A brave new world for Bruins
New head coach. New players. New league.
“Our number one (aim) is to make the playoffs this year. There’s not a kid left on campus who’s been to a playoff game and that’s got to change,” Bear River first year head football coach Scott Savoie said. “Obviously our goals are big, but we want to be the first Pioneer Valley League championship team.”
With the switch from the venerable Sierra Foothill League – in which the Cardinal and Gray posted 29 wins in six campaigns but last made the playoffs in 1997 – to the newly formed PVL this season, the Bruins will face a mix of the old and the new.
Bear River will see plenty of familiar faces with western foothills neighbor and former Golden Empire League foe Colfax, along with Oakmont – which also made the jump to the PVL from the SFL – on the league schedule.
“Word traveled fast that Colfax is looking good. I didn’t see them over the summer, but I respect what they do. And Oakmont has upset some people over the years,” Savoie said.
Mesa Verde (Citrus Heights), Lincoln, and Mira Loma and Johnson West (all of Sacramento) make up the rest of the league table.
Of all of the new squads, Savoie said Mesa Verde, with 1998 and 1999 division III section championships banners on the wall, should be the toughest.
“There’s no doubt they’ll be in there at the end somewhere. I don’t know, nor have heard anything about Johnson West or Mira Loma, but we’re lucky we don’t have to see them for a while,” he said.
One of toughest calls Savoie’s had to make in his short tenure as head coach was who to install under center.
He had a player with 10 games of varsity ball under his belt in last season’s starter, senior Keith Roberts (6-foot-1, 175 pounds), and up-and-comer junior Josh Rumsey (5-11, 155) to choose from.
He let the pair duke it out on the field over the summer, and then made it official after practice Monday.
Rumsey was his man.
“The thing we like about Josh is his ability to make things happen. He’s got a good arm, there’s no doubt about that, but the big thing is he can improvise on the field when things just aren’t perfect,” Savoie said.
Roberts’ versatility was another factor in Savoie’s decision.
“Keith is so athletic, we all felt he’d be able to help us big time at wingback. If he’s not the fastest, he’s the second fastest kid on the team, and he’s got great hands,” Savoie said.
With seniors Keith Marin (6-2, 197), a returning two-way starter, at tight end and Bryan Hart (6-5, 190) at wide out, the chances Rumsey will put up some big numbers look good.
“(Bryan) didn’t play football last year, so in some ways he’s still a little green. But he seems to have a knack for not only catching the ball but picking up yards after the catch,” Savoie said. “I feel like we’ve got a pretty solid receiving corps with those three.”
Although the Bruin backfield graduated a combined 435 pounds of beef in Matt Logue and JonLuc Reshatoff, it will challenge defenses with a mix of power and agility.
Senior fullback Jeff Duran (6-1, 220) has the bulk to mix it up in the trenches, while junior halfback Cody Yeager (6-0, 179) will look to make defenders miss altogether.
“Duran brings a punch; beyond that we don’t have a Logue/Reshatoff combo. But what we do have is some wiggle back there with Cody at halfback and Keith at wingback,” Savoie said.
The senior duo of Jon Szkotak (5-6, 160) and Scott Keever (5-9, 163), along with juniors Dusty Tabellija (5-11, 200) and Justin Bramer (5-7, 160) will also challenge for touches this season.
Senior Seth Morsey (6-4, 220), who with Marin and senior right offensive tackle Zach Cross (5-11, 195) are Bear River’s only returning two-way starters, will lead the offensive line from left tackle.
“He’s such a steady player. I look at him as being the anchor on both the offensive and defensive lines,” Savoie said.
Junior Matt Grimm (5-10, 180) will start at left guard with junior Chad Anderson (5-9, 225) and senior Eric Fetske (5-11, 165) switching in at right guard.
The Bruins lost a two-year starter and All-SFL performer at center in Kyle Grant to graduation, but you won’t catch Savoie crying in his beer.
Junior Matt Stuber (6-2, 220) won the job at center early and hasn’t let go.
“I’m very impressed with him. He was a force on the junior varsity last year, and he’s really stepped in,” Savoie said. “I feel like we’ve had some pretty good centers here over the years, but I can’t think of any of them who had an easier transition to varsity.”
In the trenches, Savoie will sandwich Cross at nose guard between Morsey at strong-side tackle and Stuber on the weak-side.
Junior Sean Belnap (6-1, 290) as well as a host of Bruin defensive linemen will also get plenty of playing time down low.
“Unfortunately, (our starting defensive line) are all two-way starters, but right now we have some young defensive linemen that are just not quite there yet. But they’re getting there,” Savoie said.
The Bruins return two starters from one of the SFL’s top linebacking corps.
Marin, whose main job as “Sam” linebacker will be to harass the quarterback, will line up next to Morsey on the strong side.
Senior Jon Cummings (5-9, 168) will back Marin and Morsey up at “Bandit” linebacker.
Anderson will man the middle at “Mike,” with Grimm on the weak side – or “Willie.”
“We have six returning starters on defense and another player who played a lot on the varsity. We’re just as big as we were last year, plus we’re deeper. So our expectations are pretty high there,” Savoie said.
If last year’s play is any indication, any team which wants to test Bear River’s defensive backfield, does so at its own risk.
Junior Wil Thomas (6-2, 178), who was pulled up from the JV to shore up the Bruins’ injury-riddled defensive backfield at the start of last year, capped his first season on varsity with a 70-plus-yard interception return for a touchdown against Rocklin last season.
He’ll line up at rover, while Tabellija, who snagged a pair of interceptions against Placer of Auburn in his varsity debut, returns at left corner.
Keever will step in at right cornerback, with junior John Savoie (6-0, 170) moving into the free safety spot.
Duran has long field goal and kickoff jobs all but sewn up, and leads the pack in the race for punting duties.
Roberts will be the long snapper, with Savoie pulling P.A.T. duties.
Coach Savoie said Bramer, Thomas, Tabellija and Yeager are all in the mix for both punt and kickoff returner.
“We’re all still kinda green, but all of them will get a chance back there at some point,” Savoie said.
Bear River will kick off the season at home against Center of Antelope 7:30 p.m. Friday.
double trouble<BR1s two-way players
Name: Seth Morsey
Weight: 220 pounds
Offense: left tackle
Defense: strong side tackle
Name: Keith Marin
Weight: 197 pounds
Offense: tight end
Name: Zach Cross
Weight: 195 pounds
Offense: right tackle
Defense: nose guard
Bear River schedule
9/13 v Center of Antelope
9/20 @ Woodcreek of Roseville
9/27 v Del Oro of Loomis
10/04 @ Lincoln*
10/10 v Mira Loma* of Sacramento @ El Camino of Sacramento
10/18 v Johnson West of Sacramento*
10/25 v Mesa Verde of Citrus Heights*
11/1 @ Vanden of Fairfield
11/8 @ Colfax*
11/15 v Oakmont of Roseville*
* Denotes Pioneer Valley League game
All games varsity games are scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m.
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
Readers around Grass Valley and Nevada County make The Union’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.
Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.
Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.
Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.
User Legend: Moderator Trusted User
‘Loved every minute of it’: Longtime instructor Ina Elrod set to retire after decades of teaching swim safety
Longtime instructor Ina Elrod set to retire after decades of teaching swim safety