On the line
Do or die.
Bear River head coach Scott Savoie made no bones about it.
His Bruins, who have dropped three straight – including a 22-21 heartbreaker to Oakmont (Roseville) in their Pioneer Valley League opener at J.David Ramsey Stadium seven nights ago – have to take care of business at Lincoln Friday.
If not, their shot at a second-straight postseason berth may go the way of the dodo bird and acid-washed jeans:
“This is a gotta-have game. If we were to lose, mathematically we’d still have a chance. But we’d probably have to rely on other people to do our dirty work for us,'” Savoie said. “We don’t want to have to play those odds.”
Bear River (1-3 overall, 0-1 PVL) has enjoyed success against Lincoln (1-2-1, 1-0) over the years, winning 10-of-12 overall.
History book aside, Savoie warned Bruin fans and players alike not to look past the Zebras.
“From watching them play the last two years, I’ve seen that Lincoln kids are tough. They’re scrappy,” said Savoie, who is 2-0 record over Lincoln since taking over the reins as Bruin head coach in 2002.
“They’ve impressed me this year,” he added. “They ended up losing 27-0 to Placer (Auburn), but the score was 7-0 at the half. That was against one of the (top teams) in the area.”
The Bruin defense, which has allowed 22 points a game this season, will have its hands full against the Zebras’ three-headed rushing monster according to Savoie.
Lincoln’s ground game sports a least three impact players in running backs Mike Anderson (6-0, 210), Spencer Brown (6-0, 180) and quarterback Tyson McPherson (6-1, 185).
Anderson is fourth in the PVL in rushing with 310 yards on 66 carries, including three scores.
Bear River’s David Wheeler is second among league runners with 347 yards on 58 touches.
Brown, who ran for 151 yards on a team-high 18 totes and two touchdowns in a 42-35 loss to Pioneer (Woodland) in the Zebras’ season opener, holds down the league’s eighth-place spot with 224 yards on 42 carries.
McPherson’s close behind in 10th with 213 yards and a pair of scores on 24 totes.
“(Brown’s) around 180 pounds, but he’s a real shifty runner. They also like to pound it up the middle with (Anderson). He’s pretty tough,” Savoie said.
Through the air, the Zebras have proven to be just as productive.
McPherson, who has thrown for 458 yards, with four touchdowns and four interceptions on 30-of-55 passing, can select from at least three targets.
Matt Bombard (6-2, 180), Eric Fernstrom (6-1, 180) and Kurtis Koehler (6-2, 190) have combined for 373 yards on just 25 catches.
If the Zebras have a weak spot, it’s on the defensive side of the ball where they’ve given up an average of 26 points per contest this season.
“We’ve looked at our game films and have come away with the fact that we’ve been beating ourselves this year,” Savoie said. “Against Oakmont I felt we definitely played well defensively, but we blew a coverage and paid for it.
“This week our philosophy is to bend, but don’t break. We want to make them earn their yards.”
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m.
2004 record: 1-2-1 overall, 1-0 Pioneer Valley League
2003 record: 5-5, 3-3
League finish: Fifth
All-time series: BR leads 10-2
Last Meeting: 10/03/03 (BR won 41-7)
Base offense: Pro
Five players to watch: QB/DB Tyson McPherson (6-1, 185), TE/LB Matt Bombard (6-2, 180), RB/LB Spencer Brown (6-0, 180), RB/DE Mike Anderson (6-0, 210), WR/FS Kurtis Koehler (6-2, 190).
Directions: Take I-80 west Highway 65. Head north to Lincoln. Turn right on McBean Park Drive. McBean Memorial Park in on the right.
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