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Friday Night Blitz - 8/18/17Submitted: 08/18/2017

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NORTHWOODS - Check out Friday Night Blitz for all the scores, highlights, and updates from across the Northwoods

Lakeland topped Hayward 28-27.

Antigo defeated Berlin 20-14.

Superior upended Merrill 20-10.

Abbotsford dominated Crandon 42-6.



Story By: Mark Spillane

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Sponsored in part by HodagSports.com

 LOCAL SPORTS

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RIB LAKE - Take a look at the video above for the Tri-County vs. Rib Lake/Prentice football highlights!

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PHILLIPS - Phillips boys soccer made it all the way to state last year.

"We knew it was going to be the biggest year of our careers," said senior, Mark Cummings.

Former head coach, Mark Fuhr knew they had the potential to do it again this fall.

"From seeing the teams they played last year, was that they would've been a conference favorite this year with just the returning players and a couple new players," said Fuhr.

The team was happy with the best season in school history, but their minds started thinking about the following year.

"Towards the end of the season, we knew we were going to lose a lot of our seniors," said Cummings.

Ten seniors graduated. And after losing that many and not being able to recruit enough players to fill those gaps, Phillips had to cancel their 2017 season.

"Not being able to play my senior year of soccer, really bummed me out," said Cummings.

But the team didn't give up easily.

"We tried to recruit some players to fill in those positions to make up and 11-man team," said Cummings.

But that recruiting wasn't enough. Fuhr has coached the youth and high school teams off and on for nearly 20 years. Struggling with numbers is nothing new to him.

"One of the years, I remember we had 12 kids on the team and one of the kids broke him leg in the first game and I only had 11 the rest of the season," said Fuhr.

Phillips tried to consider forming a co-op with Prentice or Chequamegon, but they don't have a team either.

"To me, it is sad. It's something that if it goes away for more than a year or two, I doubt it'll ever come back," said Fuhr.

Mark Cummings and some of the other former soccer players decided to run cross country to still support the other teams and stay in shape for track season.

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CRANDON - Trap shooting can take place basically anywhere, anytime. You just need some equipment. But for Crandon's high school team, it happens where most people don't know about it - at the historic off-road raceway.

On Saturday, the team held it's annual fund raiser to raise money for their team. This will be senior Kobe Gallion's last season, and he's enjoyed having a non-traditional high school sport as an outlet.

"The competition can get really fierce really fast. The top shooter could shoot a 25, perfect score and then next week could shoot a 5 and then the little kids can start beating us up a little bit," said Gallion.

Those little kids are the 7th and 8th graders that are on the team. All of them know their season wouldn't be possible without the Crandon Off-Road Raceway being a major sponsor. And that community support goes a long way.

"The community really shows a lot of support for what we're trying to do and trying to get the younger kids to come out and shoot. It's nice for even the grandparents that will come out and watch because they can't shoot anymore. And just about that and the community being behind us," said Gallion.

The trap-shooting season is from March until May. The Crandon team had 42 students last year and hopes to keep growing this season.

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ANTIGO - Riding a horse seems pretty easy. But riding a horse against a clock and with obstacles in your way becomes a competitive challenge. Dozens of kids were able to compete in barrel racing earlier today at Antigo's first Triple Crown Event.

Barrell racing doesn't take very long.

"It depends on how big the pattern is but on my last run, I had an 18. So about 18 seconds," said Payten Lese.

And those 18 seconds go by even faster when you're on the horse.

"I'm just trying to remind myself of what I need to do. Get off her head, let her run and just to try my hardest while riding," said Erika Spencer.

Spencer has been barrel racing for about five years.

"It has been the most exhilarating experience of my life," said Spencer.

Yes, it's exhilarating, but for some riders, it's also relaxing.

"It's calming, it relieves stress," said Lese.

At the Northwoods Triple Crown, the age bracket on Sunday was the "youth level".

"I'm too old for the tiny-tots which is 10 and under," said Gabby Spencer.

That's 11-year-old, Gabby Spencer, Erika's little sister.

