Bear River to face stiff test against River Valley (VIDEO) |

Bear River to face stiff test against River Valley (VIDEO)

Bear River's John Voter III brings down Highlands' Quentin Anquiano for one his team-high six tackles in the Bruins 51-14 win Friday night. Voter also had a 37-yard interception return for a touchdown.
Photo by Brian O’Brien |

Separated collarbone, broken ankle — these are words no football team wants to hear heading into its toughest game of the season thus far, but for Bear River it’s just reality and another hurdle it plans to overcome.

The Bruins host River Valley (2-1) today at 7:30 p.m. and will be without senior starting running back Caleb Johnson and senior back and linebacker Matt Benson. Both suffered game-ending injuries last week at Highlands and unfortunately for Benson, his was also season ending.

“Well we lost two players for this game last week,” said Bear River assistant coach Duane Zauner. “Caleb Johnson went down with a collar bone there and it’s separated right now so we hope in maybe a couple to three weeks we can get him back. Without him Friday night against a good team so that’s a tough bill for some of us to pick up for. We also feel really bad about Matt Benson breaking his ankle. Yeah he tore it up pretty good and he had surgery yesterday (Wednesday).”

With the injuries there will definitely be some shoes to fill in the backfield for the Bruins as they open this four-game home stand. The timeline for Johnson’s return is tentatively set for the beginning of Pioneer Valley League play, but the team has guys stepping up in the meantime.

“This week we’re going to have John Voter run some half, Joel Murnan, Michael Tipton and Ryan Wagner might run the ball but I’m not sure,” said senior starting fullback Brad Botsford.

“ He’s definitely playing some Z, getting some passes from Braden Duncan. Garrett Ramsour might be running some fullback too.”

River Valley enters tonight’s game at J. David Ramsey Field averaging just 80.3 passing yards per game, but boasts 314.3 rushing per game, thanks largely to senior running back T.J. Dove. Through three games Dove already has 68 carries for 639 yards and five touchdowns. That’s more yards than he finished with all of last season.

“(Dove) is going to get the ball many, many times tomorrow night,” added Zauner. “We’re just hoping we do a good job of gang tackling. You know if we can do our assignments, cover what we’re supposed to and meet him at the line of scrimmage and hold him on those big runs. And we also have the quarterback to worry about. He does a lot of bootlegs. He also can scramble so we have to contain him and keep him in the pocket so he doesn’t run a muck against us.”

Handling the snaps for the Falcons is junior quarterback Devin Cates who is 19-of-36 for 241 yards on the season with three touchdowns and two interceptions. Behind Dove and Cates, the Falcons coasted to victory in their first game 48-17 on the road over Central Valley, then lost at Sac-Joaquin Section No. 21 ranked Center 14-0 (where Dove still reached the 100 yard mark) and last week the squad came out on top of Marysville 35-21 in its home opener.

“I’ll be playing quick tackle, a little bit of strong tackle because they stem over so (our coaches) want me to keep it contained when they stem,” Botsford said. “Keeping their quarterback in the pocket is a big thing because he’s fast, great athlete — can make big plays. And of course we have T.J. Dove running that toss right at me — just have to make sure I do my job and don’t do other people’s jobs — going inside loose and contained.”

Bear River knocked off River Valley 28-14 last season, a game in which the Bruins were led by running back Cody Heard who scored three times. Running was the theme for both teams with Bear River finishing with 227 rushing yards on 51 carries and River Valley ending with 189 on 32 carries. Dove accounted for 121 of those yards on just 16 carries and scored one touchdown.

Whichever team can run more effectively and dictate the tempo will have the advantage, but the Falcons can’t afford to ignore Duncan and Kris Edie who have developed a great chemistry through the early weeks of this season. The Bruins offense definitely offers more of a complete package as far as dual threats are concerned, whereas River Valley relies mostly upon Dove.

“We’re going to have to execute,” said Zauner.

“Both offensively and defensively — execute our game plan out and gang tackle. We have to gang tackle.”

It’s important not to underestimate the Falcons’ potential. Bear River’s 2012 junior varsity squad, which finished undefeated (5-0) in Pioneer Valley League play, suffered its only loss of the season to the Falcons 34-0. Many of those players have now moved up to varsity to make today’s match up all the more intriguing.

River Valley comes into tonight’s game ranked 53rd in the Section while Bruins (3-0) are 46th having leap frogged Lincoln and Placer in the PVL after starting the season 75th. Although Bear River has only allowed 9.3 points per game its opponents are a combined 1-11, as opposed to the Falcons who have yielded 17.3 points per game with its opposition combining for a 7-4 record. The Bruins have also never trailed in any game this season.

To contact Sports Writer Brian Shepard, call 530-477-4234 or email Rankings and stats provided by

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