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Mager, Struss lead Tigers

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Zach Struss and Brandon Mager were the last Pine River-Backus players to walk off the football field after a 24-12 homecoming win over the Blackduck Drakes on Friday, Oct. 11.

They were enjoying the moment after Struss, a sophomore quarterback, threw four touchdown passes to Mager, a senior receiver in the North Star Conference victory.

“(Blackduck) was playing off me all night,” said Mager, who had 10 receptions for 147 yards. “We kept running the underneath routes. And I also used my speed to get open deep.”

Mager has now been on the receiving end of 10 of Struss’ 12 touchdown passes this season.

“Brandon is so fast off the line, and is able to get open,” Struss said. “I didn’t have a receiver that fast on junior varsity last year.”

Struss found Mager open in the end zone to open the scoring with 1:38 remaining in the opening quarter. The touchdown came on a fourth-down-and-goal play from the 10-yard line that capped a 14-play drive that lasted almost six minutes. The conversion run failed but the host team led 6-0.

PR-B forced Blackduck to punt on their next series, and the Tigers began another long scoring drive on their 35-yard line early in the second quarter. Nine plays later, PR-B scored when hauled in a 20-yard scoring reception. The two-point conversion again failed, but the Tigers had a 12-0 lead at 5:02 of the quarter.

The Tigers quickly made it 18-0 as the Drakes fumbled the kick return and PR-B recovered at the Drakes’ 37. On the first play, Mager was able to sneak behind the Blackduck defenders and pulled in Struss’ pass for another touchdown. The conversion pass failed.

The Drakes did respond with a touchdown 3:36 later when quarterback Jacob Krabbenhoft scambled 18 yards into the end zone on a third-down play to make it 18-6. The conversion run failed.

PR-B started another long scoring drive early in the third quarter. The 16-play drive ended on a fourth-down pass from Struss to Mager that covered 15 yards. The conversion pass failed, but the Tigers had a 24-6 lead with 2:24 remaining in the third period.

“Blackduck had more guys up the middle focusing on stopping the run, but that left room on the side for Brandon to get open,” said PR-B coach Tom Demars. “Zach and Brandon has been a nice combination for us this year. Brandon is a three-year starter with great hands, and Zach throws a good ball.”

A light rain began to intensify in the fourth quarter, which made any possible comeback by the Drakes even more challenging.

Blackduck did turn the ball over on downs around midfield early in the fourth quarter, and PR-B was able to drive to the Drakes’ 18 before turning the ball back over on a failed fourth-down play. Blackduck then started its own long 17-play drive to score on Cooper Jedlicka 3-yard run with 28.4 seconds remaining. The conversion run failed and the Tigers led 24-12.

PR-B then killed the final seconds off the clock to improve to 6-1 overall on the season, and clinched at least a share of the North Star Conference title. The Tigers can clinch the conference title outright with a win at Pillager at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 16.

“That will be a big game since we’re 5-0 and Pillager is 4-1 against teams in our half of the conference,” Demars said.

PR-B displayed a balanced offensive attack with 192 yards rushing while Struss completed 14 passes for 201 yards.

The Drakes dropped to 3-4 overall despite 85 yards rushing by Jedlicka.

Blackduck 0 6 0 6 — 12

Pine River-Backus 6 12 6 0 — 24

First quarter

PR-B-Brandon Mager 10 pass from Zach Struss (run failed) 10:22

Second quarter

PR-B-Mager 20 pass from Struss (run failed) 5:02

PR-B-Mager 37 pass from Struss (pass failed) 5:11

B-Jacob Krabbenhoft 18 run (run failed) 8:47

Third quarter

PR-B-Mager 15 pass from Struss (pass failed) 9:36

Fourth quarter

B-Cooper Jedlicka 3 run (run failed) 11:32

Team statistics

Rushes-yards: PR-B 41-192, B 46-159

Pass comp-att-int-yds: PR-B 14-20-0-201, B 3-10-0-47

Total offense: PR-B 61-393, B 56-206

Individual leaders

Rushing: PR-B-Jared Adkins 15-59, Henry Krecklau 9-47, Travon Pederson

3-35, Triston Rubner 3-26, Zach Struss 6-12, Jace Loge 1-1, Brandon

Mager 1-12; B-Cooper Jedlicka 21-85, Jacob Krabbenhoft 11-27, Trey

Volk 6-8, Mort Ekstrom 8-39

Passing: PR-B-Struss 14-20-201; B-Krabbehoft 3-10-47

Receiving: PR-B-Bradon Mager 10-147, Krecklau 1-14, Shane Fleming 3-38;

B-Ian Cease 1-11, Colton Brown 1-14, Jake Peterson 1-22