Hodag football shows strong numbers in team camp Submitted: 07/18/2019

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RHINELANDER - In less than six weeks football will be the main event every Friday in the Northwoods.

But until then high school teams are doing what they can to prepare for a brand new season.

The Rhinelander football team has spent the last four days going back to the basics with one goal in mind: working towards a winning season for the first time in decades.

"If you want to have it, you got to earn it. That is our motto this year, you want it, earn it," said senior player Nathan Kempf. 

Hodag football finished up its summer team camp under first year head coach Aaron Kraemer.

"It was coming together as a team, picking up the tempo, getting the everyday drills ready, getting the fundamentals ready and ultimately working on blocking and tackling because obviously that's what's most important," Kraemer said.

We won't see too many changes to the Hodag strategies.

"You run, you jump, you block, you tackle and you can be pretty good football team," Kraemer said.

Kraemer wanted to focus on the fundamentals and laying the foundation for the regular season.

"My passion is for football and my passion is to get these kids to their best ability and reach their full potential," Kraemer said.

More than 40 kids came to camp, many of them being upper classmen.

Kraemer wants those guys to lead the program.

"Finally good to get out here after a long wait. I am very excited for what we have this year," Kempf said.

Nathan Kempf is one of three players gunning for the quarterback position. 

All three of them got to showcase their skills this week.

"Really just understanding different formations, getting back to the basics and understanding three different formations we want to get down," Kempf said.

But this is just the beginning.

"Conference champs, the Bell Game there are so many things we want to get done this year," Kempf said.

The Hodags finished off team camp with a celebration.

Coach Kraemer invited all of the players and their families to a cook out after the last day of practice.

He said he wanted the families to know that their support matters and this season is a fresh start for Rhinelander football.

Story By: Mazie Vincent

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Every day at five-o clock, fourteen Lac du Flambeau boxers strive for greatness.

"Essentially these are the next world champions that are facing off against each other," said boxing coach Booj LaBarge.

The Flambeau Indians have brought home champions almost every month since February.

"In Lac du Flambeau we have natural ability and athletic abilities," LaBarge said.

Those abilities range from eight-year-old boxers all the way up to amateurs in their thirties, including Derris Wolfe who just stated boxing a year ago and is now headlining his own event in Green Bay.

"Being able to come here every day was good enough for me and the more matches you get the more recognition you get," Wolfe said.

He's not the only one.Seth LaBarge won the national silver gloves tournament at eight-years old. In fact, the team has been so successful the Lac du Flambeau tribe has started to support the boxing club even more.

"This is just a place that they can come that is positive, there's no drugs and alcohol, there's no negative aspects going on here," LaBarge said.

The tribal board says the boxing club not only keeps the kids out of trouble but also brings success back to the Northwoods.

"We are making a name for Lac du Flambeau. We've come a long way and we still have a long way to go," LaBarge said.

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WHITE LAKE - Bruce Rea lifts alone, hoping to get stronger.

Vinny Propson coaches him, hoping to change a culture.

"Let's get in the routine," Propson said. "Let's get them here and let's get them to love it here."

Propson became White Lake High School's new athletic director roughly two months ago.

He's dealing with a nearly empty weight room and a team that's at the bottom of the conference every year.

"They're in a place of complacency, you know?" Propson said. "And we're trying to build off that and say 'we're better than that, we're White Lake, we should be proud of where we're coming from.'"

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MINOCQUA - Local sports shops waited for what seemed like forever to see open water this year.

The ice did not melt off most area lakes until early to mid-May.

Since then, most of those shops have seen business return to normal.

Kurt's Island Sports Shop in Minocqua saw a surge of customers to make up for the late start.

Business has been strong ever since.

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THREE LAKES - Three Lakes High School hired a new boys basketball coach.

Brian Diorio is taking over the Bluejays' varsity coaching job from Ryan Bock.

Diorio says his top priority is to keep Three Lakes kids interested in playing basketball.

He thinks that can be done through a combination of training and fun.

"(I want to) just keep the kids interested over the summer and keep it fun, keep it light," Diorio said. "I think that's the best way to keep the kids in the gym so you can see improvement, see them coming together."

Three Lakes finished last season at 8-13.

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WAUSAU - Newman Catholic High School hired Paul Haag as its new girls basketball coach, per a release from the school.

Haag was the assistant varsity girls basketball coach in 2017-'18 and has 10 years of coaching experience, including a stint as head girls coach at Northland Lutheran High School.

Haag replaces Jason Vanden Elzen, who stepped down as Newman's coach after the 2018-'19 season to spend more time with his family.

The Cardinals finished 24-4 last season and made the Division 5 state semifinals.

Basketball practices begin Nov. 18.

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RHINELANDER - Rhinelander school district played host to summer league basketball Sunday, as it does every weekend.

Players from four area high schools hit the courts to get some summer work in.

This is the first year Rhinelander has hosted the league; it's usually at Northland Pines.

Rhinelander players say it's a great chance to break up the day-to-day grind of practice.

