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Pete's Point: Mark your calendars for key matchups

Pine River-Backus head football coach Tom Demars talks with his offensive unit during a recent practice. The Tigers will host defending Class A state champion Mahnomen on Friday, Aug. 29. Photo by Pete Mohs

One advantage of writing the high school preview stories for the 2014 Echo Journal Fall Sports section in today's edition is becoming familiar with the athletes and coaches for the Pequot Lakes Patriots and Pine River-Backus Tigers.

It's also an opportunity to mark the calendar for big games and meets against some of the top competitors in the conference and section.

Here's a sneak peak at some big dates for each of the Pequot Lakes and PR-B fall teams:

Pequot Lakes football:

This pick is easy. Mark your calendar for Friday, Oct. 3. That's when Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton is scheduled to play at Pequot Lakes in a matchup of last year's Section 8AAA final opponents. D-G-F won that 2013 matchup 28-0 in the Fargodome as they scored all of their points in the second quarter. The Patriots have 17 starters returning on offense and defense, so expect the Oct. 3 matchup to be much closer.

The Patriots also have a rare afternoon date for their homecoming game against East Grand Forks - 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 20.

Pine River-Backus football:

The Tigers don't need to wait long for a big matchup. How about hosting the defending Class A state champion Mahnomen at 7 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 29. PR-B is short on depth, but they do have talented athletes returning from last year's squad that finished 7-3 overall.

PR-B's homecoming game is against Blackduck at 7 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 26.

Pequot Lakes volleyball:

The Patriots lost some key starters to graduation, but the team does have a bunch of experience with 12 letterwinners, plus a 2012 letterwinner in Brittny Bzdok, who missed last season after having knee surgery. Pequot Lakes defeated Wadena-Deer Creek last fall for the first time in many years. They will play at the Wolverines' court on Thursday, Sept. 11.

Pine River-Backus volleyball:

The Tigers host Verndale on Thursday, Aug. 28. The match is interesting because it's the debut of head coach Josh Hirschey, who had been a successful head coach with Hill City the past three years. His wife, Nicole, is an assistant volleyball coach and a 1997 PR-B graduate. The Tigers do return key starters in Megan Felthous and Megan Porta.

Pequot Lakes cross country:

The Patriots have more than 40 runners in their boys' and girls' programs. They will learn a lot about their squads when they host the season opener at Emily Greens at 4 p.m. on Thursday, Sept.4. The boys have some improving young runners, like Seth Golden, Reid Pierzinski and Tony Fitzer. The girls' lineup features senior Caitie Ryan, a state qualifier in 2013. Ryan and Katie Brine-Doyle were All-Birch Tree Conference finishers last year while Elsa Headlee received honorable mention.

Pine River-Backus cross country:

The Tigers have more than 20 runners in their boys' program this fall, including All-Pine Tree Conference runner in TJ Lukenan. PR-B will host a meet at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 9, at Black Bear Golf Course.

Pequot Lakes tennis:

The Patriots have won five of their first six matches this fall. A big matchup will be against Mid-State Conference rival Staples-Motley on Thursday, Sept. 11. The Cardinals, who have been a favorite in recent years in Section 8A team competition, finished third in Class A last fall.