LEROY — Pine River is a football team that has been forced to contend with key injuries throughout the season.

Friday night, the Bucks were able to get past Highland Conference rival Evart 20-12.

“It was one of those gutsy team wins that we had to have,” Pine River coach Terry Martin said. “Our quarterback (Mason Powell) went out the week before, so that was an obstacle. We were missing some of our stronger linemen up front. It’s one of those things that really required a team effort and that’s exactly what we got.”

Payton Pacola rushed for 44 yards and two touchdowns. Hunter Esiline had 12 tackles and returned an interception 71 yards for a score.

Powell was wearing a cast on his left hand and played defense. He has a broken bone.

“He’s definitely eligible for defense,” Martin said. “We’ll see what his status is on a week-to-week basis.”

Tyler Wing, Pine River’s backup quarterback, took over those duties in Powell’s absence.

“He did all right,” Martin said. “He’s a senior and it’s the Armed Forces game in front of a home crowd. I think he was a little nervous but he did a nice job operating the offense for us. We also put him in as a punter. We usually have our quarterback punt. He did an excellent job. That was a huge part of our success in the first half.”

Pine River finishes its Highland season at 2-3 and is 4-3 overall. The next two games are Friday night at Comstock Park against Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian and Oct. 23 at home with Berrien Springs.

The Bucks need to win both games to automatically qualify for the playoffs.

NorthPointe “is undefeated and they’re scoring a whole bunch of points,” Martin said. “They’ve got a giant who plays quarterback and runs and throws the ball pretty well.” 

The injury situation will still impact the Bucks roster to some extent.

“We’ll be one player back from where we were this previous week,” Martin said. “Pacola has been battling a hand issue and he did come back. He played defense for us the previous week against Manton. We got some offensive production out of him this week.”