Pine River football rallies to top Morley Stanwood

RUSHING THE PASSER: Morley Stanwood junior Tyler Dard (10) hits Pine River senior quarterback Mason Powell as he throws on Thursday. The Bucks scored 21 unanswered points to win 27-21. (Pioneer photo/John Raffel)

RUSHING THE PASSER: Morley Stanwood junior Tyler Dard (10) hits Pine River senior quarterback Mason Powell as he throws on Thursday. The Bucks scored 21 unanswered points to win 27-21. (Pioneer photo/John Raffel)

LEROY — Pine River’s football team struggled for three quarters, but it rallied in the final 12 minutes.

The Bucks (1-1) trailed 21-6 early in the fourth quarter but scored 21 unanswered points for a 27-21 nonleague victory over Morley Stanwood (1-1) on Thursday.

A 25-yard touchdown pass from Mason Powell to Hunter Esiline with less than a minute to play was the winning touchdown. Powell and Esiline earlier in the quarter connected for a 58-yard touchdown pass, and Elijah Lewis had a 91-yard scoring run.

“We gave up big plays,” Morley Stanwood coach Clark Huntey said. “That’s exactly what we said not to do all week and before the game. But we gave up two huge ones.”

Turnovers were critical for both teams in the first half, which ended in a 14-6 Mohawks lead. Zack Schuberg recovered a Pine River fumble on the opening kickoff at the Bucks 37. Four plays later, Aaron Sharp ran 26 yards for a Morley Stanwood touchdown.

Nic Huntey passed 33 yards to Dayne Edgerly, who made a juggling catch and raced in for a touchdown and 14-0 lead.

Pine River got a break later on a bad punt snap and it took over on the Mohawks’ 1. Powell ran it in on the next play.

Late in the third, the Mohawks started a drive from their own 16 and kept it going with a successful fake punt on fourth down and a key pass interference on Pine River. On fourth down early in the fourth quarter from the Bucks 26, Huntey found Sharp for a score and 21-6 advantage.

“When it was 21-6, we didn’t really panic at all,” Pine River coach Terry Martin said. “We were pretty aware we had made some mistakes that were costing us. But at the same time, we have a pretty explosive offense with some skilled players. We weren’t really that concerned when it was 25-6.”

Pine River struck back on the next series with Powell passing 58 yards to Esiline for a touchdown. The Bucks’ two-point attempt failed.

Morley Stanwood punted to the Bucks 1-yard line with five minutes left. Moments later, Lewis found a hole and ran 91 yards for a touchdown, making it 21-19 with 2 minutes, 52 seconds to go.

Pine River got the ball back on its own 25 with 1:53 remaining.

Powell moved the Bucks down the field and threw 25 yards to Esiline for the touchdown and 27-21 lead with 51.4 seconds to go.

Esiline intercepted a Huntey pass with 40 seconds to play to seal the win.

Huntey had 110 yards passing and 80 rushing for Morley Stanwood.

Powell passed for 118 yards and ran for 96 to lead the Bucks, who also had 119 rushing yards from Lewis.

“We put the ball on the ground a couple of times and had some kids struggling,” Martin said. “The other kids kept pulling the rope until we got it going, cleaned it up in the second half and played very well.”

On Sept. 9, Pine River is home against Beal City, while Morley Stanwood is home against Hesperia.

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Posted by John Raffel

John is a sports reporter with the Pioneer as well as the Herald Review and The Lake County Star. He also coordinates the weekly Pioneer sports outdoors page. He can be reached at (231) 592-8356 or by email at jraffel@pioneergroup.com.

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