Tigers hold off Pillager 21-18

On a cold Friday night, Sept. 12, the Pine River-Backus Tigers hosted the Pillager Huskies in a North Star Conference battle of 1-1 overall teams. When it was over, the Tigers had edged the Huskies 21-18.

Pine River-Backus running back Henry Krecklau, 23, follows the block of teammate Zach Semmler, 81, as runs toward Pillager tackler Chris Ramsey on Friday, Sept. 12. The Tigers edged the visiting Huskies 21-18. Photo by Lena Richards

On a cold Friday night, Sept. 12, the Pine River-Backus Tigers hosted the Pillager Huskies in a North Star Conference battle of 1-1 overall teams. When it was over, the Tigers had edged the Huskies 21-18.

Henry Krecklau had two touchdowns and rushed for 128 yards for PR-B, which had not defeated Pillager in its last five meetings between the teams.

"We hadn't beat (Pillager) since they joined the conference so it was nice for this group to get the win," said PR-B coach Tom Demars. "We had too many penalties, and we still need to improve."On Pillager's first possession, they had three big plays two sweep plays to Beau Van Vickle that went for 10 and 11 yards, the biggest play was a 36-yard pass connection between Ryder Hunstad to Damian Fink to the TIgers' 2-yard-line, but that's where the drive ended as Hunstad fumbled and PR-B recovered.

Starting their second drive from their two, the Tigers were unable to move the ball much and were forced to punt, which was blocked by the Huskies and recovered in the end zone for a touchdown by TJ Ahmann with 3:48 to go in the first quarter.

The Tigers started to get things going offensively on their next possession as quarterback Zach Struss connected with Zach Semmler for 29 yards to the Huskies' 31. On the next play he hit his brother, Kiel Struss, for a 21-yard gain to the Pillager 10. On the next play, Henry Krecklau took the handoff on a dive play to the right for the 10-yard score and a 7-6 lead with 1:54 left in the first quarter. Once again the Huskies drove down the field to the Tigers' 3, but stalled as the Huskies failed to convert on fourth down.


PR-B turned the ball over on an interception on the next play. Chris Ramsey then took the handoff and scored from three yards away for a 12-7 lead with 4:02 to go in the half.

The Tigers then went on one of their better drives of the night with two big pass plays from Zach Struss - one to Hank Raph for 16 yards and the other to Zach Semmler for 20 yards. The drive was capped with a 3-yard pass to Kiel Struss with 39.2 seconds to go in the half to give PR-B a 14-12 lead.

Hanging on to a two-point lead, the Tigers were hungry to put some distant between them and the Huskies in the third quarter. They began a drive with Nick Gravdahl running for 10 yards plus a facemask penalty. Krecklau had admirable runs of 12, 11 and 16 yards, and then Struss delivered a strike to Krecklau for a 10-yard scoring pass midway through the third period to make it 21-12.

PR-B then recovered a squib kick on the next play, but that opportunity ended when Struss was intercepted in the end zone. The Huskies were later driving when PR-B's Nick Gravdahl sacked Hunstad for a 10-yard loss. Pillager eventually turned the ball over on downs, but the Tigers' drive lasted just one play as Krecklau fumbled on the Tigers' 38, and the Huskies recovered. On the next play, Beau Van Vickle rambled 31 yards for a Pillager score with just 2:32 left to cut the deficit to 21-18. The Tigers then held on for the close win.

The Tigers are scheduled to travel to Walker to take on the Walker-Hackensack-Akeley (0-3) in another conference battle on Friday, Sept. 19.

Pillager 6 6 0 6 - 18

Pine River-Backus 7 7 7 0 - 21

First quarter


Pill-TJ Ahmann recovery in end zone (kick blocked) 3:48

PRB-Henry Krecklau 10 run (Nick Gravdahl kick) 1:54

Second quarter

Pill-Chris Ramsey 3 run (run failed) 4:02

PRB-Kiel Struss 3 pass from Zach Struss (Gravdahl kick) 39.2

Third quarter

PRB-Krecklau 30 pass from Zach Struss (Gravdahl kick) 7:09

Fourth quarter


Pill-Beau Van Vickle 30 run (kick failed) 2:32

Team statistics

Rushes-yards: Pill 26-97, PRB 42-139

Pass comp-att-int-yds: Pill 12-26-1-167, PRB 15-25-2-181

Total offense: Pill 52-264, PRB 66-320

Individual leaders

Rushing: Pill-Dillan Eischeid 8-25, Chris Gjovik 2-3, Beau Van Vickle 8-79, Chris Ramsey 5-15, Ryder Hunstad 3-(-25), PRB-Krecklau 28-128, Gravdahl 8-16, Zach Struss 6-(-5)

Passing: Pill-Ryder Hunstad 12-25-167, PRB-Struss 15-25-181

Receiving: Pill-Damian Fink 3-48, Gjovik 3-29, Van Vickle 2-32, Brian Mason 3-56, Hunter Haggerty 1-2, PRB-Hank Raph 5-61, Zach Semmler 3-53, Kiel Struss 4-37, Krecklau 3-30

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