PREP FOOTBALL: Bear River stuns Capital Christian, advances to D-V semifinals (VIDEO)
SACRAMENTO – Behind a tenacious defense, a balanced offense and an unquenchable hunger to win, the Bear River Bruins roared to victory in the first round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division V playoffs.
The Bruins hit the road Thursday and silenced the defending Sac-Joaquin Section D-V champs on their home turf, topping the No. 3 seed Capital Christian Cougars, 26-7, to advance to the semifinals.
“Our kids got after it,” said Bruins co-head coach Scott Savoie. “Our kids just absolutely refused to lose tonight.”
It was the Cougars (7-4) pouncing first, scoring on the opening play from scrimmage with a 77-yard hookup up from quarterback Jake Cruz to D’Marcus Ross, but the Bruins defense put their foot down thereafter, surrendering no more points and wrapping up 10 tackles for a loss, including seven sacks.
“You think about that first play of the game,” said Savoie. “Their only score (came) on that first offensive play of the game. Pretty scary at that point, looking at their athleticism and their speed. (Our) kids hung in there, stayed patient, kept playing and good things happened.”
Senior quarterback Luke Baggett delivered a clutch performance, rallying his offense back to knot the game 7-7 with an 85-yard scoring drive capped off by a 19-yard touchdown pass to Calder Kunde with just under four minutes to play in the second quarter.
Tied 7-7 at the half, Bear River received the kick and its offense began to click, and the Cougars began to bite hard on play action passes. Just minutes into the third quarter, Baggett threw his second touchdown of the game, finding a wide open Tre Maronic for a 39-yard score and a 14-7 lead.
“Our line blocked their butts off,” said Baggett, who ended his night passing 9-of-12 for 171 yards and three touchdowns, and also rushed for a score. “Great job. It was phenomenal.”
Capital Christian had the playmakers, but Bear River stuffed every opportunity down the stretch. The Cougars netted just 16 yards on the ground. Ross, who came into the game averaging more than 100 rush yards per game was held to just 14 yards on 10 carries. Cruz passed 11-of-19 for 237 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
“We bent, but we didn’t break,” said Bear River co-head coach Terry Logue. “And key plays, the pressure, the sacks with different guys. It was a great team win. Every time they kind of got a big drive going we’d get a big sack and put them back on their heels.”
After forcing a punt, the Bruins offense took over at their own 22 and went back to work, mixing runs and passes well to march deep into Cougars territory. Baggett would cap the drive by plowing into the end zone from 1-yard out to give Bear River a 20-7 lead.
Another three-and-out by the Cougars set up the Bruins at their own 43. Eight straight running plays took Bear River down to Cougar 6-yard line and on third-and-goal, Baggett hit the outstretched arms of Maronic for another touchdown and a 26-7 lead.
“It means so much,” said Maronic, a sophomore who hauled in three catches for 46 yards and two touchdowns, and also rushed 11 times for 76 yards. “I love all my upperclassmen friends. They’re so supportive.”
Rounding out the offensive attack for the Bruins was Kunde, who grabbed three receptions for 48 yards and a score, and Garrett Pratt, who had two grabs for 69 yards.
Senior fullback Austin Baze kept the defense honest, drawing attention to the Bruins ground attack and opening seams for his teammates. He finished with eight carries for 38 yards.
Defensively, the Bruins devoured the Cougars in a sack-fest coming from all angles. Defensive end Jake Leonard tallied two sacks to lead a Bruins pass rush that was in the Cougars backfield all night.
Middle linebacker Travis Carpenter led the team in tackles with 10, followed by Pratt with seven and Kunde with five. Kunde also nabbed a fourth quarter interception to foil a goal-to-go situation for the Cougars.
No. 6 Bear River (8-3) now awaits the result of Friday’s No. 2 Calaveras vs. No. 7 Ripon matchup.
Brian Shepard is a freelance sports writer who contributes to The Union regularly.
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