"It gets kind of monotonous just playing against our team all the time," sophomore Ty Welk said. "It helps, but it also helps us get ready for real game situations because there's only so much you can do in practices."

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CONOVER - Graceful Wakes hosted its fourth adaptive water ski clinic on Lake Pleasant in Conover.

Grace Petzold founded the non-profit after she got the chance to ski with her mom and her aunt who both have disabilities.

"It really inspired me and my family to want to prove that opportunity to other people here in Wisconsin so we created Graceful Wakes and have been putting on clinics ever since," Petzold said. "Just seeing the joy not only on the participants faces, they are all experiencing water skiing for the first time or if they been with us before is really memorable."

And the smallest moments mean the most.

"Did you have fun? Yes, I did. Awesome it sure looked like it," a skier said. "What's your favorite part about it? To have a new skill."

"It makes all of the work we've put into it totally worth it," Petzold said.

Grace also wants these clinics to bring everyone together regardless of their ability.

"I am so excited for hanging out with my girls here and I love being on TV," said skier Danielle Thoe.

Seeing those grins on the skier's faces will always mean something more for Grace."

"I am very proud. It has been such an amazing experience. Not only learning how the business side of thing works but also just being able to create all of these memories and witness all of these people's lives being transformed," Petzold said.

Graceful Wakes puts on clinic all around the state each summer. 

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RHINELANDER - Once a Hodag, always a Hodag.

"I am so appreciative of what the community gave me when I was in the program growing up that we want to give back to that," former Hodag football player Eric Tracy said. 

Former players Eric Tracy and Cole Oettinger brought a defensive skills camp to Rhinelander for the first time this summer.

"Just being able to get them to take their games to the next level and really try and succeed and put together a great season was a driving force for me here," Oettinger said.

Eric is a defensive back at Michigan Tech and Cole has helped the Hodag football team in the past.They wanted to pass on new skills on to the players who filled their shoes when they graduated.

"We were really working on their foot work, making sure their hips are pointing the right way and that they are knowing how to get out of breaks," Tracy said.

The WIAA blocks the football staff from work with the kids at the camp but Eric and Cole made sure to replicate the actual Hodag defensive systems.

"Every single call that they would have to make in a regular season game we talked to them so they what they were doing at 7 on 7 and during the season so they are head of everything else," Oettinger said.

Junior safety Jackson Labs says he's already seen a difference in summer drills

"That really went pretty smooth because of this camp, we had a couple beforehand and it's really helped," Labs said.

Labs wanted to work with the former Hodags to get a new perspective.

"My footwork is a lot more smooth so that was a big factor for me," Labs said. "We do a lot of one on ones just to compete and get after it and it's a lot of fun going against each other."

"That was the best part was just the completion. The part where we competed as a whole. Them getting after it and really getting into the little rewards we gave them each week and really wanting to do their best was awesome," Oettinger said.

The Hodag Football Team Camp starts next week.

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RHINELANDER - A donation to the Hodag Little League will be a big hit with those who want some snacks while at Hodag Park.

Culver's in Rhinelander donated $5,000 towards a new concession stand.

The restaurant sponsors a team's jerseys each summer but they wanted to do something bigger.

Culver's owner Jen Clark says they were inspired by how much her sons love baseball and wanted to support the future of the program.

"We hope that they see us as a community partner because we do like to give back," Clark said.They come in all the time to support us. We work hard for them so we want to make sure that we give back to them. We support all of things that are going to make Rhinelander grow and move in the right direction."

The Culver's donation is one of many from people around Rhinelander.

Each contribution has gone towards construction of the new stand.

Little League President Brad Kowieski says it's so exciting to see how much support the league has seen.

"I think this is just an invest of keeping the tradition going," Kowieski said. It just makes me proud as an alum from Rhinelander, a native born Rhinelandarian I just feel fantastic that my kids are going to benefit from it and the people around these kids, it's very heartwarming."

The concession stand sold brats and burgers for the first time during on the Fourth of July.

The Rhinelander Lions Club also donated another $1,500 this week.

Siding on the concession stand started going up this week.

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PRESQUE ISLE - Every summer people in Presque Isle urge fisherman to get their kids out on the lakes.

Those kids got the chance to cast a line and learn fishing tips from some of the community's best.

The kids who caught the most and the biggest fish won.

The chamber hopes the contest gets kids excited to be on the lake.

"We like to see kids getting active and being outside and participating in our wonderful environment. We like to encourage kids to be out and encourage the next generation of fisher-people," said Presque Isle Chamber of Commerce Director Scott McPherson.

The competition is also sponsored by the Presque Isle Lions Club.

The Lions members started the competition to try and get kids away from the video games. 

"When I first started coming up in this country, we didn't have the internet; all we had was fishing. We had lots of good fishing and it's still here if we just had people fish," said Presque Isle Lions Club member Wayne McDonald.

Each kid got a fishing certificate and a tackle box for competing.

There will be two more competitions this summer.

One is at the end of July and the other is the first week in August.

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