Bruins take six-game win streak into critical league game against Placer
The last time a Bear River football team beat Placer and Colfax in the same season was 2008.
Tanner Mathias, now the co-head coach of Bear River’s junior varsity team, was the quarterback then, and those Bruins went to the playoffs.
With a win against Colfax already in their back pocket, if the Bruins can beat Placer tonight they will all but assure themselves a playoff spot and have the inside track to the Pioneer Valley League title. But beating Placer isn’t easy. It never is when it comes to league play.
“They are as good as they have ever been,” Bear River co-head coach Terry Logue said. “They got three or four really good backs, they got a good quarterback and a great receiver. Bottom line is we need to make tackles. That will be key for us.”
The Hillmen (5-2, 2-0 PVL) are 22-4 in league play since 2009, and have not lost to Bruins since 2008.
Bear River (6-1, 2-0 PVL) does have some momentum on their side, having won their last six games, including a 21-20 come-from-behind victory over rival Colfax last week.
“Having (Kyle) Uclaray back has made a huge difference,” said Logue. “He has a knack for making something out of nothing.”
Uclaray, a junior running back who scored the game-winning touchdown against Colfax, had missed a game earlier this season, but since returning has been a force for the Bruins. In the last three Bear River games, Uclaray has 383 rushing yards and five touchdowns.
Uclaray’s success is made possible by a young but improving offensive line, said Logue. Bear River’s line of Conner Hollister (tight end), Isaiah Conely (guard), Robert Mathias (tackle), Jefferson Sanders (tackle), Jason Demonstene (guard) and Jimmy Vaughn (center) are all juniors that have steadily improved throughout the season.
“They are young, but they continue to get better. Each week we see improvement,” Logue said.
With ball carriers Dave Mastrella and David O’Brien back from early season injuries and joining Uclaray and John Voter III in the backfield, the Bruins boast a bevy of quality backs. As a team Bear River averages 194 yards rushing per game and has scored 20 rushing touchdowns this season. Voter III leads the team with 11 rushing scores and Uclaray is second with six.
The Bruins’ run game is strong, but so is the Hillmen’s.
Placer is averaging 281.1 yards per game and has 34 rushing touchdowns. The Hillmen have five backs that have carried the ball more than 30 times this season, eight backs with more than 100-yards rushing this season and nine backs that have scored touchdowns. Leading the Hillmen ground attack is senior Cole Blackwell with 241 rush yards and nine touchdowns. Junior Jared Halbert has 268 rush yards and eight touchdowns, junior Anthony Pierce leads the team with 310 rushing yards to go with four touchdowns, and senior Logan Markstein rounds out the top Placer backs with 286 rush yards and four touchdowns.
“They run a lot of misdirection, lots of counters and reverses and they do it really well,” said Logue. “They have big linemen and they are good blockers. So we need to stop the reverses and counters by staying home on the backside and making tackles.”
In addition to the run game, Placer can also air it out. Senior quarterback Clark Pietromonaco has thrown for 823 yards this season and seven touchdowns.
“Placer poses a lot of problems,” said Logue.
The Bruin defense has been stout this season, allowing an average of 14.8 points per game. Leading the Bruin defense is senior linebacker Kyle Krogman with 76 tackles. Krogman and the Bruins defense has shown they can get to the quarterback with 14 sacks as a team this year. Gunner Simpson leads all Bruins with six sacks.
Bear River will trot out junior Jason Voter at quarterback, his sixth start since taking over for Austin Dillon.
“Whoever wins will likely get at least a share of the league title,” said Logue. “That’s how big this one is. This is a big game and a one we certainly want to win.”
Placer will have the home-field advantage in this critical PVL matchup. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. at LeFebvre Stadium.
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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