Pine River clinches first football league title since 1999

LEROY — Pine River, ranked No. 9 in the recent Associated Press Division 6 state poll, clinched at least a share of its first Highland Conference football title since 1999 with Friday’s 25-8 Homecoming win over Manton.

“I was very pleased with the performance,” Pine River coach Terry Martin said. “It was a very special win for our senior group with the Homecoming, plus clinching at least a share of the conference title.”

The Bucks (4-0, 5-1), scored one touchdown in each quarter. Elijah Lewis had scoring runs of 52 and 45 yards in the first half. Mason Powell and Tristen Nelson had scoring runs of 3 and 6 yards in the second half.

“We’ve had kids banged up here and there,” Martin said. “We keep having kids step up and do an excellent job of filling in. Our defense has been improving by leaps and bounds. This is maybe one of the best defensive performances since I’ve been head coach (four seasons). It was a pretty talented Manton team with some speed out of the backfield and Wyatt Baker a very special athlete.”

Lewis gained 122 yards rushing while Nelson had 75 and Powell 64. Raden Holmes had eight tackles while Joe Rigling had six and Hunter Esiline four.

“With the exception of maybe one play, I think our defense held them to maybe 80 yards,” Martin said. “They had one explosive play but other than that, our kids did a good job of containing them.”

Pine River plays at Evart on Friday with a rivalry trophy at stake.

“There are a lot of things on the line,” Martin said. “We’re playing for a conference championship and we’re playing for the Armed Forces trophy and to clinch a playoff spot. It’s a game to be motivated for. Evart has some of the fastest kids in the entire Highland Conference. We have to make sure we’re prepared for that.