field, and following Friday’s disappointing loss to conference champion Medford, the Hodags finally found out who their opponent would be.
The Hodags received the No. 8 seed in their playoff bracket, and are paired up with the No. 1 seed Waupaca Comets. The Comets are 8-0 on the season and currently ranked the 40th best high school football team in the state of Wisconsin. Well, luckily for the Hodags, we are no strangers to adversity.
Not many expected a victory over Merrill on homecoming night, ending an eight-year drought. Not many expected a playoff berth, the first for Hodag football in 23 long seasons. And not many appear to give the Hodags an ounce of respect when it comes to Friday’s contest in Waupaca. Regardless of the public’s perception of our team or program, the Hodags have one constant: pride.
The locker room is boiling with anticipation and nerves regarding our upcoming playoff game, and we have heard nearly everyone speak about our upcoming battle.
“Things are different in the postseason.”
“Get ready for a whole new feel.”
“This program is ready for the playoffs.”
And this Hodag team is ready. Returning from injury after missing the last two contests is senior linebacker Dylon Wilmot, who was leading the Great Northern Conference in tackles before missing action. This is sure to give our solid defense another shot of adrenaline leading up to what has been called the most important game in the history of Rhinelander football.
A key aspect of this Friday’s game is that Rhinelander football has never won a playoff contest. This is a striking opportunity for a resilient team to carve our names into the Hodag record books.
As far as preparation is concerned, practice runs as normal. Team sessions and individual systems flow throughout the afternoon, the only changes being in personnel and formations to best fit against our weekly opponent. But focus and intensity this week are at a season high. This is our chance, and the players and the coaches believe.
If able, take the drive down Hwy. 51 to Waupaca on Friday evening. Come support the Hodag football team that has already made history, appearing for the first time in 23 years in the postseason. And maybe with an upset in our favor, can make a little bit more. Anything can happen underneath those Friday night lights.
Editor’s note: For more coverage of local sports, visit StarJournalNOW.com and HodagSports.com.