Drew Loftus dropped back and let loose Bear River’s final hope in the form of a pass down the left sideline deep into Placer territory, but the Hillmen’s Bruno Gotzmer leapt into the air and batted the ball down to the ground with :00 showing on the scoreboard clock.
The south sideline erupted in the celebration of Placer’s second victory of the season while the Bear River’s Bruins stood in silent bewilderment of a 24-23 defeat to the Hillmen.
The loss was the second-straight for Bear River (3-2-1), which after three-straight wins to open the season has been kept out of the win column for the past three weeks.
More importantly, the loss was the second-straight in Pioneer Valley League play, putting the Bruins’ playoff hopes in serious jeopardy just two weeks into league action.
“It hurts because of how much we put into it,” Bear River co-head coach Terry Logue told his Bruins after the game. “It was absolutely a great effort. We’re proud you put in the effort and that’s why it hurts.”
Bear River’s offense got off to a strong start, dominating the line of scrimmage throughout the first half of a back-and-forth affair. Andy Parquette, who rushed for a team-high 83 yards, scored on a 21-yard draw play for the game’s first score.
Bear River hurt itself down the stretch with a couple of key mistakes that cost the Bruins dearly. Just after Loftus, Bear River’s senior quarterback, hit Gary Schmidt on a 21-yard, play-action pass to move the score to 24-23, the Bruins missed the potential game-tying point after when Jared Murnan’s kick struck the left upright with 2:09 left in the third quarter.
But the Bruins weren’t done.
Though the Bear River defense had trouble stopping Placer’s wing-T attack – highlighted by the Hillmen’s Ross Moskwa rushing for 204 yards – the Bruins came up with the defensive stops they needed in the fourth quarter.
On fourth-and-1 at the Hillmen’s own 42, with 4:06 remaining in the game, Placer coach Joey Montoya ran Moskwa up the gut but was turned away by the Bruins.
Bear River took over with a 10-yard run on first down by junior Cristopher Parfitt. On second down, disaster struck when Parquette fumbled the ball on an extremely muddy turf. Placer’s Jordan Raty recovered to end the threat.
The Bruin defense again rose to the challenge on the next two plays, holding the Hillmen to a total of two yards.
But on third-and-eight at his own 31, Placer’s Bobby Classon took a reverse down the left sideline for a 43-yard gain to the Bear River 27.
“(On the fourth-and-1 call) the kids told me to do it and I believed in them,” said Montoya, whose Hillmen improved to 2-4 overall and 2-0 in the PVL. “And our defense made up for my call.
“I just kept reminding myself all day ‘Don’t forget about the reverse, don’t forget about the reverse.’ It was a crucial point of the game and I went with it.”
Yet even though that big play helped chew up the final two minutes of the clock, Bear River’s defense still gave Loftus and company one more shot by stopping the Hillmen on fourth-and-six at the Bruins’ 25-yard line.
With 40 seconds still showing, Loftus led the Bruins from their own 22 to the Placer 48-yard line in six plays.
The key play in the series, which gave Bear River its final shot, came on fourth-and-3 at the Bruins’ 29 when Murnan dove to the ground and cradled a five-yard pass from Loftus for a first down.
Loftus then hit wideout Garrett Barbic for an 18-yard gain on a middle screen to set up the Hail Mary that went unanswered for the Bruins at game’s end.
In addition to Parquette’s ground game, the Bruins also got 66 yards from Parfitt and 49 more from Matt Belnap. Loftus completed 8-of-18 passes for 151 yards and two touchdowns.
One of those touchdowns came on a 52-yard pass to Schmidt, who got loose for the score thanks to a big block by Barbic on the left sideline with 3:35 to go in the first quarter. Schmidt and Barbic were the Bruins’ leading receivers with 87 and 55 yards, respectively, on three catches each.
Bear River’s defense was led by two quarterback sacks from senior linebacker Cristopher Argento and another from senior noseguard Tommy Jones.
For Placer, Jake Lopez had 78 rushing yards and Classon added 48 more the Hillmen. Ross finished 9-of-12 passing for 58 yards.
“The game doesn’t come down to one play or one moment,” Bear River co-head coach Scott Savoie said to the Bruins. “We had lots of opportunities to have more points on the board.
“Don’t beat yourself up if you made a mistake, because there’s not a guy here who didn’t. Don’t carry the weight of the world on your shoulders.
“How we react to adversity is what defines us, not just as football players, but as people.”
JV: Bear River 31, Placer 6
Johnny Jewett rushed for 105 yards and two touchdowns to lead Bear River to a 31-6 win over Placer, as the Bruins’ junior varsity improved to 6-0 on the season and 2-0 in the Pioneer Valley League.
“I bet we had 20 first downs tonight,” said Bear River coach Duane Zauner. ” It was amazing. The offensive line really took control against a physical team.
“The kids are really performing well.”
Cole White rushed for 61 yards and two touchdowns, while Brandon Fry finished with 48 yards and Colby Angus added another 22 for Bear River, which avenged last year’s 21-7 junior varsity loss at Placer.
Cody Van Fossen kicked a 25 yard field goal for the Bruins and also played a key role in the big play of the night for Bear River. After catching a four-yard pass from quarterback Brian Pedro, Van Fossen pitched the ball to Jewett for a 56-yard, hook-and-lateral for a touchdown and a 21-0 lead with 16 seconds to go in the first half.
Defensively, White led the way with 11 tackles while Fry had eight and Robby Burr had seven stops. Robert Guidera had an interception for Bear River.
To contact Sports Editor Brian Hamilton, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 477-4240.
Placer 24, Bear River 23
Placer (2-4) 7 10 7 0 – 24
Bear River (3-2-1) 14 3 6 0 – 23
BR – Andy Parquette 21 run (Jared Murnan kick), 6:12
P – Bruno Gotzmer 8 pass from Matt Ross (Ross kick), 4:28
BR – Gary Schmidt 52 pass from Drew Loftus (Murnan kick), 3:35
P – Jake Lopez 8 run (Ross kick), 10:03
BR – Murnan 33 field goal, 3:06
P – Ross 29 field goal, :10
P – Moskwa 21 run (Ross kick), 4:52
BR – Schmidt 21 pass from Loftus (Kick failed), 2:09
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