Gloomy stretch lingers over winning season for Bruins
Well, the dust has settled on the 2013 prep football season for the Bear River Bruins, and looking back, it would be a lie to say it didn’t come to a distasteful, bitter end.
A team that once was on fire, scorching its opponents earlier in the year, was suddenly frozen over by the overwhelming talent of the Pioneer Valley League. Now it must sit back and watch from the stands as league foes Center, Placer, Colfax and Lincoln each have a crack at a Sac-Joaquin Section title. There was some good news last week however, as the Bruins earned their first win since Week 5 to finish the regular season 6-4. Despite the much-needed 45-19 victory Friday at Foothill, the sweet taste of one last victory is obviously overshadowed by a hard-to-swallow collapse during league play.
Bear River rattled off wins over Union Mine, Woodland, Highlands, River Valley and Eureka — the Bruins had to be feeling the sky was the limit as they took the field to open league play at home against Colfax. They even set the tempo in that game, leading the Falcons late before relinquishing the lead in the fourth quarter. The loss proved to be devastating and had a snowball effect on the rest of the season. In its first five games, Bear River piled up 175 points, and against the PVL, it managed only 94. In three of its league games, it mustered only seven points. Had Bear River managed a way to pull off the comeback against the Falcons, there may have very well been a different script here, but the reality is the Bruins were outplayed.
Yes, the team would suffer injuries, losing senior half back and linebacker Matt Benson for the season. It temporarily was without fullback Brad Botsford and running back Caleb Johnson, who would briefly return only then to miss the remainder. It became evident the squad had lost its footing once it dove into the thicket of PVL powers. Bear River found itself moving backward, making more mistakes and being exposed where it was most vulnerable — its offensive and defensive fronts. It wouldn’t have mattered even if the Bruins got Foothill in Week 6 and started off 6-0. A 1-4 record in league was all but written in stone.
At the beginning of the season, the question was whether or not the younger, greener and less-equipped talent could get the job done. After winning five in a row, things certainly looked bright, and playoffs were on everyone’s agenda. The Bruins won their first four games by an average margin of 24 points and their fifth with a gut-check performance in comeback fashion late in the fourth quarter. Eureka was, by far, the stiffest competition the team had faced up to that point. Surrendering a 21-0 lead only to dig deep and fire back with one last score down the stretch, it doesn’t get any better than that. The team matured a lot that game and got a serious wake-up call as it embarked on its rough second half of the season. The Loggers went on to finish their season 8-2 overall, winning four straight after falling at Bear River. They host a first-round playoff game Saturday.
Meanwhile, the Bruins had quite the opposite ending to their story, losing four straight after knocking off Eureka. Senior quarterback Braden Duncan had silenced the critics early with his phenomenal accuracy, throwing 49-of-77, a 64 percent completion rate, for 718 yards and six touchdowns with no interceptions in the team’s 5-0 start. As the team finished the season 1-4, Duncan was just 37-of-98 (38 percent) for 480 yards with eight picks. His 1,031 yards ranked him third in the league behind Colfax’s Michael Wilson (2,869) and Placer’s Logan Strange (1,053).
It was indeed the tale of two halves for Bear River. Rushing, the Bear River offense racked up 1,176 yards in its first five games. Closing it out against the PVL, it totaled just 690 yards through the trenches with almost half of that coming in its last game at Foothill, which proved to be everyone else’s stat-padder, too. Botsford’s three touchdowns in the season finale moved him into a tie for second-leading scorer with Center’s running back Joe Swen, as each finished with 114 points, just two points shy of leading-scorer Todd Vallierie of Placer with 116. Botsford ended with 743 yards rushing, more than double anyone else on the team, and his 19 total touchdowns accounted for 51 percent of the squad’s offense.
Senior wide receiver Kris Edie grabbed 42 catches for 597 yards, which was good enough for third-best in league behind Colfax’s Chas Reisinger and Kyle Bryant, who each surpassed the 1,000-yard mark. Senior tight end Hunter Cramer, whose highlight moment had to be the first down catch and run on a fourth-and-9 to seal the game versus Eureka, caught 23 passes for 296 yard and one touchdown.
Defensively, the Bruins’ John Voter III and David Chorjel finished third and fourth in league with 80 and 78 tackles, respectively, behind Colfax’s Jake Medeiors (90) and Lincoln’s Aaron Soto (82). Bear River defensive back Josh Davis snatched three interceptions, which was also third best in the PVL behind Center’s Tyrel Anderson (11) and Tianti Anderson (4). Cramer also led the team in sacks from his linebacker position with three. The Bruins averaged 26.2 points per game while allowing 23.5.
Heading into Week 1 of the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs, Lincoln (7-3) earned the No. 14 seed and will play up in Division III, hitting the road to take on No. 3 seed Inderkum (8-2). In Division-IV action, No. 8 seed Colfax (8-2) will be host to the No. 9 seed Sierra (7-3). Center (7-3), which won the PVL and earned the No. 6 seed, will host No. 11 seed Modesto Christian (6-4). Placer (5-5), which endured a tough preseason but lost its last game to finish second in the PVL, will travel as the No. 14 seed to battle No. 3 seed Capital Christian (9-1). Should Center and Placer both win Friday, it will set up yet another rendezvous for the two teams. If Colfax wins, then it will most likely be headed to play No. 1 seed and defending Division-IV state champ Central Catholic.
At the beginning of the season, MaxPreps.com ranked every team in the section and had the PVL scattered across the board with Center as the favorite, followed by Placer, Colfax, Lincoln, Bear River and Foothill. Well, 10 weeks later, after a lot of shuffling, it has all shaken out exactly as predicted. Not only did the teams place in that order, but Bear River began ranked 75th and even made it into the Sac Bee’s top 20 before it lost to Colfax, only to fall to fifth in the PVL and finish ranked 72nd.
So as Bear River lets go of 20 seniors, it will foster a new breed next season, welcoming a handful of young talent, which won the junior varsity PVL crown with a perfect 5-0 league record and finished 9-1 overall, outscoring its opponents 406-85. Among the additions will be running back Kyle Uclaray, who set a new record for junior varsity with his 1,025 yards rushing on just 85 touches, an average of 12 yards per carry, and 21 total touchdowns. Quarterback Jason Voter will also be moving up to varsity, carrying with him the school’s new junior varsity passing record of 1,028 yards. He’ll be competing next summer with Austin Smith, who got some experience under his belt at the varsity level, taking snaps under center in six games and finishing 11-of-19 for 167 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions. On defense, varsity will also add tackling-machine Connor Hollister and an agile David O’Brien.
To contact Sports Writer Brian Shepard, call 530-477-4234 or email email@example.com. MaxPreps.com provided all stats and rankings.
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