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Northland Pines football making the most of long travel daysSubmitted: 08/30/2016
EAGLE RIVER - It's no secret that athletic teams in the Northwoods travel great distances to find opponents.

One of those teams is Northland Pines, which plays its football games in the Western Peninsula Athletic Conference.

And for some players, bus rides to the Upper Peninsula took some getting used to.

"I didn't really like it at first because when we were in the eighth grade, we'd play Rhinelander and Crandon or somebody close by, so it wouldn't be much of a drive," said Northland Pines junior Nick Cato.


This year, the Eagles will spend at least 14 hours on a bus traveling to and from their road games, but some members of the team spin that into a positive.

"I like to think of it as an advantage to have a longer bus ride, because it gives you more time to focus in on the game," said Northland Pines junior Cody Jantzen. "Whereas if you go from here to Lakeland, it's not far so you don't get as much time to prepare, I don't think."

Players do their best to stay relaxed during the long rides, but they make sure to concentrate when the time is right.

"Once we get about 45 minutes away, Coach stands up, lets us know it's time to get serious," said Cato.

Although players say they use the last 45 minutes of each ride to focus, perhaps the biggest challenge remains dealing with how their legs react when they finally get off the bus before a game.

"You have to adapt to different situations," said Northland Pines head coach Matt Weberpal. "It's hard to get off a bus after two and a half hours and come out and perform."

But it's more than just a physical challenge. Team captains say that in order to keep the team mentally sharp, they have to lead the way.

"We just try to lead by example, so if we're focused, the underclassmen are going to be focused. Or if we are too rambunctious, the underclassmen are going to follow our lead," said Jantzen.

But even those captains will admit that it's nice playing games on their home turf.

"Believe it or not, it actually is. I wasn't too happy that we played in Calumet this year, but it is what it is, and next year we'll be here, though," said Cato.

The Eagles won't catch a break this week as they head to Waupaca to play the Horicon Marshmen on Thursday.

Story By: Mark Spillane

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