After a 5-0 start, the Bruins have dropped two consecutive games but have the opportunity to grab a much needed Pioneer Valley League win at 7:30 p.m. today when they kickoff their three-week road trip at Center.
The game will also be featured as KCRA news’ Red Ribbon Game of the Week.
Things won’t be any easier this week for Bear River as the squad will be without senior running back Caleb Johnson and fullback Brad Botsford, who leads the PVL in scoring with 90 points and scored the Bruins’ only touchdown last week.
We’re a little bit beat up,” Bruins’ co-head coach Scott Savoie said. “ We have some guys out. We probably won’t have Brad Botsford (tonight). We definitely won’t have Johnson, so we have other guys that have to step up there and get it done. Getting back to the basics — blocking and tackling, that’s what it’s all about.”
Johnson has missed practice and school all week due to illness and Botsford hasn’t suited up at practice due to a leg injury and will likely not see much playing time, if at all. Instead, starting at half back for the Bruins will be senior Michael Tipton and junior John Voter III. Starting at fullback will be David Chorjel, who was able to get some reps last week after Botsford’s early exit. Quarterback Braden Duncan will also need to return to form after completing just 5-of-15 passes last week — his second straight week below the 50 percent clip. Shoes will most definitely need to be filled if Bear River has plans of pulling out a road win.
The Cougars (4-3, 1-1 PVL) feature a powerful and talented offense that loves to run the ball. Senior running back Joe Swen leads the team in scoring with 12 touchdowns and has rushed for 896 yards, an average of 149.3 per game. The team nets 258 yards on the ground per game. Slowing Center down is going to be essential for Bear River. Coming off a week when it struggled defending the run against Placer, the urgency has to be higher than ever.
“Well we’ve had a good week of practice actually,” Savoie said. “We’ve had two tough weeks here and last week especially we did not play well at all. You know it’s all about getting back in the saddle. We had to explain to the kids what it meant to circle the wagons. Coach (Terry Logue) actually had to pull out an old western today to kind of show them what it actually meant. That’s kind of where were at. It’s time to circle the wagons. It’s time to step up and stop feeling sorry for yourselves.”
Center has had its fair share of problems too. The PVL favorite, once ranked by MaxPreps as No. 7 in the Sac-Joaquin Section, started off the season with three straight wins over Encina Prep, Chico and River Valley, but then it went into a nose dive and lost three in a row as they fell to Rio Linda, Vanden and Lincoln. However, last week the Cougars roared once again and put an end their losing streak with an impressive 45-28 win over Colfax. In that game the defense picked Falcons’ quarterback Michael Wilson three times. Currently the Cougars are ranked No. 46 while Bear River has slid to No. 50.
A lot of credit for Center’s offense can also be attributed to senior quarterback Tyrel Anderson who is 34-of-71 (.479) for 621 yards with five touchdowns and two interceptions. It’s not Anderson’s arm that wreaked havoc though, he also has wheels and needs to be defended as a dual threat. He’s the team’s second leading rusher with 500 yards and can present a slough of problems for any defense that doesn’t stay on its toes.
“Well we’re trying to stop (Center’s) three-year starting quarterback,” said Bear River co-head coach Terry Logue. “He’s an excellent quarterback — very, very fast. Hard to simulate his speed in practice, but he runs a lot of bootlegs and keepers, got an excellent arm, got some good running backs and big physical linemen so they’re very hard to stop. We’re going to have to play great defense.”
Junior wide receiver Elias JBeily has been the Cougar’s primary target when the ball gets put in the air. He has 14 catches for a total of 285 yards and two touchdowns. Defensively Center is led by Spencer Bracey, Tristan Knutson and Kurtis Meyer. The three have combined for 151 tackles this season. JBeily leads the defense with three interceptions.
The Bruins have a sour taste left in their mouth after last season when the Cougars came to J. David Ramsey Field and marched off with a 36-0 victory. Ironically, that blow out loss was Bear River’s response to losing its first game of the season the week prior after starting out 6-0 — very much like this year when the Bruins failed to respond to Placer after suffering their first loss to Colfax. Yet, in the game versus Center in 2012 the Bruins were able to run and pass for 259 yards of total offense while Center had 314. The difference was turnovers. Bear River had five turnovers, three fumbles and two interceptions, which explains why so many drives ended with no points. Center also brought a lot of heat and sacked Bear River five times.
“Last year we played great defense for a half and then kind of went in the tank in the second half so we need four solid quarters and it’s going to be a war if we’re going to beat these guys,” added Logue. “We played a great game against Colfax even though we lost, but last week you know nobody’s happy with how we played last week. So our focus is to get back to playing Bear River football — stopping their quarterback is the number one thing we have to do.”