Coach Weberpal looking to fill the gaps in 2014 Robins football squad|
The Antigo Red Robins 2014 football season commences this Friday in a rare, non-conference game against storied conference foe Rhinelander. Coming off of a season that has seen multiple Antigo football talents move onward, 11 graduating seniors in all, the Robins begin the autumn of 2014 with a relatively new team.
Rhinelander will host the game with a 7 p.m. start.
Matt Weberpal enters his second year as head coach of the Robins and is looking forward to scoping out Great Northern Conference competition before conference play actually begins.
“With only three returning all-stars from last season coming back to the entire conference, the GNC is pretty much up for grabs,” Coach Weberpal noted.
Antigo has major offensive skill position issues to address, as the Robins have lost their starting quarterback Matt Wolter, leading rusher Jake Maly, and top receiver Josh Hale to graduation.
Senior Tony Libit will command the Robins at the quarterback position this season, entering 2014 after having attempted and completed just one pass from the backup QB position last year. Albeit solitary, Libit’s pass was a 23-yard touchdown strike to then junior Aeric Berner in a Week 3 destruction of Ashland 43-8.
Running from the spread and the “I” formations, if Antigo’s play selection is comparable to the 2013’s model, Robin fans are looking at a run-heavy offense. Last season, in 227 plays from scrimmage, Antigo rushed the ball 209 times while attempting just 18 passes.
When asked about his running back depth, Coach Weberpal responded, “We’ll have Max Nowinsky and Berner splitting time at tailback with Will Dixon and Noah Nicholson rotating at fullback.”
Antigo will have to fill in critical spots on defense as well, particularly on its line. With the losses of Blake Kirsch and Hale, the number two and one tacklers for the Robins respectively, the squad will need to come together despite the losses to improve upon a 2013 defense that allowed an average of 5.1 rushing yards per attempt while giving up over nine yards per reception.
The Robins go into Friday against a Hodags team that is under the helm of first year Coach Chris Ferge. Ferge comes to Rhinelander after having assistant coached at Two Rivers High School, arriving to take the headset from 10-season veteran and hometown head coach Jim Moore. Ferge implements an up-tempo style of spread offense that seemingly focuses on the pass, as evident of his 18 pass/12 run play selection in a scrimmage against Northland Pines last week.
Returning for the Hodags behind center is junior Brandon Reinthaler, a starter who found little breathing room in last season’s Bell Game in Rhinelander. In Antigo’s 27-0 victory over its most-noted all-time foe, Reinthaler was 7-14 for 41 yards while rushing 11 times for -34 yards. Last year’s sophomore finished his season 22-58 (37.9 completion percentage) for 220 yards and seven interceptions, garnering him a passer rating of 9.9.
Rhinelander’s senior running back, Cole Oettinger, looks to be the focus of the Hodags’ carries this season. Oettinger was next in line after a number of backfield losses for the Hodags, and his 2013 numbers reflect his lack of touches — just four rushing attempts for 24 yards.
The Hodags do have a legitimate threat at receiver in Nathaniel Sampson. Sampson returns for his senior year after having tied for most receptions on the team last season with seven, providing the Hodags with 118 receiving yards and an impressive 16.9 yards per reception.
The Robins will make their first home appearance on Sept. 5 when they host Ashland at 7 p.m.
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