The Pine River-Backus Tigers traveled to Pillager and came out on the short end of a 36-16 loss to the Huskies in a battle of North Star Conference leaders on Wednesday, Oct. 16.
Pillager received the opening kickoff and ate up almost six minutes of the first quarter and ended the drive with a 15-yard sweep by Chris Gjovik for the touchdown at the 6:46 mark of the first quarter. Cherokee DeLeon added the extra point to give the Huskies the 7-0 lead.
The teams later exchanged punts. PR-B later had the ball, but Triston Rubner fumbled and DeLeon recovered at the Tiger 24-yard line. The Huskies took advantage of the turnover, and two plays later Nick Ruhl went on a counter to the right and 25 yards later reached the end zone for a rushing touchdown with 51.1 seconds left in the first quarter. DeLeon added the extra point and the home team led 14-0.
PR-B quarterback Zach Struss was intercepted at the Pillager 40 by Nick Ruhl to end the first quarter, but the Huskies ended up punting on that drive. The Tigers drove to the Huskies’ 41 on their next possession, but that stalled and the Tigers turned the ball over on downs. Pillager couldn’t do anything on its next drive, and turned the ball over on downs to end the first half.
The Tigers began the second half with the ball as Struss hit Rubner for a 34-yard gain. Struss later connected with Shane Fleming for 12 yards. But the drive ended with a Tiger touchdown as Struss hooked up with Nick Gravdahl for a 22-yard score with 9:27 left in the third quarter. Adkins added the two-point conversion to cut the deficit to 14-8. But the Huskies quickly answered with a score of their own. After the big kickoff return, the Huskies took the ball to the Tiger 45. Dezmond Berndt went on a sweep and found the end zone from 29 yards out. DeLeon added the extra point to make it 21-8.
The Tigers got another big passing play from Struss to Gravdahl for 18 yards to get the ball to the Huskies’ 25. Struss then connected with Fleming for a short gain before fumbling on a controversial call at the Pillager 21. An admirable punt by the Huskies placed the Tigers at their 3-yard line. Struss then connected with Mager for 34 yards to midfield. The sophomore quarterback then hit Gravdahl for 15 yards and Mager for 18. A catch by Gravdahl moved the ball to the Pillager 2. Travon Pederson ended the drive with a 2-yard touchdown run with 33.9 seconds left in the third period. Adkins added the two-point conversion to make it 21-16.
On the Huskies’ drive to begin the final quarter they continued their rushing attack as Connor Uselman went on a quarterback keeper for 15 yards, and Chris Gjovick scampered for 30 yards. Berndt ended the drive with a 6-yard touchdown run with 8:57 remaining. Uselman connected with Ruhl for the two-point conversion making it 29-16.
PR-B turned the ball over on downs on its next possession at its 37-yard line. Berndt later put the finishing touches on the game with a 1-yard plung into the end zone with 2:07 remaining. DeLeon added the extra point and for the final score would be 36-16.
Notes: Pillager and PR-B both finish 5-1 in the conference. The Tigers are 6-2 overall while the Huskies are 5-3. PR-B plays in the Section 6A quarterfinals on Tuesday, Oct. 22. Pillager has won its last five games.
The third-seeded Tigers were scheduled to open the Section 6A playoffs at home on Tuesday, Oct. 22, against No. 6 seeded Prairie Valley, who they defeated earlier this season.
Berndt had three touchdowns and rushed for 129 yards as the Huskies had 342 yards on the ground. PR-B was successful through the air as Struss completed 15 of 27 passes for 238 yards. Nick Gravdahl had five receptions for 80 yards to lead the Tigers.
On defense, PR-B was led by Jared Adkins with 12 solo tackles.
PR-Backus 0 0 16 0 — 16
Pillager 14 0 7 15 — 36
Pill-Chris Gjovik 15 run (Cherokee DeLeon kick), 6:46
Pill-Nick Ruhl 25 run (DeLeon kick), 11:09
PRB-Nick Gravdahl 23 pass from Zach Struss (Jared Adkins pass from Struss), 2:33
Pill-Dezmond Berndt 29 run (DeLeon kick), 4:00
PRB-Travon Pederson 2 run (Jared Adkins run), 11:27
Pill-Berndt 8 run (Ruhl pass from Connor Uselman), 3:03
Pill-Berndt 3 run (DeLeon kick), 9:53
Rushes-yards: Pill 46-342, PR-B 26-70
Pass comp-att-int-yds: Pill 3-15-0-39, PR-B 15-27-1-238
Total offense: Pill 381, PR-B 308
Rushing: Pill-Berndt 17-129, Ruhl 15-105, Gjovik 10-85; PR-B, Jared Adkins 8-24, Travon Pederson 7-16
Passing: Pill-Uselman 3-15-39; PR-B, Struss 15-27-1-238
Receiving: PR-B, Nick Gravdahl 5-80, Shane Flemming 5-50, Brandon Mager 2-61