PREP FOOTBALL: Bear River hosts Ripon with trip to title game on the line
Know & Go
What: Sac-Joaquin Section D-V Semifinals
Who: No. 6 Bear River (8-3) vs. No. 7 Ripon (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
With a ferocious defense, a scrappy offense and a never give up attitude, the Bear River football team is back in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division V semifinals for the third time in four seasons.
The Bruins (8-3) are not an overwhelmingly big team, and they won’t turn any heads with their overall speed. What they are is a group of hard-nosed football players that work as a team and have a knack for getting the job done.
After an overtime win in the final week of the regular season to earn a spot in the playoffs, the Bruins grabbed the No. 6 seed in the D-V bracket and knocked off the No. 3 Capital Christian Cougars on the road in the first round. Bear River will now host a semifinal bout against No. 7 Ripon (8-3) tonight at J. David Ramsey Field.
“We’re excited,” Bear River co-head coach Scott Savoie said. “And, we’re healthy. Everyone that suited up last Thursday will be suiting up this Friday.”
The Bruins will take on the Ripon Indians, who earned their spot in the semifinals after upsetting No. 2 seed Calaveras, 28-13, in the first round.
“They’re a pretty darn good team,” Savoie said. “They don’t make a lot of mistakes, they don’t fumble, they don’t throw interceptions, and they have a knack for being able to force big plays.”
Ripon, which won a share of the Trans Valley league Championship this season, leans heavily on the run, averaging more than 250 rush yards per game. They are not without a talented quarterback, though, as junior Ryan Daggett can hurt defenses with his arm and legs.
“They have a quarterback that’s very dangerous,” said Savoie. “They are definitely a run-first team, but he can throw the ball and maybe what concerns us most is that he can also run the ball… He’s dangerous.”
Looking to slow Daggett and the Ripon offense will be a Bear River defense that allowed just seven points last week to a Capital Christian team that had been averaging 35.3 points per game.
Bear River’s defense, which boasts five All-Pioneer Valley League selections, has been strong for much of the season, allowing just 17.1 points per game.
Last week against Capital Christian’s offense, the Bruins tallied seven sacks and held the Cougars scoreless across the final three quarters of the game.
“(Coach) Chad Quirarte does a good job with those defensive lineman,” Savoie said. “He’s kind of our pass rush specialist and his kids have done really well. But some of those sacks were coverage sacks. We asked for some big things from our defensive backs last week. At times we asked them to cover man-to-man, which is pretty tough when you’re playing kids that are faster than you. Our defensive backs caused some of those sacks as well.”
The Bruins have eight different players that have recorded at least one sack this season, and seven different players that have at least two sacks. The Bear River secondary has been impressive as well with 13 interceptions.
Offensively, the Bruins have proved to be resourceful and found different ways to put points on the board. In the season finale win over Center, Bear River got it done on the ground with 259 rush yards and four touchdowns from fullback Austin Baze. Against Capital Christian, it was senior quarterback Luke Baggett throwing for three touchdowns and running in another one.
“There can’t be any let up,” said Bear River co-head coach Terry Logue. “You move up a game, the (playoff) field gets cut in half. You go from 72 teams to 36 and we want to be one of the 18 after that.”
Bear River and Ripon have met twice before in the playoffs. In 1994, the Bruins beat the Indians 14-13 in a D-III semifinal and in 2015 the Bruins won, 20-7, in a D-V first round game. Bear River has won their last two semifinal bouts, topping Hughson in 2014 and Capital Christian in 2015. The Bruins went on to beat Colfax in the 2014 D-V title game, and fell to Sonora in the 2015 D-V championship game. The last time Ripon won a section title was 1996.
Bear River and Ripon are set to get started at 7 p.m., tonight at J. David Ramsey Stadium on the campus of Bear River High School.
The Pioneer Valley league announced their all-league selections this week and eight Bruins earned honors.
Making the All-PVL First Team was Baggett, Baze, Travis Carpenter, Calder Kunde and Kaden Ahlberg.
Baggett made the First Team as a safety. The senior has 52 tackles to go with a team-high five interceptions this season. Baggett was also an All-PVL First Team safety in 2016. Baze, who has 61 tackles and four sacks, made the First Team as a defensive lineman. Carpenter, a senior middle linebacker, leads the Bruins with 105 tackles. Kunde made the First Team as a wide receiver. The junior leads the Bruins in receptions (29) and receiving yards (480). Ahlberg made the First Team as an offensive lineman.
Earning spots on the All-PVL Second Team was sophomore defensive back Tre Maronic (45 tackles, two interceptions), junior defensive lineman Sam Davis (56 tackles, five sacks) and senior running back Josh Zimmer (318 rush yards).
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Grass Valley native Brad Sweet drove past the competition and into victory lane last week, snapping his longest winless streak of the season.