UNCHARTED TERRITORY: Bruins gear up for NorCal 5-A Bowl Game against Fortuna | TheUnion.com

UNCHARTED TERRITORY: Bruins gear up for NorCal 5-A Bowl Game against Fortuna

For longtime Bear River co-head coaches Terry Logue and Scott Savoie, getting to experience something they haven't already seen or done on the gridiron doesn't happen often.

Come Saturday, Logue, Savoie and the rest of the Bruins football team will be embracing something no other Bear River team has ever experienced — playing in a California Interscholastic Federation Regional Championship Bowl Game.

"It is exciting, it really is," said Logue of playing in the CIF NorCal 5-A Bowl Game. "Two years ago when we lost to Sonora in the final, it was the first time you would get an automatic bid to a bowl game and I thought about that leading up to that game. We almost got them, but they beat us at the end, and you wonder if you'll ever get that opportunity again. This year it kind of came out of nowhere. But to get to that bowl game is special."

Bear River's season nearly came to an end in early November, but an overtime win over Center clinched a playoff spot for the Bruins and they haven't lost since, winning three straight games over favored opponents and claiming a Sac-Joaquin Section Division V Championship along the way.

"This season was definitely a shot in the arm for this coaching staff after having our first losing season in 28 years last year," Logue said. "Our goal was to flip the record, and all of sudden we went beyond that and are still going. It's been a great ride. The kids have really rallied and they are playing their best football."

The ride now takes the Bruins (10-3) more than 250-miles up the California coast where they will face off with the Fortuna Huskies (12-2) in Fortuna for the NorCal 5-A title.

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"What stands out to me is they seem to be very physical," Savoie said of the Huskies. "They run the veer, they run a 5-2 on defense. The big thing is they are very physical. It seems like the typical Fortuna team is a lot like the typical Bear River team."

The Huskies, who the Bruins have never faced before, earned their way into the 5-A Bowl Game after topping Hercules, 44-0, in the North Coast Section Championship Game. The Huskies haven't lost since Oct. 13, a string of six straight games. Offensively they lean on the run game and average 37.1 points per game.

"We got to control their first downs," Logue said. "We can't let them get 5-6 yards on first down or it's going to be a tough evening."

Defensively, Fortuna has pitched two shutouts in the playoffs and are allowing just 17.3 points per game this season.

Savoie said the key to victory will be limiting mistakes and playing with intensity.

"We have to play like we have played the past three games," he said. "If we can do that, if we can run the football, not turn the ball over and have the defense play the way they have the past three games, I think we will be in good shape. But, we have to play with that same kind of intensity and not make a lot of mistakes."

The Bruins have been impressive in their last three games, holding Capital Christian and Ripon to one touchdown each, then containing a Colfax team that averaged 43.2 points per game to just 27.

Offensively, the Bruins ground game has come alive with bruising fullback Austin Baze and speedsters Tre Maronic and Calder Kunde toting the ball behind a solid offensive line.

Through the air, Bear River's senior quarterback Luke Baggett has been strong in the playoffs, completing more than 50 percent of his passes, tossing four touchdowns and just one interception.

"In my opinion, we've been playing inspired football," said Savoie. "Our kids are hungry and very focused. We need to carry that into this game."

Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. Saturday at Fortuna High School.

Road to Fortuna

The trip to Fortuna will be Bear River's longest of the season. They will start the journey Friday with a planned stop at the Samoa Cookhouse along the way. Logue said.

"It's just a great experience for our school, our community and our players," he said. "It's going to be a fun trip."

The last time Bear River was this far from home was in 2014 when they topped Eureka, 34-23, in Eureka.

Hillmen march into Salinas

Fellow Pioneer Valley League team Placer, the Sac-Joaquin Section D-IV champ, also has a long road ahead of them as they travel to take on the Salinas Cowboys in Salinas in the NorCal 4-AA Bowl Game.

The Hillmen (12-1) are led by a pair of 1,000 yard rushers in Mario Perez (1,301 yards, 15 touchdowns) and Marshall Chapman (1,154 yards, 16 touchdowns). As a team, Placer averages 40.2 points per game and 314.5 rush yards per game.

Salinas (11-2) earned their spot in the NorCal 4-AA Bowl Game by topping Milpitas, 23-18, in the Central Coast Section Division I Championship Game.

To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email wford@theunion.com.

KNOW & GO

What: CIF Regional Championship 5-A Bowl Game

Who: Bear River (10-3) at Fortuna (12-2)

When: 6 p.m., Saturday

Where: Fortuna High School, 379 12th St, Fortuna

Follow along: On Twitter @WalterLFordIII or online at TheUnion.com

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