IN THE TRENCHES: A look at the Bear River Bruins who move the pile
Rarely do they get the headlines or even a mention in the story, but that doesn’t seem to bother them.
They are a hard-working, unselfish and unconventional group that finds great joy in simply doing their jobs. They are Bear River’s offensive linemen.
“We’re in the people moving business,” said Josue Hurtado, a 5-foot, 6-inch, 230-pound guard.
Hurtado is one of several Bruins who don’t fit the traditional mold for an offensive lineman.
“If you just look at them standing side by side, you think ‘that can’t be a varsity offensive line,’” said Bear River co-head coach Terry Logue. “But they get it done. They work their butts off. We’ve only had three or four sacks all year and our running game has turned the corner.”
At the beginning of the season, the Bruins’ offensive line could be described as undersized and inexperienced. Thirteen games later they are still undersized, but that doesn’t stop them from getting the job done week after week and playing a major role in the Bruins Sac-Joaquin Section Division V Championship Game victory over Colfax.
The Bruins up front dominated the line of scrimmage with a title on the line, paving the way as Bear River’s offense racked up more than 400 yards, including 312 yards and three touchdowns on the ground.
“To wrap it up in one word — miraculous,” Bear River co-head coach Scott Savoie said of the offensive line’s transformation this season. “It’s been quite an evolution. They started as a rag-tag group and have formed into a pretty darn good offensive unit up front.”
Savoie and assistant coach Dean Sweeney have worked tirelessly with the Bear River “people movers,” helping shape them into the effective group they are today.
“We really work hard on defining their role,” said Savoie. “On the offensive line, we are in the people moving business. Our job, like a fork lift, is to stick our fork into people, pick them up and move them. And, we take great pride in that and that’s who we are.”
Hurtado added the offensive line has grown close this season, and has no doubt in their ability to get the job done in the most critical situations.
“If it’s fourth and one and we need that one yard, I know we can go out there and get it no matter who we are going against,” he said.
Kaden Ahlberg, a 5-10, 200-pound senior tackle and All-Pioneer Valley League First Teamer, gave a lot of credit for the line’s growth to Savoie and Sweeney.
“These coaches prepare us for everything,” he said. “Coach Savoie and coach Sweeney, they push us to the limit out here at practice, they get us ready for the game and ready to go against bigger linemen.”
Ahlberg also noted that while the masses might not know the extent of the line’s impact, their teammates do.
“Our backs give us props and I know we’re not in the newspaper that much — no glory for a lineman. But, everyone out here knows what we do,” he said.
Hurtado and Ahlberg are joined on the offensive line by a deep group of pile movers in center Trae Nix, guard Sam Davis, guard Jared Baze, guard Travis Carpenter, tackle Jonny Carillo, tackle Zane Beaton and tight end Garrett Pratt.
“We might be a smaller team,” said Ahlberg. “But, we go hard every play and find a way to do better, and get the big guys out of the way.”
DIGGING IN ON DEFENSE
The Bear River defensive line underwent a similar transformation, going from a relatively inexperienced group at the varsity level to one that has wreaked havoc throughout the playoffs.
“I guess you could call it astronomical growth,” Logue said. “They’ve come miles since spring training.”
The players on the Bruins’ defensive front line are an aggressive group, that Logue called, “quiet but nasty.”
In the opening round of the playoffs, the pass rush was the star as they sacked Capital Christian’s quarterback seven times. In the semifinals and the championship game it was their ability to stuff the run that made the difference. Against Ripon, Bear River allowed just 120 yards on 47 carries, an average of just 2.6 yards per carry.
In the title game against Colfax, the Bruins held the Falcons’ star running back to under 100 yards and to just 3.5 yards per carry.
“This is the smartest defensive line I’ve ever coached,” Bear River defensive line coach and former player Chad Quirarte said. “They are very easy to coach because they know exactly what I’m telling them. I can use one word and they know exactly what to do.”
The defensive line is also a deep group made up of Davis, Ahlberg, Nix, Jared Baze, Hayden Becker, Austin Baze, Jake Leonard and Aaron Sasville. All of which bring their own special skill set to the trenches.
“We are all really close,” said Leonard, a senior defensive end. “We have to be. We have to trust each other. I know for a fact that every guy next to me is going to do their job.”
The Bruins have several players that play major minutes on both the offensive and defensive lines, something Davis said he truly enjoys.
“I get to hit people every play,” the All-PVL Second Team defensive tackle said. “Not every position gets to hit. I get to hit every play. I get to go out and lay hat anytime I want…You gotta be crazy, you gotta love getting hit and love hitting back.”
Bear River has achieved a lot already this season, winning 10 games and a Section championships, but with the NorCal Regional Bowl Game on the horizon Dec. 8 or 9, the Bruins know there is still work to be done.
“I don’t feel like a section title winner right now,” Leonard said. “I feel like a kid that needs to work hard at practice and go do his job next week.”
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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