PREP FOOTBALL: Bear River bashes into D-V title game with semifinal win over Ripon (VIDEO)
Special to The Union
Bruins 14, Indians 7
BR: Austin Baze 12-yard run (Alex Bohn kick) 3:28
BR: Travis Carpenter 2-yard run (Bohn kick) 11:41
R: Dorian Dougherty 60-yard pass from Ryan Daggett (Nathan Valdez kick) 6:51
Stuffing Ripon like a Thanksgiving turkey, the Bear River Bruins delivered a stellar defensive effort Friday night to earn a spot in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division V title game for the third time in four years.
With a 14-7 win over the No. 7 Ripon Indians, the No. 6 Bruins (9-3) will now face No. 5 seed and Pioneer Valley League rival Colfax (9-3) in the championship game next Saturday.
“Thanksgiving just got a little bit sweeter,” said Bruins co-head coach Scott Savoie, whose squad never trailed and batted down a Hail Mary pass as time expired to punch its ticket to the championship.
“Down there at Center, you just think about what’s happened since then. It’s been amazing. The kids have just come alive. It’s an awesome feeling.”
Controlling the field position battle early, Bear River had worked drives down to the Indians 24, 27 and 35, but come away empty each time. Ripon also had a drive halted at the Bruins 6-yard line thanks to a key defensive play by Calder Kunde.
With Ripon backed up at its own 29 late in the first half, the Bruins got the break they needed. Indians quarterback Ryan Daggett threw a backwards screen pass to a receiver in the flat and it was dropped, but no whistle sounded and the loose ball was scooped up by Austin Baze who took it down to the Indians 12-yard line.
On the next offensive play Baze finished what he started, taking the hand off and slicing 12 yards up the soupy field before banging his way in for the first score of the game. Bear River led 7-0 at the half.
“Mud games,” said Baze, who tallied 65 yards on 11 touches with a touchdown. “We knew it was going to be a mud bowl… That’s to our advantage. We play on it everyday. We came in and we hit. We’re a physical team. We went out there and pounded and pounded and pounded them. And they didn’t like it. It was obvious.”
Just as obvious was Bear River’s hunger and desire on the defensive side of the ball. In the second half Ripon’s running attack continued to struggle, and senior safety Luke Baggett squared up on a tackle late in the third quarter, jarring the ball out and teammate Josh Zimmer fell on it at the Indians 26.
Five plays later, senior Travis Carpenter dug his cleats in and plowed through the muck from 2-yards out to extend the Bruins lead to 14-0 early in the fourth quarter.
“Offensively we were pretty much just going to pound it down their throat,” said Carpenter, who had three carries for six yards and a score.
Also toting the ball for the Bruins was Tre Maronic, who ended with 26 yards on eight carries. Through the air, Baggett finished 5-of-16 passing for 33 yards with an interception. He also rushed four times for 16 yards on a frigid night where defense stole the show.
Daggett would keep the Indians’ hopes alive, completing a 60-yard touchdown pass to Dorian Dougherty past a sliding Bruins defender on a third-and-13 with just under 7-minutes to play. He finished the game 3-of-12 passing for 76 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
That’s all Ripon would reap however, as Bear River’s defense tightened and closed the game out.
As a team, Ripon tallied 47 rush attempts for 120 yards, an average of just 2.6 yards per carry.
“Do you realize this is our third Section title final in four years?” Said Logue, who was quick not to hog all the credit. “That’s pretty damn good. (Scott Savoie) knows what he’s doing.”
Defensively, Bear River surrendered just one big play, the 60-yard touchdown pass, and contained the Indians while dominating the battle for field position for much of the game.
Sam Davis led the squad with 12.5 tackles, including a sack for a loss of 10 yards. Davis was followed by Garrett Pratt with eight tackles. Carpenter added six and a half tackles from his middle linebacker position. Baze, Zimmer and Jake Leonard each secured fumble recoveries and Baggett nabbed an interception as Bear River won the turnover battle, 4-1. Two of those turnovers led to Bear River touchdowns.
“You can’t describe it,” added Logue. “The last three weeks with the pressure and how much they put their souls into it. Never been prouder of a team, ever. It’s exciting. We’re going to ride it all the way.”
The Bruins and Falcons will battle for the D-V crown at 1 p.m., next Saturday at Cosumnes Oaks High School in Elk Grove.
Colfax defeated No. 1 seed Sonora in an offensive shootout Friday night, 56-55, to earn their spot in the title game.
Brian Shepard is a freelance sports writer who contributes to The Union regularly.
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