PREP FOOTBALL: Storm’s a Bruin — Bear River set for must-win game against Center | TheUnion.com

PREP FOOTBALL: Storm’s a Bruin — Bear River set for must-win game against Center

Walter Ford | Sports Editor

It all comes down to this one.

With a spot in the playoffs on the line and rain in the forecast, the Bear River football team will not be holding anything back when it faces Pioneer Valley League foe Center Friday night in Antelope.

"The Bruins are showing up and we're going after them," said Bear River co-head coach Scott Savoie. "We're going to do whatever we can to qualify."

After a 3-7 season in 2016, the Bruins came into their 2017 campaign looking to return to their winning ways and are now on the precipice of reaching the goals they set for the season.

"We've been talking to (our players) the past several weeks about our preseason goals," said Savoie. "One of which is to flip the win-loss schedule, to make the playoffs and to make a run in the playoffs and that's all still in front of us."

The thing standing between Bear River (6-3, 1-3 PVL) and their playoff goal is a Center team riding high after knocking off Colfax last week.

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"Center surprised everybody by beating Colfax last Friday night, and just reinforced how crazy and how good the PVL is this year," said Savoie.

With the win over Colfax, the Cougars (5-4, 2-2 PVL) put themselves into the playoff conversation and will be looking to improve their seed in the postseason.

For Bear River (6-3, 1-3 PVL), the scenario is simple. Win and they grab a playoff spot. Lose and they are done.

"This is our last chance," said Savoie. "It's a do or die scenario. You win and you're in, you lose and you turn it in."

Bear River comes into the contest on the heels of back-to-back tough-losses to Colfax and Placer.

The Bruins are led by senior quarterback Luke Baggett (956 pass yards, six touchdowns), who has passed for more than 100 yards and at least one touchdown in every game he's played in except one this season.

Baggett's favorite target is junior receiver Calder Kunde, who leads the team with 26 catches for 432 yards and two touchdowns.

On the ground, Bear River averages 168.3 yards per game behind senior Austin Baze (254 yards), senior Josh Zimmer (270 yards). Bear River will be without team rushing leader Stephen Taylor, who is done for the year with an injury.

For the season, Bear River is averaging 26.7 points per game, but have been held to just 15 per game in league play.

"Obviously, we're going to have to score some points," said Savoie. "We've scored 19 last week and 14 the week before, and that's probably not going to be enough. We need to score more points."

Bear River's defense, which was staunch in non-league play, has struggled against PVL competition, allowing 30-plus points in three of its four league games so far.

The Bruins do boast several talented defensive players including Baggett, Zimmer, Kunde and Tre Maronic in the secondary as well as linebacker Travis Carpenter and defensive linemen Sam Davis, Trae Nix and Baze.

The Bruins defense will be looking to stop a speedy Cougars team that averages 34.5 points per game.

"Offensively they spread you out," said Savoie. "They're a spread team, but what makes them so dangerous is they are so athletic and fast. Their quarterback is a runner. When he feels pressure or can't find anyone open he takes off. He can also turn 1 or 2 yard loss into a 40-yard gain. They are absolutely scary fast. That's something Center has been the past few years and this year is no different."

Center is led by sophomore quarterback Michael Wortham and senior running back Robbie Donnell.

RECENT HISTORY

The annual league bout between Bear River and Center have been thrillers in recent years with the Cougars winning with a field goal in overtime last year and by six points in 2015. The Bruins won in 2014, taking a 7-6 victory over Center in the rain and mud.

Center does hold a 5-2 advantage over Bear River since joining the PVL in 2010.

KICKOFF

The Bruins and Cougars are set to kickoff at 7:30 p.m., tonight at Center High School in Antelope.

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

KNOW & GO

What: Bear River (6-3, 1-3 PVL) at Center (5-4, 2-2 PVL)

When: 7:30 p.m., Friday

Where: Center High School, 3111 Center Ct Ln, Antelope

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