Bruins battle Hillmen for edge in Pioneer Valley League
It isn’t often you have two undefeated high school football teams taking the field to battle one another this deep into the season, but that’s exactly what Bear River and Placer are bringing to the gridiron Friday night.
Bear River is coming off a thrilling and eye-opening 24-14 victory over Pioneer Valley League foe Colfax. Through the first six games, the Bruins (6-0, 1-0 PVL) have faced injuries to key players and have overcome deficits on multiple occasions. These tests have strengthened the team.
The Placer Hillmen (6-0, 1-0 PVL), on the other hand, have yet to be truly tested on the field, winning all six of their games by an average margin of 31.8 points. The closest outing came in a 42-33 road win over Yuba City.
They also knocked off a regular playoff contender in Central Catholic (Modesto) in the season opener, 48-30. And after last week’s 68-14 mauling of Foothill, the Hillmen have proven to be a section championship contender.
Ranked 37th in the state by MaxPreps, Placer boasts an offense that is currently averaging 52.8 points, coming on 355.2 rushing yards and 125.5 passing yards per game.
The squad features a multiple-running back scheme, much like Bear River.
Placer’s Isaac Brahce, Todd Valliere, Cameron Scott and Michael Robinson have 27 touchdowns among them, average more than 7 yards per carry and have gained the Hillmen 1,833 yards on the ground.
The team has 2,131 yards rushing altogether, nearly double that of Bear River.
“Eight in the box? Definitely. Nine is the magic number, so we‘ll see,” co-head coach Terry Logue said. “Placer has a balanced attack. You can’t key on one guy. They dish out equal carries to their backs, and their offensive line is big.”
Leading the mammoth Placer line is 6-foot, 4-inch, 305-pound senior offensive linemen Eddie Vanderdoes. The USC-bound lineman is also a force on defense.
Despite the attention that needs to be paid in the trenches, Placer has a balanced attack. Quarterback Peter Denham has thrown for 752 yards with 11 touchdowns and one interception. The Hillmen rarely make mistakes with only four turnovers on the season, the interception and three fumbles, which derived from 264 total rushing attempts.
“They’ll run a man-in-motion, double-tight, multiple formation and a very effective hurry-up offense,” Logue said.
Last season, the Bruins fell at home to Placer by a score of 10-6. The Hillmen were still averaging 376.7 yards rushing per game, and Bear River managed to hold them to 194 yards. Yet in that game, the Bruins struggled offensively totalling 64 yards on the ground. They had more luck passing the ball, as quarterback James Harris racked up 148 yards, completing 14-of-30 attempts.
“Last year was a tremendous defensive game,” said Logue. “We played really well and had a couple of chances. Just didn’t capitalize.”
Quarterback Dillon Smith may need to put up similar numbers if the Bruins want to give Placer another battle this time around.
“They‘re ranked, haven’t had any close games, and everyone expects them to win,” said Smith. “We have nothing to lose. They have everything.”
Producing points hasn’t been any trouble for the Bruins this season, as they have averaged 31.3 per game. More surprisingly, their defense has only given up an average of 18 points per game, three better than Placer’s 21.
An integral part of the Bruins’ success on defense has been free-safety Michael Raigoza, who has hauled in three interceptions on the season.
“Reading their keys is going to be huge for us,” said Raigoza. “They play an up-tempo style that’s so much faster. We need to be ready before they get out of the huddle, then just stay home and do our job.”
Bruins running back and defensive back Austin Dowling will be out Friday due to a concussion he sustained while making a tackle during the second half of last week’s game at Colfax, said Logue. Dowling has three interceptions and 34 tackles this season.
To contact Sports Writer Brian Shepard, call (530) 477-4234 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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