Regional champs: Pine River defeats Ravenna to advance to state semifinal game

RAVENNA — Pine River’s ninth win of the football season was historic for two reasons.

It improved the Bucks’ record to 9-3 and tied for the most wins in school history. It also came in a 42-14 victory at Ravenna on Saturday for the Bucks’ first ever Division 6 title.

Mason Powell rushed for 239 yards and Tristen Nelson had a dramatic kickoff return for a touchdown to lead Pine River over Ravenna. The Bucks play 1 p.m. Saturday at Traverse City Thirlby Stadium against Maple City Glen Lake (10-2) in the state semifinals.

“The key factor was our defense,” Pine River coach Terry Martin. “They played outstanding. We came in knowing they had a big time power run game and a lot of size up front and some good fullbacks. Their tailback had been rushing for a couple hundred yards a game coming in. We’re pretty undersized. Our linebackers average about 170 pounds. We had two guys that start on the defensive line average 160 pounds and they showed up huge. Our defense played tough.”

The Bucks fired out to early leads and never look back. Powell threw an 8-yard scoring pass to Matthew Stone and Powell also had a 64-yard touchdown run in the first quarter for a 15-0 lead.

Camron Passenier had an interception return of 28 yards for six Ravenna points in the second quarter. But Powell had another 64-yard touchdown run and the Bucks were up 23-6 at halftime.

Passenier had a 7-yard run in the third quarter to cut the lead to 23-14. But Nelson came back with his 75-yard kickoff return and Powell added a 3-yard run to give the Bucks a commanding 35-14 lead going into the fourth quarter.

The kickoff return “was huge,” Martin said. “They came out in the second half hoping to grab some momentum. We had a mistake and they capitalized and got momentum going. The kids didn’t seem frazzled. They were trying to kick it away from Mason. They kicked it to Tristan and he put some moves on and ended up in the end zone. That was a dagger. They thought they had momentum and we answered with a touchdown.”

Hunter Esiline returned an interception 90 yards in the fourth quarter to seal the win.

Ravenna had 55 plays compared to 44 for the Bucks. But Pine River had a 372-192 advantage in total yards. It was 364-132 on the ground.

Rigling was the second leading rusher behind Powell with 71 yards.

Esiline had seven solo tackles. Andrew Park had six solos and two assists, while Elijah Lewis had five solos and one assists.

The Bucks now have conference, district and regional trophies in their collection.

“There’s a lot of great things happening in Pine River right now,” Martin said. “It’s pretty exciting times. We won the conference title outright and district title for only the second time in history and a regional title for the first time. We’re also at nine wins, which ties for the most wins in school. It’s one of the more talented groups that have come through our school. It’s a great thing to be a part of.”