Bruins preview: ‘Expecting very big things’
If you had to sum up this upcoming season in a nutshell for the Bear River Bruins, somewhere in your train of thought there would be a showdown with rival Colfax to temper your interest.
If you asked the Bruins the same question, they would defer their seasonal angst to working on their own development and continuing a legacy of dominance in the Sierra Foothills.
“Just because we’ve been losing to Colfax doesn’t mean we’re not a winning program,” co-head coach Terry Logue told The Union in early August. “We have 20-straight winning seasons. We’re gonna continue on doing the same things we’ve always done. We’ll probably be a run-oriented team. Those things aren’t going to change.”
In the 22nd year of Bruins football, the last five of which in the Pioneer Valley League, the Bruins come into this season looking to redeem themselves after an abnormal 6-3-1 year ” including a 28-0 loss to Colfax, which ended Bear River’s playoff hopes and upped the Falcons’ winning streak against Bear River to seven games.
The losing streak has not been a detriment on the Bruins’ psyche, with players feeling optimistic about the team and the season.
It’s been an offseason of promising proportions, fueled by a class of junior varsity players that were undefeated last season, two particularly exciting wing backs in Chris Parfitt and Johnny Jewett and an opportunity to focus on self.
“Yeah, it’s definitely a monkey on our back now and we’re ready to get that thing off,” said Tanner Mathias, who will be the team’s starting quarterback about the eventual showdown with Colfax. “We’re really ready to stop ’em. We shut them down freshman and sophomore, our JV years, and we’re ready to beat ’em again.
“I don’t think any one of us have lost until we were juniors (to Colfax),” Mathias continued. “I don’t think it’s an edge but the strength of juniors Cole White and Johnny Jewett is definitely helpful and Garrett Davis on the line. These players can help us win.”
The Bruins lost 29 seniors from their opening day roster last year, including stars Tommy Jones at nose guard, quarterback Drew Loftus, fullback Andy Parquette, running back Matt Belnap and rover Rhett Angold. The team has been focused on filling those pivotal positions and are hoping an injury bug that hobbled the team in the first week of school doesn’t hinder their efforts.
Co-head coach Scott Savoie is really happy to have wingbacks Jewett and Parfitt, whom he describes as his “scat backs” to lead his offense. Parfitt rushed for 408 yards last season in only five games played because of injuries. Jewett led the junior varsity Bruins’ rushing attack last season. But the jewel may be Mathias at quarterback, who played tight end last year.
“Obviously, I’m very excited to have a 6-4, 220-pound quarterback,” Savoie said. “We’re expecting very big things.”
Mathias worked out really hard in the summer, Savoie said, breaking the team record for power cleans with a 330-pound lift. He’s hoping his hard work translates into quick success for the Bruins.
“We’re expecting big things and hoping big things,” Savoie said.
Mathias will be throwing to returning senior Garrett Barbic, who led the team in catches last season with 44 for 700 yards and three touchdowns. He’s also happy to have back Nolan Lewis at slot wide receiver and newcomer Will Gray at tight end.
The one thing that is a worry for Savoie is the experience of his offensive line.
“I’m not so concerned about our youthfulness in the backfield,” Savoie said. “We got guys that definitely can run north and south and then we’ve got some speed. But I’m a little concerned about our youthfulness on the line.
“Don’t get me wrong,” Savoie continued. “I like our guys, but we’ve got to get experience there.”
Logue is concerned about some of the injuries that have sidelined Bruins players in recent weeks, especially to rover Chad Quirarte, who suffered a broken collarbone.
But he has other defensive leaders to rely upon, including middle linebacker Sean Fox and junior linebacker Cole White.
White, who played on the junior varsity squad last year before being pulled up to start for the season finale against Colfax, is as pure a tackler as they come, Logue said.
“Even as a sophomore you could tell he wasn’t intimidated about playing,” Logue said. “I think he’s going to be a great defensive player for us going forward.”
With a solid defensive line rotation, Bear River’s only worry is their health this season.
The most dangerous school in the conference is not wearing green. With the emergence of Whitney as a powerhouse last season, in which the Wildcats finished 11-2 and was co-champions of the Pioneer Valley League.
The Wildcats beat both Bear River and Colfax (10-2) to solidify their spot as the top team, losing only to El Dorado. The development of the school poses a threat to Bear River, which has traditionally competed for the league title with Colfax.
To top it off, the Wildcats return their most dangerous player in Zack Graves and the Falcons return their utility star in Jeff Devine. It will be a competition among the three for tops in the league, with Lincoln (5-5), El Dorado (4-6) and Placer (3-7) on the outside looking in.
“Placer has a ver very solid team with a lot of seniors on it,” warns Logue. “And Lincoln has been very competitive as of late.”
Bear River will know how their season is going in week four, the first league matchup with Colfax. The Bruins face Whitney in Week 6.
To contact Sports Writer Zuri Berry, e-mail email@example.com or call 477-4244.
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