"She helps me a lot and I kind of look up to her because she's a really good barrel racer," said Gabby.

Something that makes Erika so good, is her hard work.

"You work with something for so long and you put so much time and effort into it. When you do good, it's so rewarding," said Erika.

And that reward is also seeing her little sister get better and better at the sport.

"When I go in there, I'm really nervous and then when I get out, I'm like 'hey, that wasn't so bad'," said Gabby.

Gabby recently won her first event down in Madison, which helped boost her confidence around the barrels.

"Most people think 'girls can't do this' or 'they can't beat them because they're too good' and it does feel good when you win and beat them," said Gabby.

Erika and Gabby's family rides on rescue horses which to them, makes the experience even more meaningful. And, all three of those girls are from Antigo and enjoyed having a new event in their hometown.

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RHINELANDER -
High school swim practice usually requires a pool, lane lines, and diving blocks. But not on Saturday for the Rhinelander girls swim team. They decided to take a day to have a more relaxed practice ahead of their first meet next week.

"We feel like it'll really get the girls motivated," said senior Carly Seidl.

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TOMAHAWK - The Browns Lake Aquaducks traveled all the way from the Lake Geneva area up to Tomahawk this weekend. Why did a whole ski team and all their gear make the long trip? They qualified to compete in the D2 Nationals that were in the Northwoods. I went to the competition to see what it was all about.

The Aquaducks from Burlington, Wisconsin are no strangers to skiing together.

"We practice Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and we have shows on Thursdays. So it's four times a week and then it's drilling, drilling, drilling trying to get it down to an hour," said skier Justin Spiegelhoff.

That hour is the strict time limit they were allowed on the water to wow the judges during the D2 National ski competition. So what do those judges look for?

"They pretty much spell out exactly what they want to see," said Spiegelhoff.

Joel Johanningmeier is the chief judge and has broken it down to four categories.

"Flow, execution, difficulty and spectator appeal," said Johanningmeier. "Then there's also some box scores that we use for theatricals, boat driving, different pieces."

Something that made it a little harder for the Aquaducks was that about 20 skiers on the team had the stomach flu all week.

"People are recovering.. but it's been a pretty tough week," said Spiegelhoff.

But by the smiles on their faces and the constant cheering, you couldn't tell.

And maybe they all got the stomach flu because they are ALWAYS together, even off the water.

"We do family dinners, yesterday we did team bonding, we all went to a national park and hiked," said skier Justine Laux.

Justin and Justine have been skiing with the group since they were little kids. And they aren't the only ones that are in the group for life.
"We range from our 'littles' that we take out on the water that are 14 months and our oldest is 63, I think," said Laux.

No matter the age, the group is always cheering and rooting for one another.

"Stay positive, pump people up. If you have a fall, that's okay. We have something else coming on next," said Laux.

To be at the nationals this weekend, teams had to qualify at state back in July. And this wasn't the first time it was in Tomahawk. The locations rotate every few years, so the event will be back in a couple summers.

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RHINELANDER - Rhinelander hosted its annual green and white day on Saturday. But this year, there was a little green and gold mixed in. Not only was it the usual scrimmage and family day, but the Hodags also welcomed a former Packer player.

"This is Hodag Country, you've got to come back here. I love it up here. I love the Northwoods of Wisconsin, I love the people up here," said former Packer, William Henderson.

After 12 years in Green Bay, he still can't stay away from Wisconsin.

"This area definitely represents the Packers very well," said Henderson.

He now lives in Virginia, but has teamed up with Rhinelander GM to make occasional trips back to the area.

Having him at the green and white scrimmage made the day a little more exciting for everyone involved.

"It's just fun knowing that someone of that capability here watching you and it's just fun having that around," said senior Cole Spaulding.

Spaulding is looking forward to his new role this season.

"This whole season is about stepping up into that leadership role," said Spaulding.

And his teammate, Senior Jared Fabich says Green and White Day is one of his favorites.

"It's really the first chance we get to play like a game. It gives us that game scenario, the game feel," said Fabich.

That's the enthusiasm Henderson comes back to see.

