Bruins, Zebras square off in critical battle
What: Bear River vs. Lincoln
When: 7:30 p.m. today
Where: J. David Ramsey Stadium, Bear River High School
Last week: Bear River (6-2, 1-2 PVL) lost to Center, 36-0. Lincoln (4-4, 1-2 PVL) lost to Placer, 10-7.
The Bear River football squad (6-2, 1-2 PVL) will host the Lincoln Fighting Zebras (4-4, 1-2 PVL) Friday in a game in which both teams are just one Pioneer Valley League win away from qualifying for the playoffs.
Last year’s 7-4 overall (2-3 PVL) record was good enough to get the Bruins a berth into the postseason. Two league wins are needed to qualify for the at-large bid.
“We’re trying to get in the playoffs Friday night,” co-head coach Terry Logue said.
The Bruins’ mistakes against Center last week not only cost them the game but also kept them off the scoreboard completely.
To get a few points early would really boost the team’s confidence, said Logue.
Now the team must collect itself and find a way to move forward.
Lincoln hung tough last week and almost pulled off the upset over Placer with a botched fake field goal attempt, falling 10-7.
Lincoln rushes for an average of 349 yards per game and scores 36.5 points on average.
In each contest this season, with the exception of its 39-27 loss to Center, Lincoln has had fewer than 10 pass attempts and is averaging 60 passing yards per game.
Unlike the Bruins, Lincoln has one running back who carries the bulk of the load, senior James Hubbard. With 109 carries and 1,021 yards on the season, Hubbard averages 127.6 yards per game to go with his 17 touchdowns. Last year, Hubbard played quarterback and a strong safety-linebacker hybrid role on defense, missing three games due to an ankle injury.
As a team, the Fighting Zebras have 2,792 rushing yards with 35 touchdowns.
“We’ve faced good backs all year, just look at last week with D’juan Bellaire,” said Logue. “(Hubbard) is just another one we have to tackle. Hopefully a wet and muddy field will slow him down. Lincoln has turf at home.”
Despite all of its running, Lincoln has only lost five fumbles and tossed two interceptions this season. Bear River had five turnovers last week alone. Lincoln’s defense has pulled in 11 interceptions and recovered six fumbles this year, good for a plus-10 turnover ratio. Meanwhile, the Bruins have 18 turnovers this season and still managed to collect 26 from their opponents, good for a plus-eight margin.
“We’ve been working a lot on offense, finishing drives,” Logue said. “Our practices have had more in-game simulations where we’re enforcing penalties and turnovers.”
Last week against Center, the Bruins rushed for 128 yards, eclipsing the 100-yard mark for the first time since playing Scott’s Valley at the end of September. Yet, Bear River lost three fumbles, which paralyzed their drives and left them nothing to show on the scoreboard. The team is averaging 24.4 points per game after being outscored 50-7 during its two game skid.
Quarterback Dillon Smith broke the 1,000-yard mark for the season with a 131-yard performance last week.
“We moved the ball last week better than we have in three weeks. It’s just penalties and turnovers that cause us to self-destruct at times and keep us out of the end zone,” Logue said.
On the bright side, the Bruins defeated Lincoln 45-21 last season, passing for 113 yards and amassing 237 more with their running attack. Perhaps most importantly, they had no turnovers.
To contact Sports Writer Brian Shepard, call (530) 477-4234 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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Grass Valley native Brad Sweet drove past the competition and into victory lane last week, snapping his longest winless streak of the season.