Huge start ignites Wildcats past Bucks

EVART — The Wounded Warriors trophy is now in Evart.

Evart used ball control and a stingy defense to fire out to a 34-0 lead and hold back the Pine River Bucks 41-22 Friday night to cross the .500 mark for the first time this season.

With Brady Hasse gaining 112 yards on the ground, John Danley added 105 and with Austin Grein scoring three touchdowns, the Wildcats were able to control the first three quarters and avenge a loss to the Bucks in last year’s game, with the winner taking the Wounded Warriors’ trophy.

Evart is now 3-2 overall and 2-1 in the Highland. Pine River, which won last year’s game, falls to 1-4 and 0-3.

“We wanted to start quickly,” said Evart coach Pat Craven. “We played well tonight on both sides of the ball. Our defense has really improved. Our No. 1 defense pitched a shutout tonight. I’m proud of their effort.”

“We came out flat,” said Pine River coach Chad Phillips. “We didn’t make the plays early on offensively. (Evart) did a good job in getting third down and short situations. We have to make the plays on first and second downs.”

Grein capped off Evart scoring drives with runs of 2 yards at 2:41 of the first quarter and 1 yard at 7:30 of the second. He went 52 yards for a touchdown on a screen pass from Jesse Lang with 1:16 left in the first half for a 21-0 lead.

“The first half was our worst offensively all year,” Phillips said. “Their score just before the first half killed us.”

“It felt pretty good,” Grein said of his three scores. “Everybody was executing.”

There was no scoring in the third quarter but the Wildcats were able to put together sustained drives and eat up the clock. Danley scored from 8 yards away at 10:19 and minutes later returned an interception 54 yards for a 34-0 lead.

“It was fun both ways,” Danley said of his scores and adding that on his interception, “the flanker tipped the ball right up to me.”

Defensively, “the key is for the linebackers being committed and not (moving) away and for the defensive backs to stay on their receivers,” Danley said.

Joe Miller was able to put the Bucks on the board with a 19-yard run with 7:15 to play. Hasse retaliated with a 48-yard scoring run for the Wildcats. Skyler Nelson threw touchdown passes to Dakota Wieczorek of 30 yards and Ethan Whitley of nine yards.

The Wildcats had 227 total rushing yards. Lang was 5-of-5 for 80 passing yards.

Pine River had 103 yards rushing and 227 yards passing on 10 Nelson completions.

Next Friday, Evart is at McBain while Pine River is home with Manton.

“McBain’s a good football team,” Craven said. “We know we have to play a good game. We’ll try to get better at everything. Hopefully, we can keep it going.”

Pine River will be having its homecoming celebration.

“The teams we played the first five weeks of the season were 16-4 in the first four weeks,’” Phillips said. “Manton has some quality players.

The win over Pine River and the 3-2 record, “gives our team a lot of momentum,” Grein said. “We don’t like McBain and they don’t like us.”

“We have gained the momentum,” Danley said. ‘There are a few things we need to work on like getting people to stay focused.”

The running game remains solid for Evart with Danley, Grein and Hasse getting their fair share of yards.

“We take pride in that,” Danley said. “(The defenses) don’t know where the ball is going.”