Lakeland basketball starts the season shorthandedSubmitted: 11/23/2017
MINOCQUA - The beginning of every sports season comes with high hopes for teams and fans alike. But sometimes bad luck changes the course for a team before the first game is even played. This year, the Lakeland boys basketball team is dealing with some of that bad luck.

"To lose two of our main guys, it's painful," said Head Coach Rich Fortier.

The T-Birds knew winning the Great Northern Conference this year would be tough. Now, major injuries have likely made it even more difficult.

"We lose Michael [Oiumette] to a football injury, then we lose Connor [Evenhouse] to an open gym injury, and both for potentially the whole year, it really changes our outlook at least on how things start out for the season," said Fortier.

The T-Birds first hit came when sophomore Michael Ouimette tore his ACL during the football season. Then the big blow came when senior Connor Evenhouse injured his foot just weeks before basketball season.

"Senior year is the big thing, and having a shot at winning conference, and maybe going further than that is what really makes it tough," said Lakeland senior Gunnar Weitz.

But Evenhouse, a first team all-conference selection last year, remains positive.

"I think it's going to make me a better leader, a better person, and build my character," said Evenhouse.

With Evenhouse on the sideline, the T-Birds will lean heavily on Weitz, their only other returning starter.
Weitz says he's focused on just one thing.

"I don't want the stat line, I want wins," said Weitz. "That's all I want."

Those wins may be hard to come by early in the season as younger T-Birds play more minutes than expected. But Evenhouse believes that experience will help the program later this year and beyond.

"At the end of the day, it's going to make them better, and help them become better leaders when they're seniors," said Evenhouse.

As for now, Lakeland knows the mountain is steeper than before.

"I'm pretty comfortable with the nine guys we have, however at least a few of them are playing probably a year earlier than they should," said Fortier.

But Evenhouse still thinks his senior year could end with a championship.

"I don't see why we can't compete for conference this year, when you look at all the top teams from last year, they all lost players just like us," said Evenhouse.

Weitz agrees, especially if Evenhouse can return to the court in the future.

"If we get Connor back in the stretch, [then] watch out," said Weitz.

Evenhouse does not know how much time he will need to miss with his injured foot. He is planning to play in college next year. The T-Birds will begin their season at Ashland next Tuesday.

Story By: Mark Spillane

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EAGLE RIVER - Sports teams talk about feeling like families all the time. In Eagle River, an amateur hockey team really is built around a family.

"This is our winter. What else would we do this winter?" said right wing, Zach Otto.

Zach plays for Eagle River's amateur hockey team, the Falcons. He played in high school for Northland Pines, but wasn't ready to quit after graduating in 2007.

That 'we' he talks about means more than just his 'team'.

"Nothing's better than playing with your brothers," said left wing, Mike Otto.

Mike and Zach Otto help round out the Falcons' roster, and they welcomed their younger brother, Lucas, to the team a few years ago.

"I didnt get that when I was younger, so playing with all three of us is pretty awesome," said center, Lucas Otto.

But the team extends past the Otto family. It's become a part of the Eagle River community.

"The best part about playing in Eagle River is we have a lot of fans," said Zach Otto.

Those fans support the team in a unique way. All the other teams in the amateur league have to pay to play. But thanks to donations and financial support from the area, it's free to play and travel with the Falcons.

The team travels nearly 3,000 miles a season across Wisconsin and the U.P.

"I think we find a pretty good happy/medium of having fun and playing pretty serious. There's a lot of good players that are in this league in general," said Lucas Otto.

Over the past 90 years, the Falcons have seen great players come and go.

But as far as the Ottos are concerned, the tradition of amateur hockey in Eagle River is safely protected by a trio of brothers. And they're ready for a winter full of wins.

"We're an amateur hockey team and kind of thrown together, but we do the best we can and have fun and that's what it's all about anyway," said Mike Otto.

This season, the team will be raising money for former teammate Chris Marion who was a Merrill EMT that was in a bad boating accident this summer. They're calling it "Care for Chris."

The Falcons first game of the season is next Friday the 24th at the dome against the De Pere Deacons.


