The offense is rolling, the defense is dominating and the Pillager Huskies football team is ready to tackle its toughest opponent.
Class 1A's second-ranked Huskies survived formidable battles against Browerville and Bertha-Hewitt before they pummeled Royalton 36-0 last week. Pillager looks to remain perfect when it hosts Class 2A's fifth-ranked and unbeaten Ottertail Central 7:30 p.m. Friday.
Dating back to Sept. 29, 2000, Pillager has won 20 of 24 games. Two of those losses transpired in the 1A state tournament. The other two were against OTC.
"Last year we had high expectations and we came out on the short end against them," said Pillager coach Dan Boushee. "It might be because they're a bigger school then us. There might be a mental thing, but I don't think we're going to be intimidated."
Two-years ago Pillager was knocked around 56-6 by the Bulldogs. Last year, the Huskies were blanked 28-0. This time Pillager will look to get bullish with the Bulldogs.
"It's not so much what they do, it's what we do," Boushee said. "We can't afford mental mistakes like last week with a holding penalty or not having our mouthguards in."
Boushee said OTC employs a power running game out of a double-wing formation. It throws some counters in the mix with a talented running corps. Last Friday OTC blanked Bertha-Hewitt 30-0.
Last week Pillager looked unbeatable against Royalton. Its offense rolled up 381 yards on the ground. The defense held the Royals to just 133 total yards and kept them out of the end zone. But there's still room for improvement.
"We're looking at everything, all facets of our team need to get better," Boushee said. "Defensively, we did a much better job than we did against Bertha but there are still some things.
"Our secondary needs to make more plays on the football. We were in the right spots but we weren't aggressive in defending and going after the ball."
Much of Pillager's success was due to the offensive and defensive lines. But quarterback Jason Eastman and the running back platoon of Tony Mason, Robert Bethel and Thomas Buckingham utilized the offensive line to inflict the damage.
Mason led the Huskies with 132 yards rushing. Bethel had 63 yards and two touchdowns and Buckingham finished with 99 yards and two scores.
The fact Pillager has played two formidable opponents in Browerville and B-H does give Boushee some confidence heading into Friday.
The Pine River-Backus Tigers have picked up in the Mid-State Conference where they left off in the Park Region Conference.
The Tigers are 2-1 in their first year of competing in the Mid-State. This week they'll volley for wins over Wadena-Deer Creek 7:30 p.m. today and Pequot Lakes 7:30 p.m. Thursday.
The Tigers are led by the setting of Carollie Christensen and the power of Chelsa Schwegel. They combined to give PR-B a second-place finish at the Crosby-Ironton Invitational Saturday.
Schwegel led the team with 21 kills followed by Jacqueline Farnam's 14 and Erica Richards' 13. Christensen had 49 set assists in the tournament.
In other Mid-State action Staples-Motley travels to Crosby-Ironton 7:30 p.m. today. C-I was led by setter Devan Preimesberger's 70 set assists and Sarah Uglem's 36 kills at its invitational. The Rangers need to contend with the Cardinals' Michelle Honek, who had 11 kills and 6 blocks in a win over Frazee Sept. 12, and setter Jenna Dumprope who added 16 set assists.
Last year, PR-B finished 7-1 in the Park Region and is second in the Mid-State behind unbeaten Detroit Lakes.
"It's obviously bigger schools and a little better competition," said Tigers coach Tom Lupella. "Sebeka was tough and Bertha-Hewitt was tough and we still have a lot respect for those schools, but obviously the addition of DL and some of the other schools has made competition tougher, which is good for the girls because they need to step it up another level."
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