Pine River defeats Evart to clinch Highland title outright

EVART — The Highland Conference title belongs exclusively to the Pine River football team.

Pine River beat Evart 26-12 on Friday, during the annual Armed Forces game.

The win also sealed first place for Pine River with a 5-0 final league record.

“That’s great,” Pine River coach Terry Martin said. “To have to share it would have taken away something from that win over Beal City earlier this season.”

The Bucks are 6-1 overall, and have won six straight. They automatically qualify for the playoffs. It’s Pine River’s first league title since 1999.

“Friday was a great game,” Martin said. “Obviously, as far as the regular season goes, we can’t play a bigger game than that. Our kids responded to that pressure very well. They put together a very good game.”

Evart is 4-3 overall and 2-3 in the league.

“Our game plan going in was to try to control the ball as much as we could and keep it from Mason Powell, specifically,” Evart coach Pat Craven said. “We just weren’t able to do that in the long run. We allowed three big plays offensively and the big kickoff return. Going into the game, we knew we needed (to avoid that).”

Powell had a strong game for the visiting Bucks, with a 45-yard touchdown pass and two rushing touchdowns. Evart’s Cody Pritchard scored the two Wildcat touchdowns on the ground.

It was a scoreless first quarter. Powell passed 45 yards to Tristen Nelson in the second for a 6-0 halftime lead. Cody Pritchard scored for Evart on a five-yard run in the third for a 6-6 tie. Powell had a nine-yard scoring run for a 12-6 Bucks lead. Elijah Lewis ran 50 yards for an 18-6 Bucks advantage in the third. Pritchard had a one-yard run in the fourth to cut Pine River’s lead to 18-12. Powell had a one-yard run to end the scoring.

Powell passed for 65 yards. Carter Pritchard passed for 34 yards for Evart. Cody Pritchard had 102 yards rushing. Joe Rigling had 64 yards rushing for Pine River.

Evart plays at Holton on Friday in nonleague action. The Wildcats can qualify for the playoffs with two straight wins. 

“We’ll move forward,” Craven said. “But congratulations to Pine River, their kids and coaching staff.”

“Evart played a great game against us,” Martin said. “Neither team had any turnover issues. There wasn’t many penalties. It was a good conference win.”

Pine River is home against Calvin Christian on Friday. 

“They’re a pretty good football team,” Martin said. “They have taken some losses against some very good teams.”

The Bucks will now try for two straight wins to secure a home playoff game.