Pine River rolls past state power Beal City

LEROY — It was early in the fourth quarter on Sept. 1 when there were indications this could be a long football season for Pine River.

The Bucks, 0-1, were trailing Morley Stanwood by two touchdowns early in the fourth quarter and the Mohawks were clearly controlling the game. The following week wouldn’t get any better with the Bucks slated to host state powerhouse Beal City.

But things can clearly change quickly in high school football. Two Mason Powell to Hunter Esiline touchdown passes helped the Bucks rally to a 27-21 win over Morley Stanwood.

That same combination last week combined for three touchdown passes against Beal City. Powell had two touchdown runs in a dominating 32-7 win over Beal City. It was Pine River’s first win since 2000 over Beal City.

“We had a couple of seniors really step up,” Pine River coach Terry Martin said, referring to Powell and Esiline. “Their defense was kind of set up to stop our edge running attack. As a result, we got to run Mason, our quarterback, up the middle quite a bit. He had a big game for us.”

Esiline caught passes for 58 and 60 yards from Powell in the second quarter for a 14-7 lead. In the third quarter, Powell had scoring runs of 6 and 11 yards. He threw his third touchdown pass to Esiline for 15 yards in the fourth quarter.

Esiline had four receptions for 195 yards. He ran for 81 yards, while Joe Rigling had 20 yards rushing. Esiline caught four passes for 191 yards.

“Hunter had an outstanding night,” Martin said. “We had one phenomenal play at the end of the half where he refused to go down and broke a couple of tackles to get into the end zone.”

Defensively, Jeffrey Johnson had seven solo tackles and five assists. Andrew Park had seven tackles, while Tristen Nelson added five.

“Our defense has been gradually improving each week this season,” Martin said. “They’ve played pretty well. That first game, we had some key penalties and mistakes that cost us. The second game, we had a couple of miscues at the beginning of the game and continued to get better. Last week seemed to be a continuation of that. They seem to get a little more solid each week.”

Bryan McCurry added six tackles, while Raden Homes had five tackles, one for loss, and one sack.

Pine River (2-1) has its first road game Friday against McBain.

“They’re 3-0 and tied for the conference championship with Beal City last year,” Martin said. “If we want to be in that conversation, we have to start out with the top two tests. We managed to do the Beal City test last week. Now it will be a big one with McBain.”

The last two wins have been a major confidence boosters for the Bucks.

“It’s encouraging to see the kids get better each week,” Martin said. “It’s exciting to see what’s coming up.”