Last Tuesday evening the Rhinelander boys soccer team took on what many believed would be their hardest challenge of the season, facing off against Northland Pines. Pines had been pegged as a favorite for the conference championship early into the season. With both teams living up to the preseason hype this clash of the titans had “game of the year” written all over it.
Perhaps the largest takeaways from this contest were absolutely grudging defense, fouls and one vintage goal.
From the opening horn the game was a struggle, with both teams battling for control of the ball looking for opportunities to score. Both defenses were solid throughout, and found ways to deter the oncoming offensive onslaught. Then in a large push, Northland Pines drove the ball down the field, and in a mass of bodies before the goal the ball eventually found the back of the Hodag net. What looked like a 1-0 disadvantage for the Hodags was eventually called back, as the on-field referee had saw the ball carom off the hand of a Northland Pines forward before landing in goal.
With the foul taking away the game’s first goal, the action was back on. Continued defensive struggle was initially seen, before another break down led to another Northland Pines goal. But once again the whistles blew, and this time on offside player had been involved in the goal, and the goal was called back in repercussion to the penalty.
“Are those goals things we can fix? Absolutely,” explained RHS soccer coach Dan Millot. “Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good. Tonight we were a little lucky.”
At the half the game was knotted up with a score 0-0. And that score remained until the games 61st minute. Senior Matt Lucas got the ball on the left side of the field before driving toward the Eagles goal. He then proceeded to boot a crossing goal that found the back right corner of the net, scoring the day’s only goal.
“If you’ve been following this team for a while you know Matt can really boot the ball,” said Millot.
The Hodags managed to stifle the Eagles attack the final 20 minutes of the game, and when the final clock struck zero the Hodags emerged victorious by the narrow margin of 1-0.
“It was a good game. Hats off to Northland Pines for playing a really tough game,” the coach said. “We played some good defense throughout the day. We didn’t set ourselves up in too many good scoring opportunities, while we did have some corner kicks; we want to get those good looks.”
With the victory tonight the Hodags move to 4-1 overall and 2-0 in the Great Northern Conference. The Hodags host rival Lakeland on Thursday. Visit Hodagsports.com or the Hodagsports Youtube channel to view the full interview with Coach Millot.