The Wadena-Deer Creek football team was minutes away from a comeback victory on Wednesday night against Pine River-Backus.

The Tigers(7-1) got the better of the Wolverines (4-4) by a score of 16-14. The Tigers found the end zone first on a handoff to sophomore Ethan Lodge, who ran towards the outside to get some space from defenders before getting past the pylon.

The Wolverines responded with a passing touchdown to junior Charlie Bushinger. W-DC would miss the two-point conversion after running a fade passing route to the back left side of the end zone.

The Tigers came roaring back with a touchdown with 4:02 left in the half. They would convert on the two-point attempt after faking a FG, putting them up 16-6.

On the final drive of the half, W-DC quarterback Payton Rondestvedt struggled to find a rhythm. He overthrew Teshe Loer twice and Josh Dykoff once on streak routes. W-DC head coach Kyle Petermeier called a timeout with 1:55 left–hoping to inject some juice into his offense.

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Wadena's Payton Rondestvedt (3) tackles the ball carrier on Oct. 20, 2021 in the Wolverines' 16-14 loss to Pine River-Backus int he regular-season finale. (Aaron Young / Wadena Pioneer Journal)
Wadena's Payton Rondestvedt (3) tackles the ball carrier on Oct. 20, 2021 in the Wolverines' 16-14 loss to Pine River-Backus int he regular-season finale. (Aaron Young / Wadena Pioneer Journal)

Rondestvedt got the first down, but was nearly picked off by PR-B defenders twice in the next set of downs. On 4th-and-16, the Wolverines’ trick play was unsuccessful as the ball sailed over the head of Rondestvedt.

At halftime, Petermeier took the players off the field and into a huddle.

“We just told our guys to stay the course because we know that (Rondestvedt) is the best quarterback we’ve ever had in the school,” Petermeier said. “We know that he can do a lot of good things, so for him, it’s not a whole lot of getting after him. It’s more focused on (sticking) with it and keep going because good things are gonna happen,”

Despite his shortcomings, Rondestvedt rejuvenated the offense with a pass to Dykoff.

“That was really good,” Petermeier said. “He got us going, gave everybody some new energy and to get some extra life.”

On the next play, the Wolverines scored on a pass with the third quarter expiring, and were successful in the two point conversion. With momentum swaying towards the home team, the crowd was on their feet hoping for a comeback.

The Tigers committed multiple penalties throughout the game from false starts to holding calls. Each run ended up with an opponent pouncing on their prey. The Wolverines got the ball back midway through the fourth quarter but gave the ball back to PR-B on a failed fourth down play.

The Wolverines were 0-for-3 on fourth down conversions, but Petermeier kept his faith in the offense to make a play in a big spot.

“We have trust in our offense,” Petermeier said. “We trust in our quarterback, and our guys make plays. If we see something out there we can maybe get in on fourth down, we’re going to do it. And regardless of how successful we are, we’re going to do it.”

A final timeout was called with 1:23 left in the game, but the Tigers got a first down and kneeled down.

On senior night, Rondesvedt took away the positives.

“We really just got the running game going,” Rondesvedt said. “Obviously, we’d like to win, and play our hearts out, but our focus is playoffs. Hopefully, you go in and win a couple games there.”

Wolverines finished the regular season 4-4, with a 2-2 home record. After a regular-season finale against a Class A juggernaut Pine River-Backus, the Wolverines are aiming for more success in the Section 6AA playoffs.