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.
SEYMOUR, IND. - A chain-reaction crash in southern Indiana killed a Minocqua couple on Wednesday morning.
Glenn Cardelli and his wife, Kathryn, both 57 years old, were traveling in south an RV near Seymour, Ind., on Interstate 65. The RV was behind a semi and an SUV, both of which slowed due to highway maintenance.
Another semi failed to slow down behind the stalled traffic and crashed into the Cardellis' RV. The crash killed the couple and John Mumma, 67, an Illinois man driving the SUV.
The vehicles caught fire. Interstate 65 was closed for about eleven hours for cleanup and crash investigation.
RHINELANDER - A former contracted janitor accused of sexually assaulting a Rhinelander student appears headed for a trial.
Stavros Iliopoulos appeared in Oneida County Court on Friday afternoon. Attorneys told Judge Michael Bloom they had not reached a plea deal. Bloom decided to schedule one final pre-trial conference for late August before a two-day jury trial was set for Sept. 4 and 5.
In late November, police said Iliopoulos, 65, took a girl into a dark closet and hugged, kissed, and touched her inappropriately at Northwoods Community Elementary School, a public charter school in Harshaw.
Iliopoulos worked for a contracted company, Victory Janitorial, at the time.
WOODRUFF - Shoveling snow can hurt your back. But some may not know that staring at all that snow can hurt your eyes.
The term albedo tells us the amount of light that's either absorbed into the ground or reflected back up. On days like Friday, the snow pack will really make it look brighter out and boost the albedo amount. That's hard on the eyes.
Dr. Kirby Redman is an Optometrist in Woodruff. He says there are simple ways to protect your eyes from the sun's damaging rays.
All sorts of animals are affected by icy conditions. Some Northern Wisconsin owls dive INTO the snow to hunt small rodents. But recent freezing rain has formed an ice crust that owls can't break through. That means owls are beginning to starve.
Amanda Schirmer has been working at the Northwoods Wilderness Center for the past four years. She says that owls may hang around birdfeeders to prey on smaller birds. They may also be seen near roads.
LINCOLN CO. - The Lincoln Co. Sheriff's Office is calling a death east of Merrill on Thursday a homicide.
In a press release on Friday morning, the sheriff's office said a 77-year-old woman was found shot and killed around 8:30 a.m. on Thursday. In the same home, a 78-year-old man was found critically injured from a gunshot wound.
It happened at a home on Range Line Road in the Town of Pine River.
The sheriff's office said it believes the shooting is isolated and the public is not in danger.
The Lincoln Co. Sheriff's Office and Wisconsin Department of Justice Crime Lab worked to process the scene.
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