The Antigo Red Robins football team will look to continue the momentum from week three’s thrilling overtime win at Hayward, when it returns home to take on Mosinee this Friday night.
It’s a matchup of two teams off to slightly disappointing starts after three games. Both are 1-2, with the Robins dropping a heartbreaker in the week one Bell Game to Rhinelander, before being blasted by Medford 43-0.
Last week’s come-from-behind 20-14 victory on the road has left the Robins wanting more, but it will be a challenge against a high-powered Mosinee air attack and an Indians team that most picked to contend for the Great Northern Conference title.
Mosinee began its season with a solid 25-16 win over Lakeland, but also suffered heartbreak against Rhinelander, falling on the road 28-21 before it ran into Medford last week and lost by a 48-8 margin.
Medford has made it appear early that everyone else in the GNC is playing for second place, both Antigo and Mosinee can still get there, but it will be a challenge and both will need help.
Rhinelander sits in a tie with Medford for first at 3-0. Ashland looks to be a surprise team at 2-1, with the Robins, Indians, Lakeland and Merrill all at 1-2. Hayward is winless at 0-3.
The road to that turnaround starts Friday.
Antigo’s secondary will be tested against Mosinee. The Indians go to the air often, attempting 94 passes through three games. Trevor Garski has emerged as the team’s top passer after replacing starter Michal Dul, who was placed in quarantine after week one.
Dul was good against Lakeland, completing 17 of 25 passes, but Garski has performed relatively well despite the two defeats. Season numbers for the junior include 49-of-69 passing for 451 yards, four touchdowns and four interceptions.
Dul, who moved to quarterback from wide receiver this season, may be eligible to return and it was not certain as the week began just who the Robins would face under center.
No matter who is the signal caller, Mosinee’s favorite target in the pass game is Drayton Lehman. Lehman was a first-team all Great Northern Conference performer at wide receiver a year ago and is certainly on track to repeat that feat.
Lehman has caught 37 balls for 383 yards and two scores. Mosinee’s second leading receiver, Cyle Kowalski, would be the number one for most teams in the GNC. Also a first-team all-conference performer in ‘19, Cowalksi had 17 receptions thus far for 233 yards and another two touchdowns, while averaging 13.7 yards-per-catch.
Dane Stoffel will also see plenty of playing time, with six catches for 56 yards.
Dane Cornelius, Logan Thomae, Nick Radish and Alex Stank have seen the majority of snaps in Antigo’s defensive backfield and will have their work cut out for them Friday. However, just who will start or see time in numerous positions across the board is up in the air, with a number of players absent this week due to various reasons.
“Defensively we need to pressure the quarterback while keeping contain,” Schofield explained. “The ball will be in the air a lot and we need our front line to create havoc for the quarterback making him uncomfortable when he passes. Making plays on the ball and coming up to make low tackles have been the focus. Mosinee has shifty and fast receivers we need to shut down.”
When Mosinee does run the football, senior William Kennedy leads the way with 78 yards on 28 carries, but only for a 2.8 yards-per-carry average.
There’s doubt what the Robins will attempt to do on offense, and that’s control things on the ground to keep the ball away from Mosinee’s passing game.
Dakota Matuszewski continues to lead the way, averaging 5.3 yards per carry, totaling 325 rushing yards thus far. Josh Heuss has rumbled for 159 yards, on 3.1 per attempt.
The Hayward game however, showed the importance of the occasional pass completion, with Robins’ quarterback Zach Zupon hooking up for two long completions, to Matuszewski and Cornelius. The ability to keep the defense thinking is key, and two or three pass connections Friday will certainly help with that.
Leading the way on defense for Mosinee is sophomore Davin Stoffel, who has been impressive with 22 tackles thus far. Lehman is also a standout on the defensive side and is second on the team in stops with 17 and has one interception, playing in the defensive backfield.
Mosinee has only gotten to the quarterback twice for sacks, but in addition to Lehman, Garski is also an impact player in the secondary and leads the team in interceptions with two.
While the Robin will not pass much, the duo will be one to watch when they do.
For a Robins team that ran for 177 yards against Hayward, review of game tape showed backs missing a number of open holes in the first half, helping the Hurricanes contain the ground game and take and early lead, Schofield hopes to change that this week.
“Mosinee will be in a familiar defense and our blocking schemes will be pretty similar to the ones we have been doing,” he said. “The players have been focusing on the fundamentals of footwork and handoff exchanges, this will help them be able to run with their eyes up and find the hole. The biggest thing we need to do is a get a push up front and move the defensive lineman back.”
The winner of this key midseason game will seemingly be on the way to righting its ship at 2-2, while a 1-3 start will be difficult to recover from and leaves little wiggle room for finishing in the upper half of the conference and qualifying for a yet-to-be determined playoff format.
“With athletes missing all week we need numerous guys to step up and fill in spots,” Schofield added. “I expect the absolute best effort out of each and everyone and I am looking forward to being back on our home field.”
Friday’s game is a 7 p.m. kick at Schofield Stadium.