December 1st - Falcons @ Marquette Mutineers - 6:00 P.M.
December 8th - Falcons @ Mosinee Papermakers - 8:00 P.M.
December 9th - Mosinee Papermakers @ Falcons - 8:00 P.M.
December 16th - Falcons @ Fond Du Lac Bears - 8:00 P.M.
December 22nd - Falcons @ Mosinee Papermakers - 8:00 P.M.
January 5th - Fond du Lac Bears @ Falcons - 8:00 P.M.
January 12th - Falcons @ De Pere Deacons - 7:30 P.M.
January 19th - Falcons @ Calumet Wolverines - 6:30 P.M.
January 20th - Mosinee Papermakers @ Falcons - 8:00 P.M.
January 26th - Falcons @ Monroe Blues - 8:00 P.M.
January 27th - Falcons @ West Bend Bombers - 7:00 P.M.
February 2nd - Falcons @ Portage Lake Pioneers - 6:30 P.M.
February 9th - Marquette Mutineers @ Falcons - 8:00 P.M.
February 10th - Mosinee Papermakers @ Falcons - 8:00 P.M.
February 16th - Monroe Blues @ Falcons - 8:00 P.M.
February 17th - West Bend Bombers @ Falcons - 8:00 P.M.
February 23rd - Portage Lake Pioneers @ Falcons - 8:00 P.M.
February 24th - Fox Cities Ice Dogs @ Falcons - 8:00 P.M.
March 9th - Falcons @ Mosinee Papermakers - 8:00 P.M.
March 10th - Calumet Wolverines @ Falcons - 8:00 P.M.
March 16th - Falcons @ Fox Cities Ice Dogs - 7:30 P.M.
March 23rd-25th - League Tournament at Calumet

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NORTHWOODS - Here are the choices for our Friday Night Blitz fall sports award picks.

Team of the Fall Season - Katie: Tomahawk Swimming, Mark: Merrill Volleyball.

Athlete of the Fall Season - Katie: Jonus Sabani, Mark: Kav FitzPatrick.

Coach of the Fall Season - Katie: Aimee Hein (Antigo Tennis), Mark: Tom Schofield (Antigo Football).

Plus we take a look at Lakeland's girls basketball's game against Shawano.

Check it out!

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RHINELANDER - When Rhinelander basketball tips off its season next week, the Hodags will have one specific goal in mind.

"To be able to go back and win conference after losing last year would definitely be a goal," said senior Owen White.

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MADISON - Tomahawk may have headlined the results for Northwoods teams, but they weren't the only ones in attendance. Rhinelander, Merrill and Medford all competed in the meet. For Rhinelander, it was the capstone of a roller coaster season that included a surprise coaching change.

"It was really emotional but we just tried to keep working as hard as we could, and try to focus on the positives we had," said Rhinelander freshman Makenna Winnicki.

Winnicki finished ninth in the 500 yard freestyle. She was the first Hodag to swim the event at state since 2007. Meanwhile the Merrill Blue Jays broke their own drought at the state meet. Sophomore Trinity Kanitz was the first Blue Jays state qualifier since the 1980s.

"The start of something is really amazing, and for it to be Merrill, a not-so-well known community for swimming, it's like a really big boost," said Kanitz.

Kanitz placed 14th in the 500-yard freestyle with a time of 5:30.

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MADISON - On Friday, the Tomahawk Hatchets stunned even themselves with how well they did at the state swim meet. 

The team has had tremendous leaders in their two seniors all season, but on Friday night, you could see that leadership being passed down to the younger girls.

Junior Kaylie Svacina's 100 breast stroke finish gave the team a very big boost in overall points.

"I wasn't expecting that at all. Last year I made it in the breast stroke as well and I got last place. So I was just going for something above last place this year," said Svacina.

Svacina swam a time of 1:07 which gave her a 6th place finish out of 16 swimmers, so she definitely reached that goal. 

That podium helped push the team up the scoreboard and played a major part in the 4th place finish. 

They wanted to be in the top ten after finishing 11th last year. But to get 4th, that was huge for the team.

Sophomore Kylee Theiler finished 4th in both the 200 and 500 freestyle.

"I didn't drop time in my 200, so I thought if I can stay around my same time in my 500, I was going to be really excited. Dropping time and getting that close to going under a 5:10 is just insane," said Theiler.

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MADISON - Teams across the Northwoods traveled to UW-Madison on Friday to compete in the 2017 state girls swim meet.Medford, Merrill, Rhinelander and Tomahawk all represented the area at the meet.

Tomahawk sophomore Kylee Theiler led the way as she earned two individual fourth place finishes. Tomahawk also earned a few other podium spots and finished fourth overall as a team.

"I don't even know what to say, and now I'm going to cry. Its unbelievable what these girls did and how they put together their goals and their practices, it's just phenomenal," said head coach Theresa L'Esperance.

The Hatchets entered Friday night's meet with a goal of finishing in the top ten. With their fourth place finish, they said a bittersweet goodbye to their seniors.

