PREP FOOTBALL: Bear River gears up to face familiar foe in 2nd round of playoffs
KNOW & GO
What: Sac-Joaquin Section D-V playoffs
Who: No. 3 Bear River (9-1) vs. No. 6 Center (8-3)
When: 7 p.m., Friday
Where: J. David Ramsey Stadium, Bear River High School
Follow along: On Twitter @WalterLFordIII or online at TheUnion.com
There is just something special about this time of year.
“There’s a finality to it,” said Bear River co-head coach Scott Savoie. “There’s no second chances.”
It’s playoff time in the Sac-Joaquin Section, and the defending Division V champion Bruins know each game will be a battle with the prize being another week of football.
To earn another week of football and continue their quest for a third D-V championship in the last five seasons, the No. 2 seed Bruins (9-1) will need to get past a familiar foe in the No. 6 seed Center Cougars (8-3), who topped No. 11 seed Dixon, 38-8, in the first round of the D-V playoffs.
“Center is one of the best teams,” Bear River co-head coach Terry Logue said. “They showed that against Colfax.”
Center finished fourth in the Pioneer Valley League this season but gave the league’s top-two teams fits, losing a close one to Bear River, 16-7, Sept. 28, and falling a two-point conversion short of upsetting league champ and D-V No. 1 seed Colfax Oct. 26.
The Cougars are led by their talented dual-threat quarterback Michael Wortham.
“We have to contain Wortham,” Savoie said. “He’s their guy. You’ll look like you’re going to have him sacked for a 10-yard loss and he turns it into a 60-yard run. We can’t let him get loose. We have to contain him and that’s not an easy thing to do.”
In addition to Wortham, who earned All-PVL First Team honors, the Cougars have talented players in running back Elias Bonds, receiver Emari White and offensive lineman Adam Armienta and Kelvin Jackson.
“Defensively, I always think it boils down to not giving up big plays,” said Logue. “Make them earn their touchdowns.”
The Cougars, who were the section’s D-IV runner up a season ago, are averaging 37.5 points per game this season, and were only held to single digits in a game once. That came against the Bruins.
Bear River’s defense is a stout one which allowed just 12.3 points per game this season. In the middle of that Bruins defense has been senior linebacker Austin Slining, who earned All-PVL First Team honors after notching a team-high 60 tackles.
“He’s done a great job all season long,” Logue said.
Slining is just one of several standouts for the Bruins defense which features all-leaguers in linebacker Logan Jenkins, defensive linemen Sam Davis and Jared Baze, and defensive backs Clader Kunde and Colton Jenkins.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Bruins were stellar for much of the season, but struggled to finish off drives in their earlier game with Center.
“We need to score in the red zone,” Logue said. “The last time we played them I think we were inside the 10-yard line three times and we got one field goal out of it. We were lucky enough to get some touchdowns after that, but we need to capitalize once we get down there.”
The Bruins offense has been spectacular this season, getting strong play from a talented group of skill players who are buoyed by an experienced and effective offensive line. As a team, the Bruins eat up more than 360 yards per game and average 44.4 points per contest.
Leading the Bruins offense is Kunde, Bear River’s senior quarterback, as well as junior running back Tre Maronic, senior fullback Hunter Daniels and senior receiver Dylan Bergez-Scott.
Maronic, an All-PVL First teamer, leads the team with 1,032 rush yards to go with 17 total touchdowns (12 rush, four receiving, one kickoff return).
Daniels, an All-PVL Second Team selection, is a powerful runner between the tackles, amassing 599 rush yards and 11 ground touchdowns this season.
Kunde, who took over as quarterback this season after an all-league campaign at receiver last year, has been efficient running the Bruins offense, completing 45 of his 76 passes for 845 yards with 15 touchdowns and just one interception.
Bergez-Scott, an All-PVL First teamer, is Kunde’s favorite target, notching team-highs in catches (28), receiving yards (618) and receiving touchdowns (8).
The Bruins will be facing a Cougars defense that allows just 15.2 points per game, and is one of only two teams to hold them under 20 points this season. Center boasts All-PVL defensive selections in defensive lineman Brayden Mell, linebacker Brandan Fernandes and defensive back Lorenzo McGill.
“Offensively, we need to efficiently run the football against these guys,” said Savoie.
The Bruins and Cougars are far from strangers, having faced each other in league play every season since 2010. Since they became league combatants, Center and Bear River have faced off nine times with the Cougars holding a 5-4 advantage. The Bruins have won the last two, though, grabbing a 35-27 overtime win in the final week of the season last year as well as the 16-7 win earlier this season.
Bear River and Center have met up in the playoffs once before, a 21-19 win for the Bruins in 2004.
The game is set to get going at 7 p.m., tonight at Bear River’s J. David Ramsey Stadium.
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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