Pine River dumps Harrison in football playoff opener

LEROY — Pine River’s football team broke a two-game losing streak at the right time.

The Bucks (7-3) opened the Division 6 playoffs Friday night with a 28-12 win over Harrison (5-5).

Pine River will host Morley Stanwood next week in the district title game on Friday.

The Bucks defeated Morley Stanwood 27-21 earlier in the season.

Hugh Brand had a two-yard run in the first quarter for a 6-0 Harrison lead. But Pine River regained the lead with 13 and 68-yard touchdown passes from Mason Powell to Hunter Esiline.

It was 14-6 after the first quarter and 21-6 at halftime. Tristen Nelson had a 50-yard rushing touchdown in the second quarter for the Bucks.

Brand had a one-yard run in the third but Harrison failed to get the two points and Pine River led 21-12. Joe Rigling’s one-yard run made it 28-12, Bucks, in the third quarter.

“Overall, it was a great team win,” Pine River coach Terry Martin said. “We started slow with maybe some playoff jitters and high expectations being the (district) No. 1 seed).”

Powell passed 82 yards to Esiline in the fourth quarter. Powell was 6-of-7 for 271 yards. Rigling had 54 yards rushing. Esiline caught six passes for 271 yards.

Nelson had four solo tackles and six assists.

The Bucks defeated the Mohawks with three touchdowns in the final quarter earlier in the season. It started a six-game winning streak. Coming into the playoffs, Pine River had lost two games to tough opponents in Grandville Calvin Christian and Berrien Springs.

“I think those games could pay off for us in the long run,” Martin said. “Harrison came with a big line but the teams we played in weeks eight and nine took the intimidation factor out of their size.”

Pine River played Morley Stanwood in week two. The Bucks will have to deal with the notion in high school football that it’s tough to beat another good team twice in the same season.

“It presents a unique challenge to prepare a game plan to beat the same team twice,” Martin said.

The Bucks will have some starters in the lineup who did not play the first game against the Mohawks, Martin said.

“I’m pretty confident about it, but obviously they have some pretty serious playmakers we have to be prepared to stop,” he added.