Pine River players pick up all-Highland Conference spots

LEROY — Pine River’s football team was a definite force in the Highland Conference this season.

A a result, several Bucks were recently named to the all-Highland Conference team.

Brandon Fulks was the Offensive Player of the Year in the Highland while Greg Park was the Special Teams Player of the Year.

First-team honors went to defensive tackle Jeff Gross, quarterback Mason Powell, senior safety Mitchell McDonald, senior center Tyler McCurry and junior guard Chase Morrison.

Fulks, also a return player, gained 885 yards on 119 carries with 14 touchdowns and caught 23 passes for 228 yards and four scores. Fulks also had five punt returns for 230 yards and two touchdowns and 14 kickoff returns for 425 yards and three scores.

“He is a little guy with exceptional agility and speed,” Pine River coach Terry Martin said. “When you put that much agility into a kid with great football intelligence, vision and desire, you end up with a lot of touchdowns.”

Gross recorded 77 tackles including five for a loss, five sacks, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, one safety and one punt block.

“Jeff turned out to be a big playmaker for us this year,” Martin said. “He made a lot of key plays including a safety, punt block, timely sacks and fumbles. Last year he had a solid year, especially on offense, but this year he returned after a great summer and was stronger, faster and had more knowledge of his position.”

Powell was 50-of-92 in passing for 722 yards, five touchdowns and five interceptions. He had 137 carries for 730 yards and nine touchdowns.

“An option quarterback has a lot of responsibilities and techniques to remember just in the run game,” Martin said. “When you add in all of the pressures, reads, and techniques of the pass game it can be overwhelming at first. Mason improved a ton over the summer and early part of the season. He is an exceptionally smart kid and is as competitive as any kid I have coached.

“I think the sky is the limit for Powell. He continuously made great plays for us in our playoff run and I know he will return stronger, faster and eager to learn more next season.”

McDonald picked up 65 tackles, four interceptions, one tackle for loss and one fumble recovery.

“His natural instincts are unmatched,” Martin said. “It doesn’t matter what position or even what sport you put Mitchell in. He is going to perform. Safety turned out to be a great spot where we could game plan differently for him each week and he would do a great job in the pass game or in the run game, wherever you needed him to be.”

McCurry and Morrison played a key role on an offensive line that spurred the team to 2,494 rushing yards and 755 passing yards.

“Tyler is our most experienced lineman and he knows the offense inside and out,” Martin said. “He is our communication guy that calls out many of our blocking adjustments and kids can always trust that he is making the right decision.”

The line didn’t allow a sack and Morrison played every offensive snap of the season.

“Chase is strong and aggressive,” Martin said. “He is trying to bury the guy across from him every play of the game. Even a great defender gets worn down by his tenacity and starts to become less effective.”

Park had 15 catches for 360 yards and two touchdowns. He was 31-of-35 in PATs and kicked a 27-yard field goal.

“He scored a lot of points for us thanks to his dedication to being a kicker,” Martin said. “He takes it very seriously and put in a ton of time on reps in the summer and stayed late for many practices. As a result he was consistent and we didn’t have to worry about gambling with points. We knew a TD for us meant seven points and for everyone else it may only end up being six. That is a huge advantage in close games.”