PREP FOOTBALL: Bear River faces Foothill in PVL opener
Know & go
What: Bear River (5-0) at Foothill (1-4)
When: 7:30 p.m., Friday
Where: Foothill High School, 5000 McCloud Dr, Sacramento
Follow along: On Twitter @TheUnionSports or online at TheUnion.com
Bear River’s football team made it through a tough non-league schedule without a loss, but it wasn’t easy.
“I feel like the last two weeks have been like playoff games,” Bear River co-head coach Scott Savoie said.
The Bruins (5-0) battled past quality teams in Union Mine (3-2), Escalon (3-2) and defending Northern Section D-IV champ Sutter (2-3) on their way to the unblemished start, but now, the gauntlet that is the Pioneer Valley League begins.
“It’s just hard to believe we are officially halfway through the season,” Savoie said. “You just gotta stay hungry. We talked about the fact that every level of football there’s letdowns, especially after big wins there’s letdowns. You know, especially when people start getting ranked or people start talking about them there’s letdowns. We can’t have a letdown.”
The Bruins, who are ranked No. 13 in the Sacramento area by the Sacramento Bee, open their PVL slate at 7:30 p.m. today at Foothill High School.
Bear River’s senior quarterback Jason Voter knows the importance of starting strong in league play.
“It’s zero to zero when it gets to the PVL,” Voter said. “What you’ve done before helps with playoff positioning and stuff like that, but it really doesn’t matter when you get to the PVL. Nobody cares what your record is. It’s a whole new season so we’re going to be eager for that and excited to step up and see what we can do this year.”
Bear River hasn’t won the PVL since 2005 when it shared the title with Colfax and Oakmont. The journey to end the decade long drought starts tonight.
Savoie said his team is not looking past Foothill, which is celebrating homecoming and debuting a new turf Friday.
“We are back in the saddle at Bear River,” Savoie said. “Year in and year out we work hard to prepare the same for every team.”
The Mustangs (1-4) have struggled to slow their opponent’s offense this season, but do boast an offensive attack that scores points in bunches. Led by an athletic, playmaking quarterback Foothill is averaging 35.4 points per game, but allows a staggering 45 points per game.
“They are clicking on offense and scoring lots of points,” said Savoie. “They have some unbelievable athletes, really good team speed and their quarterback is a stud… We expect the Mustangs to be motivated.”
Bear River resilience
Throughout the non-league season the Bruins showed the ability to adapt mid-game, overcome injuries and move the ball with the run and the pass.
After losing last year’s leading rusher to injury in the first game of the season, the Bruins didn’t waiver from their approach and found yard eaters elsewhere.
Senior David O’Brien has been instrumental to the team’s success with a team-high 350 rushing yards and five ground scores. Senior Dave Mastrella and sophomore Austin Baze have also found success behind the Bruins senior-laden offensive line. Through five games, the Bruins are averaging 181.8 yards on the ground at a 5.4 yards per carry clip.
The passing game found its rhythm a week ago, as Voter had his biggest game of the season, completing 9-of-12 passes for 205 yards and two touchdowns. On the season, Voter has completed 35-of-60 passes for 582 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions.
While Mastrella, who Savoie said is key to the Bruins offense, and Connor Hollister have been consistent targets for Voter, senior wide receiver Ben O’Lena burst onto the scene last week, catching four balls for 164 yards and two touchdowns. O’Lena had a 114-yard game in week one, but had been dealing with an injury and saw his production fall off before last week’s big game.
“Ben is a tremendous talent,” said co-head coach Terry Logue. “When he came out last year, after about four weeks I told him, ‘You have a chance to be a great receiver for us.’ Because he just had natural instincts. For a guy that never played football until last year, he’s phenomenal.”
On offense the Bruins are averaging 30.8 points per game, and allowing just 16.4 points per game on defense.
What lies ahead
The Bruins aren’t looking past tonight’s game against Foothill, but what comes after this week is a series of league games that will truly test Bear River.
After Friday’s game, the Bruins face rival Colfax (2-3) Oct. 16 at home, Placer (5-0) Oct. 23 at home, Center (4-1) Oct. 30 in Antelope, and close the regular season out on the road against Lincoln (3-2).
Placer has won at least a share of the PVL title for the past three years and is off to a 5-0 start this season.
“It’s going to be a really exciting PVL season,” added Logue. “Placer is tremendous. I’ve seen them play in person. They’re a notch above all the rest of us, but we’ll see what we can do, if we can slow them down a bit.”
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email email@example.com. Free lance writer Brian Shepard contributed to this report.
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