Pine River falls to Manistee 40-6

PITCH AND CATCH: Pine River’s Skyler Nelson pitches the ball from his quarterback spot against Manistee. (Pioneer photo/Matt Wenzel)
PITCH AND CATCH: Pine River’s Skyler Nelson pitches the ball from his quarterback spot against Manistee. (Pioneer photo/Matt Wenzel)

By Matt Wenzel

Pioneer News Network

MANISTEE — After a pair of stressful weeks on the road, Manistee enjoyed the comforts of home with a comfortable win.

The Chippewas continued to pile up points and, for the first time of the season, dominated on defense en route to a 40-6 win on Friday night against Pine River at Chippewa Field.

Manistee (2-1) entered the game allowing 38 points per game and was coming off a 42-40 loss to McBain. The focus all week was getting better on defense and the Chippewas responded. The lone score they allowed to Pine River (1-2) came on a pair of long pass plays at the end of the first half.

Senior quarterback Evan Slawinski ran for a pair of touchdowns and caught one while Mason Swidorski rushed one in and tossed one as well. Racking up more than 400 yards of offense wasn’t a change of pace for the Chippewas, but limiting Pine River to around 150 and just five first downs was a step in the right direction for the defense.

“Offensively we couldn’t get any consistency,” said Pine River coach Chad Phillips. “It put us in a lot of and-longs and when you’re in something-and-long, they know you have to pass and it’s harder to pass. You need some good first- and second-down plays and we struggled to do that.”

Manistee took the opening kick and drove 68 yards on 11 plays as Slawinski got around the left corner for a 2-yard touchdown and 6-0 lead with 7:54 left in the first quarter. Slawinski finished with 13 rushes for 94 yards and was also 2-for-2 passing for 11 yards.

The Chippewas took a 12-0 lead one play into the second quarter on a 38-yard touchdown run up the middle by Nick Williams, who finished with seven carries for 60 yards.

Facing a third-and-7, Kapolka called a timeout, set up the Single Wing formation and Swidorski tossed a 40-yard touchdown to Slawinski, who burned through the middle of the defense for the 20-0 lead with just 27 seconds left in the first half.

But, the Bucks didn’t simply take a knee and go into the locker room. Pine River quarterback Skyler Nelson hooked up with Ethan Whitley for a 27-yard completion down the right sideline. Nelson, who finished 5-for-11 for 107 yards, then spiked the ball to stop the clock with 12 seconds left and tossed a 33-yard touchdown to Brandon Fulks to make it 20-6.

Swidorski recovered a fumble on the second play of the second half to give the Chippewas reat field position and Slawinski ran in a 4-yard score for a 26-6 lead.

Slawinski broke off a 36-yard run late in the third quarter to set up a punishing 10-yard touchdown run by Swidorski, who finished with 17 carries for 97 yards. Fullback Lane Gancarz had 73 yards on five carries.

Jared Knapp closed the scoring with an 8-yard touchdown run to make it 40-6 with 8:55 to play.

Manistee dressed more players than Pine River and seemed to wear the Bucks down in the second half.

“We don’t have a lot of guys we can rotate,” Phillips said. “There are three or four of them that have never played football, so it looks like we’re playing with 18 or 19, but we’re really playing with 14.”

This Friday night, Pine River opens the Highland Conference season at Lake City.