Bruins face tall task vs. Cougars |

Bruins face tall task vs. Cougars

Photo for The Union by John Hart
John Hart | The Union

What: Bear River vs. Center

When: 7:30 p.m. today

Where: J. David Ramsey Stadium, Bear River High School

Last week: Bear River (6-1, 1-1 PVL) lost to Placer, 14-7. Center (6-1, 2-0 PVL) defeated Colfax, 34-14.

After completing a four-game road stretch, the Bear River football team (6-1 overall, 1-1 Pioneer Valley League) returns home tonight against a very talented Center squad (6-1 overall, 2-0 PVL).

“It’s good to be home,” said co-head coach Scott Savoie. “We’ve worn white for so long we forgot what red was like.”

This will mark the first of three PVL home games for the Bruins before the regular season is concluded.

If the Bruins want to improve their playoffs chances, then they will need to find a way to contain Center’s D’Juan Bellaire and Tyrel Anderson.

A dynamic duo, Bellaire and Anderson racked up more than 2,800 total yards last season, accounting for 89 percent of Center’s offense.

Colfax was the latest victim as the Cougars ran all over the Falcons last week with a 34-14 win, which is 10 points better than the Bruins mustered against their foe.

“They are two special players,” said Savoie. “You don’t win six games in a row without a full team though.”

In their dominance over Colfax, Anderson rushed 12 times for 131 yards and scored a pair of touchdowns. He also connected on 7-of-11 passes for 91 yards. Running back Bellaire tacked on an additional 166 yards rushing on 29 touches for better than five yards per carry.

For the season, Center has scored an average of 33.4 points per game while allowing only 17.6. Similarly, Bear River has scored 27.9 points and allowed just 17.4.

There is a lot on the line Friday, as the winner will move one step closer to securing a guaranteed spot in the playoffs. The top two teams from the PVL are in the postseason with additional teams getting spots based on a minimum of two league wins, then most overall wins.

As much as you compare and contrast the two, both teams remember what happened last season quite well. Trailing 21-0, Bear River surged back in the second half and tied the game 28-28 with under a minute to play. The Cougars responded by returning the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown, which proved to be the difference.

Offense wasn’t hard to come by for either team as Bear River passed for 168 yards and rushed for 227. Center gained 148 yards passing and 237 more on the ground.

Last week against Placer, the Bruins ran the ball 17 times for a loss of three yards. That is something that needs to change if Bear River wants to rebound.

“Having to pass against two tough defenses (Colfax and Placer) has been good for us, but we will look to establish the run,” Savoie said.

Bear River is averaging 153.4 yards passing and 160.4 rushing with Smith completing 57 percent of his passes and likely to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark Friday. Michael Raigoza, Cody Heard and Austin Dowling, who will return for this game after his concussion against Colfax, are the team’s top three rushers. Tevyn Kimble leads all receivers with 520 yards.

Yards after contact is going to be a significant factor with the explosiveness that Center features out of the backfield, said Savoie. The Bruins will look to wrap up the Cougars and not let them break tackles for extra yards. For that task, Bear River has Heard, Barrios and Zach Winter, who have 166 total tackles between them. J. Sean Harwood and Jake Savoie will look to keep the heat and add to their 12.5 combined sacks.

A big win versus Center (ranked 19th in the Sacramento Bee’s Top 20 for the San Joaquin Section) might just put Bear River on the map and, more importantly, move the Bruins up to a tie for second in the PVL, not to mention giving them the two league wins they need to qualify as a potential at-large-overall bid in the playoffs.

“I’ve coached four teams that have reached 10 wins — ’91, ‘94, ‘97 and ’05,” Savoie said. “Those teams are elite. We either won the section or went deep in the playoffs with lots of double-digit wins. I believe we can get there.”

Center will be trying to achieve its first seven-win season since 1999.

To contact Sports Writer Brian Shepard, call (530) 477-4234 or email

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