2002 Bruins: A look back
It took a few weeks for Bear River head coach Scott Savoie to decompress after this season ended.
Savoie had a front row seat as his underclassmen-laden team won seven of its first eight games and moved to the head of the Sac-Joaquin Section’s Division III class, only to lose their final two games and drop out of playoff contention.
“Those last two weeks were very tough, emotional weeks for us,” he said. “Were we disappointed that we didn’t make the playoffs? You bet. That was a major goal of mine. But after the numbness wore off, (looking back) we had a lot of good things happen this year.”
Josh Rumsey, Bear River’s junior quarterback, threw for over 1,285 yards with nine touchdowns in his first year on the varsity squad.
Seniors Jeff Duran and Bryan Hart, also varsity rookies, were two of the Pioneer Valley League’s biggest weapons on offense from their fullback and wide receiver positions, respectively.
“We had 13 seniors, two of which had never played on the varsity level before, so considering that, I was very proud of the way the kids carried themselves. I think we got a lot of mileage out of what we had,” Savoie said.
The long-time Bruin assistant turned head coach this season was also impressed with play of the offensive line and entire defensive squad.
“(I thought Seth) Morsey would have great senior year on the offensive line, but we ended up starting three to four juniors on the O-line near the end of the year,” he said. “And I thought we had really tough defense this year.”
The Bruins looked good early in their opener with Center (Antelope), but gave up a pair of touchdowns in the final two minutes and 17 seconds of the fourth quarter to squeak out a 24-21 win.
Bear River followed with a 14-7 win over Woodcreek in Roseville, then fell in an eight-point, home-field loss to old Sierra Foothill League foe, Del Oro (Loomis).
THE RACE FOR THE TITLE
Bear River, which last played a down in the postseason in 1997, went into its PVL opener at Lincoln full of spit and vinegar.
But the host Fighting Zebras had a surprise in store.
On Lincoln’s first possession, halfback Steve Roberts capped a nine-play, 74-yard drive with a 17-yard touchdown run as the Bruin sideline looked on in stunned disbelief.
Bear River’s offense made first down after first down the remainder of the first half, but couldn’t find the end zone.
The Bruins lone first-half points came from a Chad Anderson safety.
With their dream of a PVL league title in jeopardy, the Bruins came out fighting in the second half.
Duran bulldozed his way for three scores and Rumsey found tight end Keith Marin from four yards out as the Bruins rolled to a 31-7 win.
Rejuvenated, the Cardinal and Gray averaged 39.4 points per game, while allowing 8.2 ppg in five-straight wins.
In that span, the Bruins got blowout wins over two-time Sac-Joaquin Section Division III champ Mesa Verde (Citrus Heights) and perennial power Vanden (Fairfield).
“The Mesa Verde game was huge for us. That night had to be our best overall performance all year,” Savioe said. “That Vanden game was big too, considering the turmoil we’re in at that time.”
Despite losing PVL leading rusher Cody Yeager for the season to some off the field problems before the game at Vanden, the Bruins came away with a 28-7 win anyway.
“We had some guys step in for Cody, Dusty Tabellija and Keith Roberts, and they really did a great job,” Savoie added.
The Bruins went into their week-nine showdown with neighborhood rival Colfax with the world in their hands.
A win, and Bear River was all-but guaranteed a spot in the playoffs, and more importantly, a pretty good shot at the league title.
Bear River led 10-0 at the half, but turnovers and the Falcon running game took a toll as the visitors lost 20-10 to the eventual Division III champs.
“Big games come down to just a handful of plays,” Savoie said. “Colfax picked up their momentum at the end of the second quarter and we couldn’t maintain ours to begin the second half and those are two very crucial times in a football game.”
All was not lost as Bear River’s playoffs hopes were still alive going into the regular season finale with Oakmont (Roseville).
The Bruins had never lost to the boys from Roseville before, but the Vikings ignored the history book in a 28-7 win.
“We didn’t make the playoffs, but knowing the teams who beat us either went to the (section) semis or won the whole thing means something,” Savoie said. “We played nose-to-nose, and toe-to-toe with Colfax and Del Oro and while a loss is a loss, I thought we were pretty competitive all year.”
“I’m proud of what we accomplished, but I want more for this school, this program and these kids. So we’re starting right now.”
2002 season results
vs. Center W 24-21
at Woodcreek W 14-7
vs. Del Oro L 20-12
at Lincoln W 31-7
vs. Mira Loma W 56-0
vs. Johnson W. W 38-13
vs. Mesa Verde W 44-14
at Vanden W 28-7
at Colfax L 20-10
vs. Oakmont L 28-7
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