After its first taste of defeat last week, the Bear River football squad is right back at it with another familiar foe as it squares off with Placer at 7:30 p.m. today.
This is the last home game of the regular season for the Bruins, who still have plenty of football left before they stake their claim for a potential playoff game at J. David Ramsey Field.
“We’ve talked a lot about that,” said Bruins’ co-head coach, Terry Logue. “(Our players) have to understand that if they want a home playoff game, we have to win at least three out of the last four.”
First and foremost, however, to make the playoffs, the Bruins will need at least two Pioneer Valley League wins and Placer (2-4, 1-0 PVL) already earned its first last week in a 56-14 rout over Foothill.
Although the Hillmen have an overall losing record, they’ve played a challenging preseason schedule, which included a season opener versus Division IV State Champion Central Catholic. It’s other losses have come against Christian Brothers, Yuba City and Division I Woodcreek, which survived 48-47 after the Hillmen’s 2-pt conversion failed. Placer’s other win came against McLane (Fresno).
“Totally different kind of offense than Colfax,” said Logue. “These guys are a miss direction offense — quick tempo, get up to the line, try to get you to miss align, shift guys around, lot of reverses, lot of counters, if you don’t stay home you’re going to give big plays on the backside. They also have the ability to throw the ball— quarterback throws well. They have a couple of good receivers, Valliere, No. 10, the really good little running back, big physical line. They played a tough preseason and are undefeated in league, and they’re the defending league champions so I’m sure they’re coming in here expecting to roll us over, and we’re going to have to play a really good game.”
Last season at Placer it was the Hillmen hanging on for a 14-7 victory in a defensive battle. Both offenses scored all their points in the first quarter and then things quieted down. Running the ball was not effective for the Bruins, who finished with 17 carries for 3 yards while Placer ran 58 times for 276. Bear River’s only score came off an interception return for a touchdown by junior Hunter Cramer.
“Well, we’re hoping we’re going to be able to run the ball,” said co-head coach Scott Savoie. “Last year we weren’t able to. They had a guy that’s playing for UCLA right now, up front they had another kid on scholarship at Sac State, four excellent defensive linemen — they’re really good again this year, but I don’t think they’re that level. We need to be able to run the ball this year to be competitive. Even though (Braden) Duncan’s throwing the ball well and we have a host of receivers doing well, we need to be able to mix it up. Hopefully we’re going to be able to get it done up front and get a chance to move that football and score some points. Hopefully it’s a mix of run and pass.”
Placer averages 39 points per game this season but has allowed 41.5. Offensively, the Hillmen are built to run, averaging 333.2 yards per game thanks largely to senior backs Todd Valliere and Cameron Scott. Valliere’s 775 yards is second best in the PVL behind only Lincoln’s Dan Stimbert (1,042). Valliere and Scott have combined for 1,332 yards and 14 touchdowns. Valliere also leads the team in receiving yards with 293. Placer’s senior quarterback Logan Strange has thrown at a 43-percent clip for 695 yards with six touchdowns and four interceptions.
Bruins’ senior quarterback Duncan will have a chance to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark in passing yards. He currently sits at 850 yards having completed 58.5 percent of his passes with eight touchdowns and one interception.
“It’s no secret they want to run the ball,” said Bear River assistant coach Mo Barrios. “The key is to stuff them and force third-and-9, fourth-and-12.”
Yet despite Placer’s high-powered running attack, no one in the PVL has scored more points than Bear River’s senior fullback Brad Botsford, who has broken the goal line 14 times for 84 points. The points leader took some time off practice this week for physical therapy but is good to go, according to Bear River’s co-head coaches Logue and Savoie. Also in the lineup is running back Caleb Johnson, who had limited play last week, returning from his collar bone injury. Logue says he’s at about 80-85 percent.
Defensively, Placer’s Austin Hess leads the PVL with three interceptions, but the Bruins also have an impressive secondary with John Voter III, Kris Edie and Michael Tipton, who each have two. At linebacker Voter also leads the team in tackles with 40 followed closely by David Chorjel with 39. Wrapping up the Hillmen isn’t going to be easy.
“Our kids have to bounce back from that heartbreaking loss last week,” added Logue. “That’s the hard thing, is to dig down and fight back again this week even though we lost a heartbreaker.”