With the league title on the line and playoffs on the horizon, the Jr. Miners and Jr. Bruins dug in for a gridiron battle at Hooper Stadium Saturday.
Both teams (Midget Division) came into the cross-county contest with identical 7-1 records and a playoff berth already sewn up; all that was left to play for was seeding and pride.
When it was all said and done, it was the boys in cardinal and gray from Bear River who walked away with the league title, beating the Jr. Miners 30-14 in a game that was much closer than the score would indicate.
Bear River’s run game was impressive, eating up 301 yards and accounting for four touchdowns. Leading that rush attack was Austin Baze with 149 yards and three touchdowns.
Baze, a power back with breakaway speed, battered away at the NU defense at times and sliced right through it on others.
“We really wanted to win today,” Baze said. “We came out like we wanted to win, and we did it. The line was great. You can’t do anything without a good line, the line is the soul of the team, and you can’t do anything without them.”
Bear River’s Zach Rubey, a speed back with electric moves, chipped in 117 yards and a touchdown, and Justin Kilgore added 34 yards, helping the Jr. Bruins run out the clock late in the game.
Bear River got the scoring started with a 12-play, 65-yard drive that ate up more than five minutes, concluding with a Baze 2-yard plunge into the end zone.
The score would remain 8-0 until the second quarter when Baze busted through the NU defensive front and into the open field for a 64-yard touchdown, putting the Jr. Bruins up 16-0 at half.
In the third quarter, the Miners answered on their opening possession, an eight-play, 80-yard drive capped off with a 46-yard touchdown run by Dawson Fay. Fay was patient on the run, letting his blockers set up, and when he saw the opening, blew past the Jr. Bruin defense for the score. NU quarterback and kicker Owen Dal Bon nailed the extra-point kick, which counts for two, making it 16-8 in Bear River’s favor.
Fay led the Jr. Miners on the ground with 97 yards on 11 carries and the touchdown.
The Jr. Bruins’ Rubey halted NU’s momentum on the next drive, taking a handoff and going 46 yards down to the Miner 6-yard line. Rubey then punched it in from 2 yards out on third-and-goal.
Trailing 24-8 in the fourth quarter, NU showed no quit as Dal Bon rolled out and hit Hayden Fay for a 64-yard touchdown. The extra point was blocked, making the score 24-14 with 4:40 left.
For the game, Dal Bon was 3-of-7 for 77 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
Bear River put it out of reach two drives later, set up by a Clay Corripo interception. On the ensuing drive, Baze tallied his third touchdown, this time from 20 yards out.
“I have the best coaching staff and the best 18 kids you could possibly want on a football field,” Bear River head coach Jeff Smith said. “At the beginning of the season, they decided they wanted to be good, and they just worked every day at practice and wanted to get better.”
In 11 years of coaching youth football, this was Smith’s first league title, an accomplishment he said ranks among the top in his life. Last season, his team went without a win.
Both NU (7-2) and Bear River (8-1) have this weekend off before lacing ’em up for the playoffs Nov. 2.
Jr. Pee Wee
Bear River 18, Nevada Union 6
In a matchup of top Jr. Pee Wee squads, the Jr. Bruins beat the Jr. Miners in a defensive battle.
Bear River’s Tyler Dzioba was the difference in this one as the running back and linebacker made multiple plays on both sides of the ball.
On the offensive end, Dzioba tallied two touchdowns, one from 3 yards out to put the Jr. Bruins up 6-0 just before half time. Dzioba later scored on a 65-yard touchdown run to break a 6-6 tie in the fourth quarter.
Nevada Union’s Jaxon Horne had previously knotted the game at 6-6 with a 53-yard touchdown scamper. On the run, Horne swept around the edge, shook one tackler, cut back against the grain and was gone. Horne led NU on the ground with 83 yards. Isaiah Walker added 43 yards, and Aaron Meyer tallied 24 yards.
With NU trailing 12-6 in the waning stages of the fourth quarter, Dzioba’s defensive prowess came to the forefront as he stripped the ball from an NU ball carrier as the player fought for extra yards. Dzioba took the fumble back for a touchdown to put Bear River ahead for good.
Also contributing big games for Bear River were Andre Furlano and Daniel Bamburg.
Defensively, NU had several players step up with big games. Austin Cameron had eight tackles, Walker had eight tackles, Davis Webb had seven tackles, Isaiah Carter wrapped up four, Meyer had a sack and an interception, and Caden “Fun Size” Harlabakis tallied a couple bone-jarring tackles and a sack. Cameron Cormack, Joseph Castro and Drew Wasley all chipped in strong defensive efforts as well.
Both the Jr. Miners and Jr. Bruins are headed to the playoffs.
Bear River 32, Nevada Union 30
Nevada Union’s Ethan Billock got out of bed Saturday morning on a mission to play the best game of his life.
To say he was successful is an understatement. The Miners’ offensive line was on fire all day with superb blocking, and Billock rushed for 224 yards and five touchdowns. He didn’t stop there as he also led the defense with 13 tackles, two for a loss, and one sack. NU’s Trayton Santos added 94 yards rushing and 10 tackles.
Despite the incredible rushing effort, the Jr. Bruins were just as good when they were on offense and edged the Miners in the final regular season game of the year.
Defensively for the Jr. Miners, James Kinney totaled 11 tackles, Riley Smith had no fear picking up seven tackles, consistently taking on runners twice his size, and Myles DeHart tallied five tackles.
Nevada Union 25, Woodland 13
At the beginning of the season, Nevada Union defensive coordinator Duane Daniels told the team that he would award a T-shirt for the NU player of the game at the conclusion each week’s contest.
The T-shirts display the letters NGU, which stands for “Never Give Up.” The Pee Wees, team mom Sari Townsend and their coaching staff led by head coach Kent Weiss put in hundreds of practice hours during the season, working toward that elusive first win. The easy way out of a challenging season would have been to show up, go through the motions and leave Woodland and the 2013 season in the dust.
Holding true to the NGU motto, the Miners came out hungry and focused on their first possession.
Quarterback Bailey Brooke handed off Charles Wilcoxen running to the outside, drawing the whole Jr. Wolves team his direction, but before hitting the line of scrimmage, he stopped and threw a perfect strike to a wide-open Bailey Brooke, who took the ball in stride, romping untouched for 55 yards and a TD.
By the time the game was over NU had racked up 314 rushing yards and its first win of the season.
Dillon “Duece” Roberts led NU with 126 rushing yards, including a 60-yard touchdown run. Mason Terray added 85 yards, Ben Taylor gobbled up 70 yards, and Ty Daughtery scored from 24 yards out.
On defense, Sammy “Mossy” Slay and Zach Fink led the Jr. Miners with six tackles each. Matthew Dal Bon had three tackles and a blocked punt.
Kyler Case, Nathan Ward, Max Lundmark and Bryan Cowan all tallied several tackles in the win.
Cole “Count” Fletcher was awarded Player of the Game honors for his outstanding play on the day as well as his dedication to the team and willingness to give his best no matter where he was positioned on the field.
Bear River 28, Nevada Union 0
The Jr. Bruins were simply too much for the Jr. Miners to handle Saturday.
In the loss, NU’s Logan Lopez ran for 70 yards, carrying most of the offensive load for the Jr. Miners.
Oscar Rodriguez had 11 tackles and a sack, Isaac Ortega had seven tackles, Arturo Marmol had six tackles, Buddy Chapman tallied five tackles and a sack, and Brayden Turiello, Derek Droivold and Hunter Daniels each had four tackles.
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.