It's amazing my senior year to end it like that. We were watching our score, Tomahawk, change throughout the entire meet. When it got to fourth, the highest it was throughout the entire meet, we told Theresa and she couldn't believe it. It's just amazing, it's really an honor," said Rachel Dallman.

Tomahawk finished with a final score of 142.

Tune into Newswatch 12 at 10 on Saturday night to hear more from the Hatchets and other Northwoods teams at the state meet.

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RHINELANDER - Rhinelander senior Owen White verbally committed to play basketball at Michigan Tech last December.

But on Thursday, he made it official by signing his letter of intent.

"They've been a solid program for multiple years. I went up there to one of their games when they competed against one of the best teams in D2. Regardless of athleticism on the team, just their coaching style and the way they play, they can compete with anybody. I know if I go there, I'll be going to a successful program," said White.

White also said he likes Michigan Tech in Hooughton because it's close to home.

Two of his older brothers played football there, as well, so being a Husky runs in the family.

The Rhinelander basketball season begins next week with practice and the first game will be at home on Tuesday the 28th against Wisconsin Rapids.

Rhinelander's Brad Comer also signed his letter of intent on Thursday. He will be attending Winona State University in Minnesota to play baseball.

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ANTIGO - Being back on the ice isn't the first competition for Matt Young in the last year. He played football this fall. But it is his first time playing his favorite sport again.

"Hockey is definitely my favorite sport because of the comradery," said Young.

Last year on December 8th, he was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma. The cancer battle was hard…
"It was tough for sure," said Young.

But his team was always there.

"It was incredible. Especially knowing that everyone is standing behind you and taking care of you and supporting you throughout everything," said Young.

The doctors told him he was cancer free back in March. And he immediately started thinking about playing sports again.

"First thing I did was tell my coaches right away. And then I got back out on the football field," said Young.

He played center for the Red Robins and helped them reach the level three playoffs. But Young had something else on his mind.

"Throughout the entire football season, I've just been waiting for hockey season," said Young.

And now that he's back playing the sport he loves, the thought on cancer is pushed even further away.

"You always have that little thought in the back of your mind that it could come back. But you pray every night that it won't," said Young.

Whether he's playing hockey or not, he knows that cancer taught him a lifelong lesson.

"You've just got to live one day at a time," said Young.

Young now hopes to help a young friend through a new cancer battle for the Antigo hockey community. 

11-year-old Eli Kassler was recently diagnosed with Leukemia and receiving treatment in Milwaukee. 

Antigo hockey is having a fundraiser for him on Saturday November 11th.

The event will be a live auction and raffle at Northstar Lanes in Antigo at 4:00 P.M. 

For more information, contact 715-610-2911 or BergAppraisalServices@yahoo.com.

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NEW YORK - Georgia, Alabama, Notre Dame and Clemson held their spots in the top four of the College Football Playoff rankings, and unbeaten Miami moved up three spots to No. 7 before its showdown with the Fighting Irish.

Oklahoma remained fifth and TCU moved up to sixth. The Sooners and Horned Frogs play a key Big 12 game on Saturday, with the winner taking sole possession of first place in the conference.

Georgia, Alabama, Notre Dame and Clemson held their spots in the top four of the College Football Playoff rankings, and unbeaten Miami moved up three spots to No. 7 before its showdown with the Fighting Irish.

Oklahoma remained fifth and TCU moved up to sixth in the rankings released Tuesday. The Sooners and Horned Frogs play a key Big 12 game on Saturday, with the winner taking sole possession of first place in the conference.

After Miami, unbeaten Wisconsin was No. 8, the highest-ranked Big Ten team. Washington, the highest-ranked Pac-12 team, is ninth and Auburn is 10th.

No. 14 Penn State and No. 15 Ohio State fell out of the top 10 after losses last week.

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GREEN BAY - GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) - Matthew Stafford passed for 361 yards and two touchdowns to Marvin Jones, and the Detroit Lions snapped a three-game losing streak with a 30-17 win on Monday night over the offensively challenged Green Bay Packers.

Stafford was 26 of 33, including 12 of 14 in the first half with a 25-yard touchdown pass to Jones. Ameer Abdullah added a 4-yard touchdown run for Detroit (4-4).

Green Bay (4-4) finally got in the end zone on Brett Hundley's 1-yard quarterback sneak with 9:52 left.

The Lions answered with Stafford's 11-yard touchdown pass to Jones with 8:06 left to put the game out of reach with a 17-point lead. Jones had seven catches for 107 yards.

The Packers have lost three straight games.

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