A Bruin season to build on | TheUnion.com

A Bruin season to build on

Photo for The Union by John Hart
John Hart | The Union

The Bear River football squad was eliminated from the Sac-Joaquin Division IV playoffs in the first round for the second consecutive year Nov. 9 by a talented Central Catholic team.

Now before thinking about how to reach the next level and extend its season deeper into the playoffs, Bear River will face an offseason where it must endure the departure of more than 23 seniors. Players Dillon Smith, Tevyn Kimble, Cody Heard, Andrew Reiss Jr., Michael Raigoza, Austin Dowling, Jake Savoie, J’Sean Harwood, Cameron Barrios, Zach Winter and so many others whose presence made a positive impact this season will now be moving.

The Bruins began the season by rattling off a streak of six consecutive victories, knocking off Union Mine, Woodland, Highlands, River Valley, Scotts Valley and, probably most satisfying of all, Colfax.

They hadn’t beaten Colfax since 2008 so to do it this year on the road definitely brought a little bit of closure to every senior’s career.

Bear River outscored their opponents in their first six games 188-108, an average margin of victory of 13.3 points. Smith was even sidelined during the games against Highlands and River Valley, and the Bruins still managed to pull out two wins with Cameron Barrios at the helm.

In the second half of the Colfax game, Bear River lost running back Dowling to a concussion, but depth at the running back position was one of the strong points this season with five backs exceeding the 200-yard mark and Raigoza leading the way at 350 yards.

Answering the call is something the Bruins really seemed to excel at this year. They always bounced back with a big score when they trailed or forced a key turnover on defense, never digging themselves a hole too deep.

Bear River pulled out a one-point win at home in a fourth-quarter comeback thriller over Highlands after losing quarterback Smith to an injury. They trailed 16-0 at Scott’s Valley and overcame the deficit scoring 27 unanswered at one point and eventually won by 10 points. Against Placer, a game Bear River lost 14-7, the Bruins played to their absolute full potential. They pulled ahead 7-0 and despite losing, always felt they were just one play away from taking home a huge win. The players were riding an emotional high with a 6-0 record coming off the impressive win over Colfax, and according to co-head coach Scott Savoie, they did not leave one ounce of blood, sweat or tears in the tank. Then last week in Modesto, they showed flashes of brilliance, putting up 14 unanswered points to temporarily make a game of it.

The Bruins’ Achilles heel this season was finishing drives. Too many times this season Bear River positioned itself within striking distance in the red zone and failed to come up without any points. Either due to inopportune turnovers or untimely penalties that backed them up, there was a consistent theme keeping the Bruins from reaching their full potential. Even in some of their victories, they could have scored more points.

Bear River finished the year averaging 25.5 points per game and managed to finish on the upside of the turnover ratio, finishing at plus-nine. However, in their three losses, the Bruins were minus-eight.

Losing to Placer by a touchdown, then falling at home the following week against Center was devastating nonetheless, but each instance showed two completely different teams. Versus Placer, the Bruins were always right there in the thick of it, fighting, clawing their way back, just coming up short, needing that one big explosive play, which never came as they were held to negative 3 yards rushing on the night. Versus Center, it’s fair to say the Bruins only showed up in the first half. One loss is just as much a loss as the next, but that was the kind of performance where the white flag went up mentally a little earlier than the final whistle.

Of course, the Bruins continued to do what they did best, responding to the pressure of two losses and picking up their second PVL win at home against Lincoln. The win clinched a berth into the playoffs and, once again, provided something positive to build off as Bear River welcomed Foothill for the final regular-season game, a contest where the Bruins dominated on both sides of the ball. A six-game win streak, followed by two losses, two wins and one final dagger to send the Bruins home was a tough way to wrap up a good season, said Logue.

Smith’s 1,484 passing yards and Kimble’s 919 total receiving yards were both good enough for second most in the PVL. Heard’s nine sacks put him at third in the PVL.

The 2013 football season does indeed look bright for the Bruins, as they will have a talented JV squad to draft from. Bear River’s JV team finished the season undefeated in PVL play to bring home the league title. Savoie and Logue introduced 14 junior varsity players to their expanded playoff roster last week at Central Catholic — a valuable experience regardless of the outcome.

Let’s not forget the Bruins also have progressing juniors who will undoubtedly continue to make a name for themselves. Caleb Johnson, Brad Botsford, Michael Tipton, Kris Edie, Hunter Cramer and David Chorjel will likely be called upon to be key contributors in the upcoming season. Johnson finished with 295 yards rushing, while Botsford ran for 133 yards and Tipton had 95 yards with four touchdowns between them. Cramer had 217 yards receiving and two touchdown catches. Edie and Chorjel wrapped up 54 tackles combined.

To contact Sports Writer Brian Shepard, call (530) 477-4234 or email bshepard@theunion.com

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