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Bruins lose heartbreaker in home opener

Ryan Wagner catches a fourth quarter touchdown for Bear River against Pacheco.
Photo by Brian O’Brien |

For the first time in eight seasons Bear River came up short in a non-league game on its home grass.

Pacheco came into J. David Ramsey Field Friday night and walked off with a 35-29 victory.

It was the high-intensity game that everybody saw coming and the Bruins popped pads with a quality opponent, but just couldn’t find a way to get in done in the end.



“What do you say?,” said Bear River co-head coach Scott Savoie, after his guys came up just short in a valiant effort. “We expected that type of team, senior-laden team, a playoff team. We knew we would have our hands full.”

The Bruins most certainly did have their hands full, but they looked sharp out of the gate, opening up a 14-0 lead with two brilliant scoring drives of 97 yards and 52 yards. They were capped off by quarterback Austin Smith tossing a 22-yard pass to Travis Whitehead and a 1-yard plunge by John Voter III.




However, the Panthers came storming back when senior quarterback Juwan Epperson found his big target over the middle Frank Ginda for touchdown connections of 47 and 61 yards. Epperson finished the evening 7-of-10 passing for 157 yards with four touchdown passes, one interception and the go-ahead rushing touchdown late in the fourth quarter to all but seal the game.

“You can’t squeeze anymore blood out of the turnip,” said Bruins co-head coach Terry Logue, referring to how hard his guys played. “Our effort was tremendous. Things we did to compensate for their run attack worked a lot.”

After the Panther’s first score, Bear River responded well with another 58-yard march of its own as Smith found Dave Mastrella for a 13-yard touchdown to extend the lead back to 14 points after converting on a two-point attempt. However, it only took Pacheco 57 seconds to find the end zone shorty after. The Bruins took a 22-15 lead into the locker room.

Smith finished the game 17-of-20 passing for 220 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. Leading Bear River out of the backfield was junior Kyle Uclaray, who rushed 12 times for 75 yards and extended many drives for the Bruins’ offense. Yet, the third quarter was owned by Pacheco, which grabbed a Bruin fumble on the second half’s opening kickoff and later scored to tie the game, 22-22. The Panthers also had momentum in their favor and would go on to take the lead after a Bear River three and out. The Bruins dug deep and fought back to tie the game 29-29 with just over nine minutes as Smith found senior Ryan Wagner on a fourth and long from the Pacheco 28-yard line.

“That fumble at the start of the second half changed the momentum of the entire game,” said Logue. “Give them credit though for making that fourth and short on their own 29-yard line. That was huge.”

Pacheco later put together an impressive 84-yard drive, which ate up almost seven minutes of clock, leaving Bear River just over two minutes to try and tie things up, but Smith later threw into tight coverage and the ball was intercepted.

“I’m disappointed we lost,” added Savoie. “When you make mistakes like that it’s going to cost us. We are not a senior-laden team. When you consider that, this was, for a lot of kids, their very first varsity experience, that’s incredible. Now it’s time to look at film and see how we can get better.”

Leading Pacheco in the rushing department was Kalama Kamoku, who finished with 22 touches for 141 yards. As a team, the Panthers ran the ball 42 times for a grand total of 258 yards.

Defensively for the Bruins Conner Hollister led the way with eight tackles, followed by Kyle Krogman and Voter, who finished with seven and six respectively. Voter also added two sacks. Josh Davis grabbed an interception and Gunnar Simpson recovered a fumble.

The Bruins (0-1) will look to bounce back in their next non-league regular season matchup Friday, when they host Union Mine.

JV: Pacheco 14, Bear River 0

The Bruins weren’t able to get on the scoreboard against a stingy Panthers defense during the junior varsity game as Pacheco busted through for two long touchdowns, each totaling more than 50 yards.


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