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ADAMS: The ultimate challenge awaits

KNOW & GO

What: Sac-Joaquin Section Division V Championship

Who: No. 3 Bear River (11-1) vs. No. 1 Colfax (12-0)

When: 7 p.m., Friday

Where: Nevada Union High School’s Hooper Stadium

Tickets: $12 for adults, $8 for seniors and students

Parking: $10

This is the story of a high school football team that some thought would have a challenging season.

They had lost several players from their Sac-Joaquin Section championship team to graduation. As things began to take shape, they had but 22 players. It was obvious that many students would have to play on both offense and defense. In the vernacular, they would be forced to go “both ways.” On any given night, their goal was to run for touchdowns while also collecting interceptions. They would have to make key defensive stands while planning to open big holes on the very next drive. They would have to block kicks and perform excellently on defensive special teams just to re-focus on offense.

Most thought they would have a tough schedule. Their pre-season was laden with what appeared to be challenging teams. Their league teams were also tough. They had several squads that posed unique challenges. Their schools were bigger. They had far more players. They were not in a “retooling” mode. If this high school football team was to dream of the playoffs, they hoped to emerge with a winning record. Some experts thought it would be tough.



However, they started on the road against a well-respected South Lake Tahoe High School team. The Bruins won handily. In the balance of the non-league tilts they demolished the competition. Was this a miracle, an oddity or early signs of a championship caliber team? Through all of this, it appeared they had excellent coaching and impressive talent. One began to wonder if they could resurrect the magic of the previous season.

Then came the Pioneer Valley League season. They faced one squad where they snuck by. They even lost a lopsided game against their area rival. However, they showed a certain prowess, focus and dedication that was turning heads. They even qualified for the playoffs as the No. 3 seed in Division V.



They had to travel several hours to the California’s Central Valley to play a top-notch opponent. There was doubt that they could best this team that they had conquered in the past. They played on a pristine field even though the weather was uncooperative. To most people’s surprise, they stormed ahead to a 27-0 lead. They than had to survive some key injuries in route to a 27-14 upset. Their dream was obviously still alive.

They moved on to the D-V Championship game. It was a chance at ultimate redemption. They would have the opportunity to play the one team that beat them. This type of contest does not always materialize. However, the Football Gods found a way for this squad to maneuver them into this position. Now the ultimate challenge awaits them.

This is the story of Bear River High School’s football campaign. Yes, to a certain effect it has defied logic. However, in many others, it makes great sense.

Their offensive line played in an impressive manner. They were a key to the success enjoyed in the south county. As it all came together in extraordinary ways, the “O” line had a fascinating story to tell.

Jared Baze is an offensive guard. He has enjoyed a fine season. He noted in the early going, “I was worried about the season. I was not sure we could do as well as last year. We lost a lot of players.”

However, center Trae Nix felt differently. “I predicted to the coaches we would go 13-1.”

Was this just foolish optimism?

Baze added, “South Lake Tahoe game gave me confidence. We wiped the field with them.”

As the league season began, they faced a tough squad from Center High School. Bear River won, but by a relatively narrow margin.

Offensive tackle Alex Dewson quipped, “We were a good team…maybe a little cocky at times. Center gave us a wake-up call.”

Baze added, “Center hit us hard. It was 16-7. We knew we had to work harder.”

Then came the contest again rival Colfax High School. Things did not go as planned. It turned into a dismal defeat.

Right tackle Zane Beaton remembers, “I had a good feel going into the game, but we got shut down. It was our mindset. We allowed ourselves to get mad at the refs.”

Offensive lineman Jonny Carrillo concluded, “We cannot look at an opponent from last year. We should have respected them like an undefeated team.”

It would be their one blemish going into the playoffs.

Their semifinal opposition would be a tough Ripon High School squad. They were well respected. There was nothing to take for granted. They had to go on the road, enduring the multi-hour drive deep into the Central Valley.

To almost everyone’s shock, the Bruins roared out to a 27-0 halftime lead. There were some fairly logical reasons for this. However, some may note that the biggest play was a blocked field goal attempt that Baze ran back for a Bear River touchdown.

Baze commented, “The ball was a yard away from the kicker. I scooped it up and ran it in.”

Left guard Sam Davis noted, “It set us up for the entire half.” He added, “Hunter Daniels, Logan Jenkins and Tre Nix all got injured. I figured if we did not score, we could keep them from scoring.”

Baze concluded, “We showed up to play and they showed up late.”

That brings us to Friday’s D-V Championship Game. It is a second shot at the Colfax Falcons. To a certain extent, it represents a chance at redemption. It also provides that rare opportunity to go back-to-back for the sectional crown.

Davis calls it Redemption Week, while Baze talks of a better fight this time. Nix speaks of how excited he is and predicts it will be a challenge.

The Bear River Bruins live and die as a team. For more than a decade, many of the players have been teammates of one sort or another. The teams they have beat have, at times, been bigger and faster. The one defining factor has been that they never quit.

They have before them a task that will forever put an imprint on their high school. “Bruin Pride” becomes more than just a motto or slogan. It is perhaps the rallying cry. However, it plays out Friday, it has been a great run by a truly talented and versatile team.

Jim Adams is a regular contributor to The Union. He can be reached at adamses@inreach.com.


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