Defense stands tall in Bear River victory
Special to The Union
Glancing at the box score of Bear River’s 29-6 victory over Union Mine last Friday night, one might think the Bruins dominated their opponent start to finish, but that is far from the truth.
“We couldn’t afford to go 0-2 after losing that heartbreaker against Pacheco last week,” said Bear River co-head coach Terry Logue, after his defense put on an absolute clinic in the red zone and wrapped up 45 tackles for the game. “We could of been down 21-0 and easily folded our tent.”
The Bruins first three offensive possessions each resulted in turnovers and the Diamondbacks began their drives from inside the Bear River 30-yard line every time. Union Mine even ran back the opening kickoff 68 yards to start its first drive from the Bruins’ 12-yard line. The Diamondbacks had another crack at the end zone before the half with first-and-goal from the three-yard line, but came away empty.
Union Mine’s offense took 41 snaps to Bear River’s 22 in the first half. Yet, despite all of the favorable field position, the Bruin defense yielded just six points, then scored 29 unanswered points the rest of the game.
Needing to overcome self-inflicted obstacles is definitely something a team doesn’t want deal with, but Bear River showed resilience and a never-say-die mentality.
“We were out of sorts there for awhile,” added co-head coach Scott Savoie. “It was incredible what (Travis) Whitehead did on both sides of the ball. We made him a captain this week, not just for what he does but his attitude. John Voter played his butt off too, Kyle Krogman, everyone stepped up on defense.”
Seniors Connor Hollister and Whitehead both grabbed interceptions and Krogman recovered a fumble. All of those takeaways were turned into points. Defense created the flow of momentum that the Bruins lacked offensively and once Bear River was able to take care of the football it mostly had its way.
Senior running back Voter ran hard at the defense and piled up 66 tough yards on 13 carries and scored two touchdowns. Senior quarterback Austin Smith struggled at times due to tremendous pressure brought on by Union Mine’s defensive front, but he still completed 10-of-17 passes for 123 yards and a touchdown to Ryan Wagner.
He also showed incredible maneuverability after the pocket collapsed and did a better job extending plays when he needed to.
The offense only converted 4-of-15 of its third down opportunities but was 2-for-2 on fourth down situations, both times extending drives that resulted in scores.
In the first half, Bear River’s offense gained a total of just 31 yards, yet the Bruins led at the half, 9-6, after a safety and a pick-six, compliments of Hollister and Whitehead respectively. That speaks volumes about what a defense can do to change the course of a game.
Union Mine junior quarterback Brody Pearman never found a crease, completing just 2-of-14 passes for 15 yards and two interceptions. The Diamondbacks’ primary weapon, running back Austin Rigsby had 22 carries, but only managed to grind out 53 yards. The team rushed for 137 yards on 37 touches.
It was truly the defense that got things rolling for the Bruins. Unlike a week earlier against Pacheco, Bear River didn’t allow any big, devastating, home run-type plays. Every yard gained by Union Mine was contested.
Of the Bruins’ 45 tackles, 13 went for a loss, including five sacks, three by Whitehead, one by Krogman and one from junior Gunnar Simpson.
There will be plenty more hurdles for the Bruins once in Pioneer Valley League play, but at the moment, in non-conference match ups, every situation adds experience to their resume. Everyone is aware that giving free gifts to an opponent is something this team can ill-afford to do in the PVL where the competition is much stiffer.
Junior Dave Mastrella, who sat out during Friday’s contest with a high-ankle sprain sustained during Week Zero in which he caught a touchdown pass, is still questionable to return this week.
Bear River (1-1) hits the field for its first road game Friday at Argonaut and Logue will look to earn career win 200, an accomplishment he says he will take pride in but takes a backseat when it comes to breeding success and making the playoffs.
Brian Shepard is a freelance sports writer who contributes to The Union regularly.
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
Readers around Grass Valley and Nevada County make The Union’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.
Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.
Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.
Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.
User Legend: Moderator Trusted User
Highly successful postseason runs come to an end for local Little League teams