As the clock wound down to zero, the Bear River football team (8-3, 3-2 PVL) didn’t need to look up at the scoreboard because the 63-20 defeat had sunk in enough already, and the two-hour bus ride home would provide plenty of time to think about what could of been.
Friday’s opening round of the Division IV Sac-Joaquin Section football playoffs in Modesto set the stage for No. 6 seed Central Catholic not only to prove that it belonged there but that it is here to make some noise.
“We could not find an answer,” said co-head coach Terry Logue. “It was a tough way to end a good year.”
The Raiders came out rolling early, scoring 21 unanswered points in the first quarter. On the first play from scrimmage, quarterback Dillon Smith pitched out to Cody Heard, who pulled up to pass downfield, but the ball was deflected at the line and intercepted by Central Catholic. The Raiders ran for a 35-yard touchdown on the following play.
On the Bruins’ next drive, which began from their 15-yard line, they came up just short on third down and chose to gamble from their own 24 on fourth down.
They pushed forward 1 yard and kept the drive alive; however, on the next play, they fumbled and Central Catholic recovered for terrific field position. Two plays later, the Raiders punched it in the end zone from 4 yards out.
Part of the Bruins’ strategy was to extend their drives and keep Central Catholic’s potent offense off the field as much as possible. To accomplish this, Bear River took extra seconds to get up on the ball, which also made the defense guess which reads they would get.
“We were trying to slow the game down,” Logue said.
On the Raiders’ next drive, Bear River’s Cameron Barrios snagged an interception to give his team new life. But the Raider defense came up with a stop and forced the Bruins to punt.
Five plays later, Ray Lomas IV added another touchdown on a 1-yard plunge. Lomas IV finished with three touchdowns on the night.
Down 21-0, Bear River suddenly found its rhythm on offense and put together an 80-yard drive, capped off by a pump-fake and pass by Smith to the back corner of the end zone into the outstretched arms of Kimble.
After a couple changes of possession, Smith got another chance and again completed a touchdown pass to Kimble, this time from 14 yards out to complete a 70-yard drive.
“With 1:20 left in the second, (Central Catholic) had to be sweating,” said co-head coach Scott Savoie. “We made it a game — 21-0 to 21-14.”
Before the half, however, the Raiders marched 55 yards downfield, and running back Rey Vega darted into the end zone with 20 ticks left to give his team a 28-14 lead at the break. Vega finished with four touchdowns on the night.
The second half was one the Bruins would likely choose to redo if they had the chance, as they were outscored 35-6 on their way to being eliminated from the postseason in the first round for the second straight year.
The Raider offense racked up 331 yards of total offense with 303 yards rushing on just 23 carries for the game, and of Central Catholic’s 13 offensive possessions, it scored on nine of them, six coming on drives of 42 yards or fewer.
Bear River’s turnovers not only proved costly, but they often gave the Raiders a short field to work with. Central Catholic’s special teams also proved to be quite the task to cover on returns, which set the offense up with great field position as well.
“I felt like the kids never gave up,” said Savoie. “Tonight was a little lopsided, but I appreciated their resiliency. It’s been a lot of fun working with them.”
In Smith’s final high school game, he was 19-of-26 passing for 213 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. He found his favorite target, Kimble, 15 times on the night, and Kimble finished with 181 yards and two touchdowns, putting him at 11 for the season.
Andrew Reiss Jr. led all rushers with 29 yards on seven carries. The only other points came from an 8-yard run by Brad Botsford in the third quarter, which made it 35-20.
Defensively for the Bruins, Kris Edie had four tackles, an interception and a fumble recovery. Barrios wrapped up six tackles and hauled in an interception. Botsford chipped in five tackles, and Jake Savoie had four tackles, one a sack for a loss of 9 yards to force a punt from the Raiders.
“This is championship football. Muscles don’t grow overnight. We got to work harder,” said Savoie.
The Raiders will continue their pursuit of a section championship next week when they face an undefeated No. 3 seed in Ripon, which won 40-0 over No. 14 seed Amador Friday.
To contact Sports Writer Brian Shepard, email email@example.com or call (530) 477-4234.