Football: Tigers’ defense too much for Bagley
Pine River-Backus Football
PINE RIVER — The Pine River-Backus football team has plenty of home cooking this fall as the Tigers host opponents in four of their first five games. And so far PR-B has been stingy hosts after winning the first two games - including topping the Bagley Flyers 26-0 Friday, Sept. 9
The Tigers have allowed just one score in two games, which was a late touchdown in the opener against Walker-Hackensack-Akeley. PR-B has also allowed just eight total passing yards while surrendering an average of 100 yards rushing per game.
“Our (defensive) success starts up front,” said Tigers head coach Tom Demars. “Our front five has been able to put a lot of pressure on the quarterback, so our secondary and linebackers have not had to cover for long periods of time, making their job easier.”
PR-B’s offense has been equally impressive in two games with senior quarterback Irvin Tulenchik passing for a total of 325 yards and five touchdowns; Rian Struss catching five passes for 135 yards; and Ethan Lodge rushing for 155 yards and two scores.
Against Bagley, PR-B assumed a 6-0 lead late in the opening quarter when Tulenchik found a wide open Ethan Rugroden for a 35-yard touchdown. The Tigers scored again early in the second period on a drive set up by Tulenchik’s long punt return to the Flyers’ 15-yard line. A key play came on fourth-and-two when Tulenchik fumbled the snap, but picked up the ball and ran for the first down. Lodge then scored on the next play with a short run to make it 12-0.
A key play in a scoreless third quarter came when Bagley’s Noah Nelson burst through the middle for a 59-yard touchdown run, but the play was called back due to a holding penalty.
“We were fortunate on the long run (Bagley) had, negating a touchdown,” Demars said. “That would have made it interesting in the second half. Other than that long run that was called back, our defense had its second solid game in a row.”
PR-B extended their lead with a pair of late touchdown runs by Corbin Knapp in the fourth period. The first score capped a long drive, highlighted by Struss’ 27-yard reception. Knapp scored on a 8-yard to make it 20-0 with 5:31 remaining. The Tigers stopped the Flyers on fourth down in the final minutes. PR-B then drove 29 yards to score as Knapp crossed the goal line from 3 yards out with 2.1 seconds left.
Tulenchik finished with 9-of-17 passing for 165 yards. Lodge rushed for 83 yards and Struss had three catches for 54 yards.
“It wasn't pretty at times,” Demars said of the game that featured 15 penalties between the two teams. “We were fortunate to be able to overcome some of our penalties, and keep a couple drives going in the second half.”
Bagley, who is coached by PR-B graduate Brandon Schwegel, did manage to move the ball into the Tigers’ territory three times before being stopped.
PR-B hopes to keep its home field advantage going when it hosts Menahga at 7 p.m., Friday, Sept. 16. The Tigers, along with New York Mills and Wadena-Deer Creek, all lead the Northwest South division standings with 2-0 records.