The Medford Raiders came to within a field goal of advancing to Level 3 of the WIAA Division 3 playoffs, losing to West Salem 30-28.
Medford’s opening playoff win came over Rice Lake, the same team it beat to open the 2011 season.
Some of the key players from last season’s successful year are gone and will need to be replaced for the team to continue its success.
“We lost a great group of players last year,” said seventh-year coach Ted Wilson, “but look for our returning players to pick up the leadership and continue on a path to success.”
It was Medford’s first playoff appearance since the 2008 playoff season when they also won one and lost one.
Gone are quarterback Luke Sauerman and two-thirds of an explosive backfield that gained almost 1,500 yards. Austin Henrichs and Kole Hartwig graduated with 1,000 yards between them.The good news is the return of Cody Loertscher, who gained 454 yards for an average of 6.1 yards/game and six touchdowns.
Loertscher also hauled in 20 passes for 269 yards and returning fellow wide receiver John Keefe also caught 10 balls for 124 yards for an offense that outscored their opponents 240-190 last season.
Senior Ryan Paul will be in charge of spreading the ball around as he will quarterback the Raiders this season. Paul had three scoring strikes and completed 50 percent of his 24 passes in limited action.
Rounding out the returning Raiders are seniors Nick Berger and Ben Hemer who will man the offensive and defensive lines.
Seniors Cody Judnic will play tight end and defensive end. Grant Anderson is a wide receiver and defensive back and Dominic Kayhart plays on both sides of the line. Junior Justin Yaron, a running back/linebacker completes the list of returners.
The Raiders play in the Great Northen Conferecne, a conference that Wilson has great respect for.
“The GNC is a great football conference and every Friday will be a battle,” said Wilson. “If our younger players can adjust to the speed of varsity football we should be able to compete week in and week out.”
Expected to challenge in the GNC are Antigo and Rhinelander, while Mosinee is always tough and Merrill, under first-year coach, Nick Sturm, also could be tough.