Bear River aims to stay perfect at Highlands
KNOW & GO
What: Bear River vs. Highlands
When: Today, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Highlands High School
6601 Guthrie Way
North Highlands, Ca 95660
Bear River travels today to take on a Highlands team that has been struggling to find its identity the first few weeks of the season.
The Scots’ 0-3 record may not look intimidating, but Bear River certainly knows not to take them for granted. Last season, Highlands came to Bear River and nearly escaped with a victory after Bear River’s Dillon Smith was knocked out of the game, but the Bruins pulled off a tremendous comeback in the end and ran the ball 60 times for 284 yards to win 29-28.
“We spent a lot of time looking at that film actually, from last year — a 29-28 ballgame,” said Bear River co-head coach Scott Savoie. “We spent some time yesterday and today really focusing on that. First off, for obvious reasons, they’re very similar what they’re doing scheme-wise offensively and defensively. But I think more important than that was to show them that, you know, that we were in a ballgame last year, and we had to fight to the very end to pick up that win, and we wanted to see that.”
It’s hard to ignore Highlands’ roughed up resume this season though. The Scots’ three losses came against McCylmonds, Vista del Lago and Lincoln by a combined thrashing of 193-13. Meanwhile Bear River has kept each of its first two opponents off the scoreboard until the fourth quarter, and last week, the Bruins’ 28-0 lead at the half was also enough for them to be able to take starting senior quarterback Braden Duncan out early to give junior quarterback Austin Smith and other players some reps.
“The games aren’t won in the paper,” said Bear River co-head coach Terry Logue. “And every game has its own personality. We talked to the team about that. If you start going by comparative scores, you’re in big trouble. Last year, Highlands lost to Lincoln by about 50 points, and we won by one point — and we beat Lincoln. We try to make sure the kids know that, but it’s kind of human nature. They see they’ve lost three games, and it’s hard for them to focus sometimes, but we’re definitely emphasizing that we have to go down there and play good football.”
Duncan threw only eight passes for the second consecutive week when the Bear River hosted Woodland last week, but now on the season, the first-year QB is 13-of-16 for 260 yards with two touchdown passes and no interceptions. Each pass Duncan has delivered has been significant, either moving the chains for first downs or flipping the field entirely to put his team within striking distance of a score. Although the Bruin offense has favored the run with Brad Botsford and Caleb Johnson getting the bulk of the work, the right combination of Duncan’s passes has made its effectiveness blossom and put defenses on their heels.
“Well, last week, I thought we had a great outing,” said Savoie. “We had two 100-yard rushers, had a receiver with just about 100 yards and a quarterback that I thought threw really well. Our offensive line is coming along, but I still feel like we got a ways to go there. As a blocking team overall, not just the line but backs, receivers, I think we need to become a better blocking football team. We’re pushing the envelope there, trying to get better.”
On the other sideline, Highlands has experimented with seniors Quentin Anquiano and Iszir Price at quarterback. Both have taken snaps in all three games this season and have combined to pass 26-of-73 for 270 yards but have five interceptions between them. Price also does the majority of running for the Scotts. He has 45 carries for 225 yards. Highlands’ 82-to-73 run-to-pass ratio will definitely keep the Bear River defense honest.
“Well, Highlands is very similar to Woodland — they run the spread offense, they split their receivers out really wide, which puts a lot of pressure on you,” Logue said. “They have a very athletic quarterback that can run and throw. We’re going to have to try to keep him in the pocket and not let him run loose. We’ve had some sickness, an injury this week — we’re kind of down to some new guys in the secondary, and (Austin) Smith might get his first start at safety. The big thing is we’re trying to eliminate big plays. We want them to have to drive down the field and earn their touchdowns. Last year, when we played these guys, that didn’t happen — they hurt us with some long passes on the fade routes.”
In last season’s match up versus Highlands, the Bear River defense allowed 157 yards rushing on 30 carries and surrendered 224 passing yards on just nine receptions. In 2013, senior wide receivers Jacob Yettou and Junior Jenkins lead the Scots with seven catches, and sophomore Anthony Vang has also been in the mix this season with six.
Of course, one of the biggest intangible factors to this game will be the Bruins’ ability to handle themselves on the road and respect their opponent.
“We really work hard on respecting every opponent,” said Savoie. “And you never know what’s going to happen.”
To contact Sports Writer Brian Shepard, call 530-477-4234 or email email@example.com.
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