Pillager scored three times in the third quarter and held off a couple of late scoring threats to defeat United North Central 22-14 in a Midwest Blue District football game Friday night at Pillager.
After a scoreless first quarter, James Clark's 5-yard TD run and conversion run gave the Warriors an 8-0 lead at the 8:43 mark of the second quarter.
Pillager opened the second half with a 68-yard TD run by Dylan Loftis and Logan Gjovik's conversion run to tie the game at 8-8 at the 7:35 mark. The Warriors reclaimed the lead on Clark's 35-yard TD run on the ensuing series. That gave UNC a 14-8 lead with 5:19 to play in the third quarter.
The Huskies countered with a pair of touchdowns by Eli Horn, whose 37-yard TD run and conversion provided an 18-16 advantage at the 4:45 mark and 7-yard TD run at the 1:16 mark capped a short 42-yard drive after Pillager recovered the ensuing kickoff. That concluded the scoring as both defenses delivered in the fourth quarter.
On UNC's final two possessions, the Huskies' Tucker Peterson intercepted a pass at the Pillager 5 and knocked down a pass at the Pillager 24 to seal the win.
The Huskies rushed for 282 yards with Loftis gaining 167 yards on 17 carries and Horn adding 68 yards on eight attempts. Pillager was rated No. 3 in the state Class AA poll before dropping to the No. 14 spot following a 35-8 loss to Ottertail Central in Week 3.
UNC finished with 269 yards in offense with Clark completing 11 of 23 passes for 159 yards and rushing 30 times for 95 yards. Tristan Aho caught four passes for 73 yards for the Warriors, who entered this game rated No. 9 in the state Class AA poll.
"It was a tough battle between two very good football teams," said UNC head coach Jeremy Nordick. "I felt we had much of the momentum throughout the first half. However, at the end of the first half we had a drive stall and we seemingly lost a bit of an edge going into the half. It showed in the third quarter as we really came out flat and Pillager took advantage of it quickly. Our guys didn't fold when things were just unraveling on us. It was definitely a test of toughness after that. Pillager had all the momentum, but we battled back in the fourth to have a chance to tie it up in the end. This time it didn't work out, but I think the guys will use it as a learning experience and move on."
Pillager and UNC are now tied for second place in the district standings with 2-1 records. Both teams are 3-1 overall. Ottertail Central improved to 3-0 in the district and 4-0 overall with a 28-14 win over Staples-Motley, which fell to 1-1 in district play and 1-3 overall. Long Prairie-Grey Eagle fell to 0-2 in the district and 0-4 overall following a 48-0 loss to Hawley while Wadena-Deer Creek fell to 0-3 in the district and 0-4 overall following a 28-20 loss to West Central Area, which is now 1-1 in district games and 2-2 overall.
Warroad tops the Section 8AA standings with a 5-0 record after defeating Cass Lake 34-14. In Friday night's other section games, Barnesville defeated Pelican Rapids 42-14, Crookston topped Breckenridge 26-21, Bagley defeated Walker-Hackensack-Akeley 21-12 and Roseau edged Eveleth-Gilbert 9-8. Barnesville and Hawley improved to 4-0 while UNC, Bagley and Crookston sit at 3-1. Roseau improved to 1-3.
The Warriors host Staples-Motley at Sebeka this Friday night in another district clash. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
United North Central 0 8 6 0...14
Pillager 0 0 22 0...22
UNC--Clark 5 run (Clark run)
P--Loftis 68 run (Gjovik run)
UNC--Clark 35 run (run failed)
P--Horn 37 run (Horn run)
P--Horn 7 run (run failed)
RUSHING. UNC: Clark 39-95, Anderson 4-15, Floyd 7-0. Pillager: Loftis 17-167, Horn 8-68, Gjovik 7-39.
PASSING. UNC: Clark 11-23-1 for 159 yards. Pillager: Doss 4-7-0 for 46 yards.
RECEIVING. UNC: Aho 4-73, Dailey 2-44, Lillquist 2-40, Anderson 2-6, Floyd 1-(-4). Pillager: Hines 1-27, Horn 1-18, Loftis 1-2.