Pine River will host Harrison in playoffs

LEROY — Pine River enters the Division 6 football playoffs with a 6-3 record, but drew the top seed in the district thanks to a strong regular-season schedule.

Six of the Bucks’ regular season opponents also are in the playoffs.

Pine River was 5-0 in the Highland Conference for the team’s first league title since 1999.

“We played a very strong schedule that should have us well prepared for the playoffs,” Bucks coach Terry Martin said. “We were able to go through the always tough Highland undefeated and played four Class B playoff teams in our non-conference.”

Pine River is home Friday for a predistrict game against Harrison (5-4). If the Bucks win, they will host the district final Nov. 4 or 5 against Beaverton or Morley Stanwood.

Quarterback Mason Powell had 728 yards and 11 touchdowns passing, plus 827 yards and 12 touchdowns rushing in leading the offense.

“He’s the leader of our team that plays with confidence and makes sure we have great practices each and every day,” Martin said.

Hunter Esiline had 577 yards and eight touchdowns on 15 receptions.

“He’s a big play threat that keeps us in every game,” Martin said. “If we are behind we know he can score in one play when we need it.”

A veteran offense got the job done for Pine River.

“Experience has allowed us to run our offense with a lot of efficiency,” he said. “We have had many kids step in and have big games when defenses try to take something away from us.”

The defense continues to improve.

“Our kids have done a great job preparing for this season and as time has gone on our defensive unit has gotten better and better,” Martin said.

Joe Rigling has 61 tackles.

“He’s our defensive leader and all-round tough player,” Martin said. “He plays more than anyone on the team. He’s a big force for us at fullback, but always comes up with a stop when our defense needs it.”

The Bucks face Harrison, a Jack Pine Conference team.

“Harrison is a tough team for a No. 4 seed,” Martin said. “I don’t feel like there is a lot of separation in our district. They played really close in a couple losses to good playoff teams. They are scoring a lot of points this season. I feel like our defensive unit will be key. They will need to play well against the wing-T from Harrison.”

The Hornets run a potent offense.

“You have to make your possessions count,” Martin said. “Penalties and turnovers that end drives will cost you the game. We need to be patient on D and take advantage when we have the ball.”