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High School Football: Turnovers key as Tigers fall to NYM

Pine River-Backus hosted New York Mills in the Section 6-1A Semifinals.

Connor Tulenchik catch.JPG
Pine River-Backus' Connor Tulenchik catches the ball along the sidelines in the Tigers' 38-20 Section 6-1A semifinal loss to New York Mills Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021. Contributed by Lena Richards

PINE RIVER — Turnovers and field possession usually determine the outcome when two evenly matched high school teams meet in a playoff game.

That was exactly the case Saturday, Oct. 30, when the No. 3 New York Mills Eagles defeated the No. 2 Pine River-Backus Tigers 38-20 in the Section 6-1A Semifinals.

Both teams entered the game with just one loss, and in Saturday’s semifinal, PR-B actually compiled more than 100 total yards of offense than NYM. But the Eagles came away victorious by taking advantage of five turnovers (three interceptions, a fumble recovery and a recovered onside kick) to just one fumble recovery by the Eagles. NYM also started five drives in PR-B territory and three more drives began outside their own 40. Meanwhile, the Tigers didn’t start any drives in Eagles’ territory.

“Field possession was the key to the game, especially in the first half,” said PR-B coach Tom Demars, whose squad also lost to NYM 26-12 during the regular season. “You can’t get things going when you don’t have good field possession. The turnovers also hurt. We didn’t play well against them for the second time this year, but I do give (NYM) credit. They’re a good team.”

The Tigers tallied on their opening possession as Carson Travis wrestled the ball from a defender and scored on a 64-yard pass from Irvin Tulenchik. But NYM rallied with two touchdowns in the final 1:48 of the opening quarter to take a 16-8 lead.

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PR-B cut the deficit to 16-14 on Ethan Lodge’s 14-yard score early in the second quarter. But the Eagles answered on quarterback Bren Salo’s third touchdown run to take a 24-14 lead with 1:08 left in the half.

“Bren (Salo) has been a big force for us for three years,” NYM coach Matt Radniecki said of his senior, who combined for four TD runs against the Tigers this year. “This game had a lot more offense than our first meeting. We’re both run-oriented teams, but we had to pass today because (PR-B) stopped our run.”

The Eagles extended the lead to 30-14 going into the fourth quarter. Connor Tulenchik’s 75-yard scoring reception from his cousin Irvin Tulenchik closed the gap for the Tigers with 5:08 left.

“That was a big play,” said Irvin Tulenchik, who passed for 249 yards. “We thought we could pass on (NYM), but their coverage was good on the interceptions.”

Jonah Johnson’s 31-yard scoring run with 3:17 sealed the win for the Eagles. NYM, which improved to 8-1 and will advance to its first section final since 2007, will face No. 4 Breckenridge in the championship game Friday, Nov. 5, in the Fargodome.

New York Mills 8 6 8 -- 38
Pine River-Backus 6 0 6 -- 20

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First quarter
PRB-Carson Travis 64 pass from Irvin Tulenchik (Connor Tulenchik pass from Irvin Tulenchik) 8:46
NYM-Bren Salo 13 run (Ethan Ruther pass from Salo) 1:48
NYM-Salo 2 run (Jonah Johnson pass from Salo) :00
Second quarter
PRB-Ethan Lodge 14 run (pass failed) 9:42
NYM-Salo 2 run (Dane Niemi run) 1:08
Third quarter
NYM-Ruther 4 run (pass failed) 6:53
Fourth quarter
PRB-Connor Tulenchik 75 pass from Irvin Tulenchik (run failed) 5:08
NYM-Johnson 31 run (Niemi run) 3:17
Team statistics
Rushes-yards: PRB 23-61, NYM 55-136
Pass comp-att-int-yds: PRB 12-26-3-249, NYM 6-7-0-68
Total offense: PRB 310, NYM 204

Individual leaders
Rushing: PRB-Connor Tulenchik 8-44, Ethan Lodge 6-28
Passing: PRB-Irvin Tulenchik 12-23-2-249
Receiving: PRB-Travis 5-119, Connor Tulenchik 3-118
Overall: PRB finishes 8-2.
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