"Keep inspiring people to be ambassadors of the game, to keep representing football well, to enjoy the game and keep getting the community stronger," said Henderson.

Last year the Hodags started their season 2-0 and the team is looking to start this year the same way.

"We want the community to really believe in us and show that we are that team that can be a force in the Great Northern Conference and show that we mean business," said Sapulding.

Next up for the Hodags is another scrimmage next Friday with Northland Pines and then they hit the road the following Friday, August 18th, to open their season at Prescott High School.

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 REGIONAL SPORTS

GREEN BAY - The Packers 2017 preseason opponents were announced Monday.

The Pack will face the Eagles, Redskins, Broncos, and Rams.

Green Bay will host the Eagles to start the preseason before traveling to play Washington and Denver on the road.

Then the Pack will conclude the preaseason with another home game against the Rams.

Exact dates and times will be announced in the near future.

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BUFFALO, NY - Top-seeded Villanova was bounced from the NCAA Tournament by eighth-seeded Wisconsin, which overcame foul trouble for two of its stars in the second half Saturday to upset the defending champions 65-62 in the East region.

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MADISON - MADISON, Wis. (AP) Senior guard Bronson Koenig scored 17 points in his final home game, combining with D'Mitrik Trice to give No. 22 Wisconsin's offense a second-half boost in a 66-49 victory over Minnesota on Sunday.

The Badgers (23-8, 12-6 Big Ten) secured the second seed in the conference tournament and got a sorely needed confidence boost to end the regular season after having lost five of their previous six games.

Nate Mason had 17 points for Minnesota (23-8, 11-7). The Golden Gophers had won eight straight.

Koenig hit five 3s in the second half, including baskets on three straight possessions with less than 3 minutes left. Trice had a four-point play after getting fouled on a 3-pointer with 12:24 left, before hitting a layup about 20 seconds later.

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MADISON - MADISON, Wis. (AP) " Nigel Hayes scored 14 of his 21 points in the second half, Ethan Happ had 20 points and No. 11 Wisconsin beat No. 23 Maryland 71-60 in a choppy, foul-filled game on Sunday.

The Badgers (22-5, 11-3) overcame 27 points from Terrapins guard Melo Trimble to snap a two-game losing streak and stay in a tie atop the Big Ten with Purdue.

Bronson Koenig scored all nine of his points in the second half, giving the Badgers a lift with his jump shot after the senior missed a game with a left calf injury. Wisconsin shot 51 percent in the second half.

Wisconsin pulled away slowly, turning a six-point halftime deficit into a 12-point edge with 3 minutes to go in a game that lacked flow because of frequent whistles.

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MADISON - Bryant McIntosh scored 25 points, and defensive-minded Northwestern beat No. 7 Wisconsin 66-59 on Sunday, securing an important win for the school's bid to make its first-ever NCAA Tournament.

Dererk Pardon added 11 for the Wildcats (19-6, 8-4), who confounded the Big Ten-leading Badgers by doubling dominant big man Ethan Happ.

Nigel Hayes scored nine of his 13 points in the second half for the Badgers (21-4, 10-2), who had their eight-game winning streak snapped.

The Badgers didn't let up despite falling behind by 10 with 1 minute left, closing to 60-55 with less than 15 seconds after Zak Showalter hit two foul shots.

But McIntosh followed with two free throws with 42 seconds left, and Wisconsin ran out of time.


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ATLANTA, GA - The Atlanta Falcons are headed to their second Super Bowl appearance in franchise history after routing the Green Bay Packers 44-21 in the NFC championship game.

Matt Ryan threw for four touchdowns, including a 73-yard catch and run for a highlight-reel score by star receiver Julio Jones. The defense played just as crucial a role in containing quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the Packers' offense.

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GREEN BAY - Receiver Jordy Nelson will miss the Green Bay Packers' divisional round playoff game on Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys because of injured ribs.

Coach Mike McCarthy said on Friday that Nelson would not be medically cleared to take part in the team's final practice on Saturday, and that the medical staff determined that Nelson would not be ready for the game.

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