PINE RIVER — Tom Demars called it efficient and deceptive.
The it being the running attack of Class 1A’s ninth-ranked Pillager Huskies, which ran for 304 yards leading to a 42-0 North Star Conference victory over the Pine River-Backus Tigers Friday.
Demars, the head coach of Tigers, said they thought they had it defended but the three-headed monster that is the Huskies running backs would then make plays.
“You’re never sure who is getting the ball with their running game,” said Demars. “We tried to turn in the sweep with our outside guys and fill gaps with our inside guys. It worked pretty well at times but even when we had guys in the right area their backs were strong enough to break tackles or outrun people. They are a tough team to defend.”
The Tigers stopped Pillager on the Huskies’ first offensive possession. There was no stopping them after that. Jeff Flickinger led Pillager’s running attack with 137 yards on 12 carries, but it was Devin Strack’s 15-yard touchdown run that opened the scoring at 7:22 of the second quarter.
Strack also hauled in an 85-yard touchdown pass from Connor Uselman with 1:42 remaining in the first half to make it 21-0.
“I think we’re getting better, but it’s been hard the last few weeks because our kids haven’t been able to play deep into the second half,” said Pillager head coach Lowell Scearcy. “We knew this game would be a different game because (PR-B) is very strong and they have some big kids. But we have some pretty good backs. We have three or four of them that run the ball pretty well. And then our line is getting better and better as we go along. We’re not big in the line, but the kids get after it pretty good. It’s a pretty smart group of kids as far as knowing their assignments and stuff.”
Flickinger scored his second touchdown on a 61-yard sprint along the right sideline to open the third quarter.
Travis Richards, finished with 91 yards on 14 carries and scored his lone touchdown to make it 35-0 in the third quarter.
Uselman’s one carry of the game gave the Huskies their final score as he dove across the end zone from a yard out. Uselman was also 2-of-2 passing for 88 yards.
“We keep saying we need to get Connor more involved but it’s hard because we get so far ahead,” said Scearcy. “He’s a very good thrower. I just told him on that fade to throw it up and let Strack run under it.”
The Huskies were helped by three Tigers fumbles in the third quarter. The Tigers had four fumbles lost all together and six penalties for 42 yards.
“We knew going in we had a big challenge ahead of us playing a good team,” said Demars. “We knew in order to have success we needed to play a clean game penalty wise and turnover wise and it didn’t happen.”
PR-B’s Jared Adkins led the tigers with 99 yards rushing on 13 carries, but PR-B has now lost three straight after opening the season 4-0.
“Pillager is a good football team but there is no question in my mind we can play with a good football team like that,” said Demars. “It was 21-0 at the half and we gave up one long pass late and a turnover gave them a short field. We also should have had a score. It could have easily been 14-7 or 7-7 at halftime. At that point I thought we were capable of playing with a good football team. I tried to convince the guys of that at halftime and now we’ll need to convince them of that for our next few games before playoffs.”
The win is Pillager’s fifth straight. In that time they have outscored their opponents 296-60. The victory also guarantees the Huskies at least a tie for the conference title unless Blackduck lost Friday, which would hand Pillager the conference crown.
“I’m happy for our kids because I thought they played really well,” said Scearcy. “We knew this was going to be a really tough game and so we’re just happy for our 17 seniors. It’s nice for them to go out winners.”
Pillager 0 21 21 0 — 42
Pine River-Backus 0 0 0 0 — 0
Pill-Devin Strack 15 run (Cherokee DeLeon kick) 7:22
Pill-Jeff Flickinger 5 run (DeLeon kick) 5:59
Pill-Devin Strack 85 pass from Connor Uselman (DeLeon kick) 1:42
Pill-Flickinger 61 run (DeLeon kick) 8:02
Pill-Travis Richards 6 run (DeLeon kick) 4:47
Pill-Uselman 1 run (DeLeon kick) 2:44
Rushes-yards: Pill 44-304, PRB 36-145
Pass comp-att-int-yds: Pill 2-2-0-88, PRB 5-10-0-45
Total offense: Pill 46-392, PRB 46-190
Rushing: Pill-Jeff Flickinger 12-137, Devin Strack 6-48, Travis Richards 14-91, Connor Uselman 1-1, Dezmond Berndt 3-16, Nick Ruhl 4-11, team 4-(-8); PRB-Jared Adkins 13-99, Drey Loge 7-31, Beau Howard 15-17, team 1-(-2)
Passing: Pill-Uselman 2-2-88; PRB-Howard 5-10-45
Receiving: Pill-Strack 1-85, Flickinger 1-3; PRB-Jace Loge 2-24, Drey Loge 1-9, Tyler Burgoyne 1-5, Brandon Mager 1-7