PREP FOOTBALL: The mighty PVL sends four teams to section title games | TheUnion.com

PREP FOOTBALL: The mighty PVL sends four teams to section title games

After topping Ripon in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-V semifinals last Friday, Bear River co-head coach Scott Savoie proclaimed "Thanksgiving just got a little sweeter."

It did indeed for the Bruins, and also for three other Pioneer Valley League teams as Placer, Colfax and Center will all be competing for a championship this Saturday.

After the Bruins, Falcons, Hillmen and Cougars finished beating up on each other in the powerful PVL (Bear River beat Center, Center beat Colfax, Colfax beat Bear River and Placer beat them all), they were unleashed into the section playoffs where they have marched through their opponents and into their respective championship games.

Bear River will take on Colfax in the D-V title game at 1 p.m., and Placer will face Center in the D-IV championship match at 6 p.m. Both games will be held Cosumnes Oaks High School in Elk Grove. Lincoln was the fifth team out of the PVL to make the playoffs, but lost in the first round of the D-II playoffs to defending champ Del Oro, 16-14, on a last second field goal.

Here's a look at how the Bruins, Falcons, Hillmen and Cougars made their way to their respective title games.

BEAR RIVER BRUINS (9-3)

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After starting the season 5-0, the Bruins struggled in PVL play going 1-3 through the first four league games. Bear River needed a 35-27 overtime win against Center in the season finale just to get into the postseason.

As the No. 6 seed in the D-V bracket, the Bruins went on the road and faced a talented and highly-favored Capital Christian team. Bear River gave up a touchdown on the first play from scrimmage, but didn't yield another point the rest of the way. The Bruins would tally seven sacks as a team and get four total touchdowns (three passing, one rushing) from quarterback Luke Baggett to take the game 26-7.

"We bent, but we didn't break," said Bear River co-head coach Terry Logue after the win. "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."

Thanks to No. 7 Ripon taking down No. 2 Calaveras in the first round, the Bruins found themselves at home for the semifinal matchup where they stymied the Indians on the muddy turf at J. David Ramsey Stadium, winning 14-7 in a game where the defense stole the show.

"We came in and we hit," Bear River defensive end/fullback Austin Baze said after the game. "We're a physical team. We went out there and pounded and pounded and pounded them. And, they didn't like it. It was obvious."

Across their two playoff games, the Bruins defense has eight sacks, five forced turnovers and have given up just 14 points.

Offensively, Bear River has gotten strong showings from Baggett, Baze, receiver Tre Maronic, receiver Calder Kunde and tight end Garrett Pratt.

Making this run all the more impressive is the Bruins have done it without star athlete Stephen Taylor, a 2016 All-PVL player who went down with an injury in the sixth game of the season.

This is the Bruins third trip to the D-V title game in the last four years. They took the championship in 2014 with a, 28-17, win over Colfax. In 2015, the Bruins fell to Sonora in the title game, 42-30.

COLFAX FALCONS (9-3)

Like the Bruins, the Falcons went 5-0 before going 1-3 in league play and needed a win in the final game of the regular season to clinch a playoff spot. They got it, beating Foothill handily.

With the No. 5 seed in the D-V bracket, the Falcons headed to No. 4 seed and undefeated Orestimba in the first round. Colfax soared to a 43-20 victory, getting big games from senior quarterback Ryland Heimann (291 pass yards, four touchdowns) and senior running back Mason Ahrens (279 rush yards, 126 receiving yards, three total touchdowns).

The Falcons then took down No. 1 seed Sonora, 56-55, to punch their ticket to the title game. Ahrens rushed for 228 yards and four touchdowns, and Heimann threw for 356 yards and four touchdowns, three of which went to Jake Green.

The Falcons offense is averaging 49.5 points per game through the postseason, and their defense is giving up 37.5. The defense, however, stepped up in the most critical juncture of their game with Sonora, getting a stop on a two-point conversion attempt in the final minute of the game.

Colfax is in the D-V title game for the third time in four years. The Falcons lost to Bear River in 2014 and fell to Capital Christian in 2016. The last time Colfax won a section championship was 2003.

PLACER HILLMEN (11-1)

PVL champ Placer has been dominant this season, having won 10-straight, including a 5-0 run through league play.

Placer grabbed the No. 1 seed in the D-IV bracket and proceeded to crush No. 8 seed Natomas, 53-6, behind 434 rush yards and eight touchdowns on the ground. In the win over Natomas, three Hillmen ran for more than 100 yards and four different backs scored touchdowns.

The Hillmen then stomped No. 5 Woodland, 35-6, in the semifinals, getting 100-yard games from Marshall Chapman and Mario Perez, as well as a pair of passing touchdowns from Michael Stuck.

In the postseason, the Hillmen are averaging 44 points per game while allowing just six points per game.

This is the fourth time in the 10 years Placer has reached a section title game. The Hillmen lost to Manteca in last year's D-IV championship, and haven't won a section title since 1981.

CENTER COUGARS (7-5)

The Cougars have had an up and down season, going 3-2 in non-league play before going 2-3 in the PVL with wins over Colfax and Foothill. Despite a 5-5 record, the Cougars got the No. 3 seed in the D-IV bracket.

Centers ousted No. 6 Dixon with ease, topping the Rams, 34-14. Center then edged past No. 2 seed Casa Roble, 26-25, to get into the D-IV championship. In the win over Casa Roble, the Cougars were led by running back Robbie Donnell, who rushed for three touchdowns to propel the Cougars into the title game against Placer.

Center has never won a section title in football, and its only trip to a championship game was in 1988 when it lost to Galt.

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

CHAMPIONSHIP SATURDAY

Division V

No. 5 Colfax (9-3) vs. No. 6 Bear River (9-3), 1 p.m.

Division IV

No. 1 Placer (11-1) vs. No. 3 Center (7-5), 6 p.m.

Both games will be played at Cosumnes Oaks High School in Elk Grove.