Pine River defeats Benzie for first win of the season

LEROY -- Pine River’s football team takes a 1-1 record to Manistee for more non-league action this week.

Pine River overcame a shaky start to pick up its first win of the year in a 35-14 victory over Benzie Central last Thursday.

“I was pretty happy,” said Pine River coach Chad Phillips. “I thought we improved from week one. It was a short week. We had one less day of practice. We have weird practice times because of open houses. We figured out some things from week one to week two. We had a lot of growth this week.”

Phillips said tackling fundamentals and understanding responsibilities was a key area of improvement.

Benzie Central scored early off an interception return, with the ball ricocheting off a defender’s foot into another defender’s hand to make it 8-0.

Pine River settled in and scored on the ensuing kickoff on an 88-yard touchdown return by Dakota Wieczorek and added a 71-yard touchdown run by Brandon Fulks to make it 14-8.

“It was a big win for us,” Phillips said. “We made improvements in a lot of areas and we’re going to need to make some more by next week against Manistee.”

Quarterback Skyler Nelson added a 5-yard touchdown run in the second quarter, followed by a 1-yard plunge by Cason Rawson to create some distance in the third quarter.

Fulks led the Bucks on the ground with 14 carries for 141 yards and added an interception on defense. Rawson had eight carries for 59 yards.

Pine River was led defensively against Benzie by Devin Ruppert and Clay Stokes, who had 15 tackles apiece.

“There’s still a lot of stuff to work on,” Phillips said. “This week against Manistee, they play a full house T and do a great job of hiding the ball and have a quarterback who’s extremely fast. We struggled a little bit against the off tackle run against Benzie. We’ll have to get better this week.”

Manistee lost to McBain last weekend 42-40.

“In both of their games, they’ve scored 40 points or more,” Phillips said.

Pioneer prep editor Bob Allan contributed to his story.