New breed of Bruins
After a season in which it amassed 4,002 all purpose yards, 39 touchdowns, 34 takeaways and wrapped up a Pioneer Valley League best 38 sacks, the Bear River football Bruins are eager to return to form.
That may be easier said than done though as 23 seniors graduated from the 2012 roster, which included starting quarterback Dillon Smith, lead wide receiver Tevyn Kimble and running backs Cody Heard, Michael Raigoza and Andrew Reiss Jr. just to name a few. That group of guys led the team to an 8-3 season, which abruptly ended in the first round of the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs when it ran into eventual Division IV state champion, Central Catholic.
“Right now, (Braden) Duncan, a senior, is our lead at the quarterback position,” said co-head coach Scott Savoie. “He was a backup to Smith last year and did really well at the camp in Reno. We also have Austin (Smith), Dillon’s brother, and John Voter.”
Duncan saw limited action at quarterback as he played in just four games last year. In 2013, Duncan will have seniors Michael Tipton and David Chorjel in the backfield and Hunter Cramer and Kris Edie as targets down the field.
“I’m excited,” said running back and cornerback Michael Tipton. “I’m a senior and finally get to play with all the people I’ve played with for four years. We’re athletic. If I need to hit somebody, I’ll hit somebody. We won’t go down without a fight, and we don’t get intimidated.”
The real test for Bear River this season comes up front on both sides of the ball. The offensive and defensive lines will be composed of fresh faces. Having a cohesive unit make its blocks and on the other side fill lanes to get to the opposition will be essential for the team to put games in the win column.
“There’s some potential up front, but if you can’t block, you’re not going to go anywhere,” Savoie said. “We don’t have one starter back from last year. We have a running back, a wide receiver, a tight end, but from tackle to tackle, we’re green.”
Seniors on the O-line will include Ragan Davis, Brandon Leipsic and Andrew Leonard while the rest will be juniors and two sophomores, added Savoie.
The defensive line has one returning player, Hunter Cramer, and at linebacker, the Bruins will look to Chorjel and four other guys who played last year.
“We always pride ourselves on hard, scrappy defense,” said co-head coach Terry Logue. “We have our secret weapon, Cannon Fetter, 6-feet, 7-inches, 305 pounds. He was ineligible last year but can be the type of player we haven’t had in a long time.”
Making the right adjustments along the way is going to be part of the process with developing the younger talent on this year’s roster. Now seniors who were once the shadowing starters are the ones called upon to be mentors.
“It’s going good,” said senior tight end and defensive tackle Cramer. “I’m helping to lead the team. I know speed and how everything plays out in the game — tempo.”
A new season also means a chance to further improve as players of the game, as well strengthen the squad’s overall sense of camaraderie.
“I finally got fast,” wide receiver and safety Edie said. “Monday and Wednesday benching, then squatting and running after practice. I’ve definitely improved. We’re coming together with the young kids coming up, experience and youth. It’s solid competition. Every game we’re looking to perform and win. I’m looking forward to every one — can’t single a game out when it’s your last year.”
As this mixed wave of experience and youth runs up and down the sideline, hungry to make plays a couple questions come to mind: When will its potential be known, and how far can this bunch go?
“To me, it’s too early to tell,” said Logue. “At camp, they showed flashes of potential. One guy is here this week and gone the next, so it’s hard to get continuity.”
Bear River kicked off its summer workouts in mid-June with a mini camp in Reno and has since then been hitting the practice field early from 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. Monday through Thursday. Beginning this past Monday, high schools entered a two-week period where practices can’t use actual footballs, blocking sleds, pads, etc. During this time, the team has been focusing on conditioning with pursuit drills and a healthy dose of weight room activity.
To help promote reaction time from the defensive line, coach Savoie used a ball-on-a-stick to simulate a snap to the quarterback. Duncan would drop back in the pocket with an imaginary pigskin, then fling and point to a receiver down field, which the defense would swarm.
“Practice has been going good,” Tipton said. “Now without the ball, we focus more on technique and how to pursue. It’s only half the game.”
A couple times per week, the team will even practice on the turf athletic field by Cottage Hill and Magnolia so they can get a better feel for what playing on turf is like since so many schools have it now, added Logue.
On Aug. 1, the team will be off completely to recuperate and enjoy some vacation before school resumes Aug. 14.
The Bruins suit up for their first game Sept. 6 at Union Mine.
To contact Sports Writer Brian Shepard, call 530-477-4234 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Hank Sowell’s introduction to the game of golf came early as a set of clubs was among the gifts he received on his very first birthday.