For 22 years, Duane Zauner stalked the sidelines as head coach of Bear River’s junior varsity football team.
On Friday night, his first under the lights without a team, Zauner was just like the rest of us: a fan looking forward to some football.
Even retirement couldn’t keep him away from the game.
“I told them I’d be out here on Friday nights,” Zauner said, “just not Monday through Thursday.”
As Bear River and Nevada Union squared off in a scrimmage, Zauner kept a close eye on his former JV squad, now led by activities director Chris Beane, and watched many of the players he coached to an undefeated season in his swan song last fall.
Of course, those Bruins now play varsity ball.
“He’s a great kid,” Zauner said, pointing to Bear River quarterback Tanner Mathias, who he coached at the JV level. “He’s the type of kid you want in your program. He leads by example and the kids look up to him.”
And the fact that Mathias also has a rocket launcher attached to his right shoulder might be just another reason he’s the type of “kid” Bear River coaches want in their program.
Mathias, a 6-foot, 4-inch senior put his arm strength on display early and often, as Bear River ran pass plays on about 80 percent of the first snaps by the first string. He threw sharp spirals on a rope all over Nevada Union’s secondary, but several of the shots he fired fell by the wayside as Bear River receivers struggled with a case of the drops.
Still any Pioneer Valley League scouts on hand at J. David Ramsey Stadium likely left knowing it might not be a good idea to stack the box this season against the Bruins.
Although there were plenty of slips, trips, fumbles and flags ” as one would expect in a preseason scrimmage ” big plays also came in bunches for both Bear River and Nevada Union.
Bear River got some big gains from running backs Chris Parfitt, Johnny Jewett and Jason Varni. And the Bruins defense also drew praise for stopping NU inside the five, when the teams worked on goal-line situations.
But the highlight of the night came from Nevada Union halfback Drew Hoskin, who took a handoff to the right and sped 60 yards down the sideline for six.
Fellow Miner halfback Cameron Ryan broke off a 25-yard gain and NU quarterback Broughan Jantz showed a few juke moves in scrambling for a first down.
The best play Jantz actually turned in, though, was a fake handoff to fullback Juan Espinosa. Not only did Bear River’s defenders bite so hard that they brought Espinosa to the ground, a game referee was actually so fooled by the fake that he blew the play dead.
Meanwhile, Jantz was off and running with the ball for what would have been a big gain, had the play not been incorrectly whistled dead.
That call made it pretty clear that the players and coaches weren’t the only ones still working out the bugs in the scrimmage.
For the sake of the Bruins and Miners, let’s hope the kinks are worked out by next Friday.
Brian Hamilton is sports editor at The Union. His column appears Saturdays. Contact him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 477-4240.
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Golfers Jackie Hill and Bonnie Marvelli teamed up to take top honors in the 2021 Partners Best Ball Championship of the Nevada County Country Club Women’s Golf Group.