Bear River faces must-win game at Lincoln
KNOW & GO
Who: Bear River at Lincoln
When: 7:30 p.m., today
Where: Lincoln High School, 790 J Street Lincoln, CA 95648
Online: Crunch Time video at TheUnion.com
Follow along: @theunionsports on Twitter for live updates from the game
Tonight the Bear River Bruins’ backs are as far up against the wall as they can possibly be as the team hits the road for an intriguing matchup in a must-win, do-or-die football game at Lincoln.
“We’ve had good luck the last two or three times we’ve been over there (Lincoln), so hopefully that will continue,” said Bear River co-head coach Terry Logue. “For our playoff hopes, this is it. We either win or we can’t go to the playoffs. We could still have a winning season, which would be nice, but as far as the playoffs, this is it.”
The Pioneer Valley League hasn’t been kind to the Bruins thus far and after opening 0-3 in league play with losses to Colfax, Placer and Center, it doesn’t make tonight’s task any more welcoming. It’s simple, though. A win keeps the team’s playoff hopes alive. Kickoff is slated for 7:30 p.m.
Standing in the way of Bear River Friday evening are the Fighting Zebras (6-2, 2-1 PVL). Their powerful running attack, which features the league’s leading rusher, junior Dan Stimbert, as well as a few other talented backs, propels the squad’s offense to 352.9 yards rushing per game and a PVL-best 39.9 points per game while yielding 19.8. The Zebras’ 5:1 run to pass ratio is no secret.
“Well, hopefully we’re going to tackle for one thing but play with a lot of fire and a lot of emotion,” Logue said. “Lincoln runs an offense very similar to Placer. They run the Wing-T, some counters, traps, reverses — you have to stay home on the backside. They’re a predominately run team, about 80 to 20 percent run over the pass.”
Stimbert has racked up 1,126 yards on 106 carries, an average of more than 10 yards per rush. He also has 12 touchdowns. Senior Eddy Cobleigh is the team’s second leading producer on the ground with 12 touchdowns and 745 total yards. Senior Landon Croisant has 471 yards and eight touchdowns. So for the third straight week, the Bruins can bet their bottom dollar that there will no shortage of talent out of the opposition’s backfield.
“(Lincoln) does have a very quick quarterback; that creates some problems,” added Logue. “The real problem is, like Placer, they have three or four good running backs. You can’t key on one guy and they’re line is big and physical, and defensively they’re very big on defense. They present a big challenge. They beat Center; they did lose to Placer last week.”
The Bruin offense has taken quite a few blows these past few weeks with injuries to fullback Brad Botsford and Caleb Johnson, who looks to be out indefinitely due to illness, according to Logue. There is some good news, however. Botsford, the team’s leading rusher with 602 yards and 14 touchdowns, will take the field tonight.
“Yes, very gladly or happily Brad (Botsford) is back, both ways, offense and defense,” said Logue. “He’s probably our fastest guy next to (Caleb) Johnson, so Brad gives a little more breakaway potential on offense, and he’s a very good defensive lineman. That’s a big plus for us this week.”
Yet in a sport as physical as football, there can’t always just be good news. The battle-tested offensive line will be without senior right guard Brandon Leipsic, who will have to sit out this week’s game after suffering a concussion against Center. Filling in for him will be a combined effort from Andrew Leonard Cole Clark and Isaiah Conely.
Senior quarterback Braden Duncan’s numbers have taken a hit these past few weeks, not to mention him taking a few hits himself. The young Bear River Duncan is now 69-of-133 for 977 yards, with eight touchdowns and six interceptions on the year. Dropping back to pass against the Zebras isn’t going to be easy, either. The Zebras lead the league in sacks so Duncan and Botsford are definitely going to need all the blocking they can get if they plan to sustain a long drive.
“We’ve just been practicing hard trying to stay focused and give 100 percent every day,” said Bear River senior quarterback Braden Duncan. “I just don’t let the losses or pressure get to me — just see how I’m headed and play my game.”
Defensively, Lincoln boasts senior Jesse Clay. The six-foot, two-inch, 230-pound senior already has 17 sacks this season, which is nine more than teammate Aaron Soto, who has eight. In fact, Lincoln has the league’s top five sack leaders. Seniors Clay, Soto, Josh Meyers, Christian Long and Earnest Jasper have a combined 42 sacks between them.
Last season the Bruins defeated Lincoln at J. David Ramsey Field, 24-14. In that particular contest, the Bear River defensive front was superb, holding Lincoln to 169 yards rushing on 49 carries, an average of only 3.5 yards per carry. The Bruins also forced two fumbles, grabbed an interception and wrapped up five sacks. Offensively, the squad had two turnovers of its own but was still able to out-gain Lincoln both passing and rushing. The victory gave Bear River its second league win and lifted it into the playoffs.
The stakes are a lot different this year, with the Bruins still searching for their first win in the PVL. Meanwhile, Lincoln needs to win if it hopes to stay with Center and Colfax in second place. Undoubtedly, most of the pressure in tonight’s game falls on Bear River (5-3, 0-3 PVL), which needs to answer the call in a big way.
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