Out of the muck: Bruins stun Cougars with late 4th quarter touchdown
Special to The Union
Friday night lights in the pouring rain on a Halloween night, it just doesn’t get any better.
Trailing Center 6-0 with 1:24 left in the game, battling a torrential downpour, Bruins’ junior running back David O’Brien took the snap out of the wildcat formation and dropped back to pass. He threw the ball to the front corner of the end zone looking for Ryan Wagner on a fade route. Wagner went up and hauled it in for a 21-yard score. Bear River kicker Ben O’Lena made point after and the Bruins held on for a captivating 7-6 victory.
“Well the cardiac kids do it again,” said Bear River co-head coach Terry Logue. “It was so gutsy. (Center) scores on that first play and then never again. We stop them on that fourth-and-three then drive 70-some yards to win. Everybody played so great. Defensively we played really, really well.”
Bear River surrendered a 56-yard touchdown pass on the first play from scrimmage and trailed 6-0 after Cougars quarterback Elias JBeily found his favorite target Tiantai Anderson on a fly pattern up the sideline. The PAT attempt never got off the ground thanks to the mucky conditions.
Bear River had driven down to the Cougars’ 5-yard line before halftime, but were stopped on a fourth-and-short. The Bruins offense would also lose a pair of fumbles in the game.
Not knowing if they’d ever get a chance to redeem themselves, the Bruins defense stepped up huge. Connor Hollister penetrated the backfield and dropped Center for a loss on fourth-and-three late with 5:43 remaining. Bear River took over on downs and was resilient, getting it done when it mattered most to put together a 79-yard scoring drive.
“I’m ecstatic,” said O’Brien, who finished the night with 12 rushes for 68 yards and was 3-for-3 passing for 38 yards and the game-winning touchdown. “I just knew if the defense stepped up we would have momentum. I took the snap, dropped back, and thought about running since the ball was so wet and slick, but I had faith in my receiver so I threw it up there and (Wagner) made the catch.”
The pass came on a second-and-nine from the Cougars’ 21-yard line. Up until that point, the drive had featured nine running plays and just one pass. O’Brien accounted for 41 rushing yards on the drive before tossing up the touchdown.
“I knew it was coming my way when I heard the play call,” said Ryan Wagner. “I knew I had to go up and get it. It was one of the best games I’ve ever played in.”
Kyle Krogman wrapped up a team-high nine tackles for the Bruins and was followed by Hollister, who would finish with eight. Despite three Bear River turnovers compared to Center’s zero, the Bruins defense really came through in the clutch. Jimmy Vaughn and Cannon Fetter brought the pressure late, each getting to JBeily for a combined sack with about a minute to play. JBeily threw 4-for-15 for 94 yards and a touchdown.
“I credit our kids with that, they just don’t give up,” said Bruins co-head coach Scott Savoie. “Like Terry had said we were behind 46 1/2 minutes and found a way at the end even with this slushy, icky mess. It’s all our kids, really just a great group.”
Senior John Voter III busted through for some crucial yardage down the stretch, piling up 44 yards on 11 carries and grabbing a pair catches for nine yards. Kyle Uclaray had a rough go trying to turn the corner on J. David Ramsey’s version of a slip-n-slide, finishing with four touches for eight yards. Jason Voter threw 2-for-6 for nine yards and an interception. Dave Mastrella caught one pass for 17 yards.
Center struggled through the muck even more so than the Bruins, rushing 30 times for 73 yards. Tobias Marshall ran eight times for 23 yards, Marcellus Roberts had 16 carries for 24 yards and JBeily had five rushes for 26 yards.
Bear River (7-2, 3-1 PVL) looks to wrap up the season with at least a share of second place in the Pioneer Valley League and a top seed in its playoff bracket on Friday when they face Lincoln and coach Chris Bean.
JV: Bear River 22,
The Bruins (5-4, 4-0 PVL) also battled the wet, muddy elements much of their game and managed to keep the Cougars off the scoreboard completely.
Bear River took an 8-0 lead into the locker room with a touchdown run by Toran Maronic and Peyton Turner punched in the 2-point conversion. The Bruins broke the game wide open in the second half with a touchdown run by Sean Gillis and a pick-six by Ryan Tantum, who took returned the pick 25 yards for the score. The Bruins defense was relentless and brought tremendous pressure on the Cougars to force a safety as well.
Brian Shepard is a freelance sports writer who contributes to The Union regularly.
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