Banged-up Bear River guts out big win over Lincoln
A banged-up bunch of Bear River Bruins were not running on full power Friday night, but were not about to miss perhaps the most pivotal game – at least, so far – of their Pioneer Valley League season.
And that perseverance paid off for the Bruins, battling through their injuries to gut out a 39-21 win over Lincoln and earn a second shot at a league title, thanks to some help from an old rival.
Bear River (6-2 overall, 2-1 PVL) burnt the visiting Zebras through the air in the first half, jumping out to a 33-7 lead before holding off a late Lincoln surge for the Bruins’ biggest win of the season – again, so far.
With two games remaining, and with Colfax’s 24-21 overtime win over Placer Friday night, Bear River once again holds its destiny in its own hands.
“A lot of times you don’t get a second chance in life,” Bruin co-head coach Scott Savoie told his team after the win. “But now we’ve got a chance. We’ve got a chance to be a league champion, again.”
Bear River’s lone league loss – a 34-13 defeat at Placer – had left the Bruins one game back of the Hillmen, who were visiting Colfax Friday night. Now that the Falcons (6-2, 3-0) have knocked off Placer (6-2, 2-1), Bear River gets a shot a creating a three-way tie for first place with wins over Foothill (next Friday) and Colfax (Nov. 5).
“It’s a big win,” said Terry Logue, Bear River’s co-head coach. “And with Colfax winning, it’s just icing on the cake.”
In a battle of two teams that love to run the ball right at their opponents, Bear River turned to its play-action passing game to mix things up early and often.
Junior quarterback James Harris hit on his first five passes for 113 yards and two touchdowns to get the Bruins going.
His first TD toss was a short pass to running back Josh Toft, who turned the throw into a 21-yard score down the right sideline. Harris later hit tight end Brandon Wooner for a 54-yard touchdown on a seam pass to the left, which gave Bear River a 14-7 lead with 1:25 to go in the opening quarter, after Toft made a juggling circus catch for a two-point conversion.
Wooner had four catches on the night for 125 yards, while Harris finished the game with 162 yards on 7-of-12 passing for two scores and no interceptions.
“From the beginning of the week, we talked about needing to get the passing game going,” said Harris. “That was going to be a key, because they were going to be keying on our running game.
“This game is, by far, our biggest win so far. Last week (in a 41-26 win over Center), we really didn’t play that well. This week, we put our heads down and just drove ’em out of there and did what we had to do.”
Despite sustaining a knee injury that caused him to be carried off the field last week, senior running back Sam Houston shouldered the load late in the game. Houston had 18 carries for 62 yards and three touchdowns. Toft totaled 42 yards on 12 carries and scored both through the air and on the ground. Dallen Heutter added 41 more rushing yards on six rushes, while Harris offered 41 yards on three totes.
Along with Houston, senior Joey Reina played through pain Friday, making his return after an ankle injury that had sidelined him since a week one win. Senior offensive lineman David Beghetti looked to be a scratch after injuring his knee at practice Wednesday, but the 6-foot, 2-inch, 240-pounder surprised Savoie and his staff by being ready to go when kickoff came around Friday night.
“You know, honestly, Joey wasn’t 100 percent, but he gutted it up,” Savoie said. “Beghetti, he couldn’t finish practice (Wednesday) and was gimping around Thursday. And I really thought he was definitely out this week.
“But this was a big one. And those guys just came out and gutted it out.”
Moving to 8-0 on the season, Bear River’s junior varsity shook off a slow start to take full control of its matchup with the visiting Zebras Friday night.
“We wanted to come out strong. Unfortunately, I think everybody except for the football team likes October break,” said Bruin coach Chris Bean. “For these teenagers to get it going, they got used to sleeping in a little bit longer. And unfortunately, we didn’t get it going in the beginning.”
Lincoln opened the game by taking a 7-0 lead, after driving down the field on its first possession. But Bear River came back with a kickoff return by Tevyn Kimble to the 10-yard line to set up the Bruins’ first score.
Kimble, Andrew Harris and Cody Heard each had touchdown catches from quarterback Dillon Smith, while Reiss and Michael Raigoza each scored on touchdown runs.
The win was the 19th straight victory for Bear River’s junior varsity, which finished the 2009 campaign with a 10-0 record. Bear River’s JV has not dropped a game since the 2008 season.
“The only streak that matters right now is we’re 8-0,” said Bean. “The other stuff is cool and obviously you can tell by our attire (noting the staff’s same polo shirt and short ensemble, despite Friday’s cold and rainy weather) that we believe in jinxes and superstition, but the one that matters for us is that we’re 8-0 and that’s where we wanted to be.”
Contact Sports Editor Brian Hamilton via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 477-4240.
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The Little League District 11 postseason is off to a hot start.