PREP FOOTBALL: Bear River rallies past Ripon, advances to DV semifinals |

PREP FOOTBALL: Bear River rallies past Ripon, advances to DV semifinals

Bear River's Gunnar Simpson finishes off a tackle on a Ripon player during a Sac-Joaquin Section D-V first round playoff game in Ripon.
Photo by Brian O’Brien |


First quarter

R: Caleb McCusker 4-yard run(4:02) Juan Rodriguez kick

Third quarter

BR: Toran Maronic 25-yard pass from Jason Voter (8:49) Britt Sawyer kick

BR: Dave Mastrella 65-yard pass from Voter (5:21) Sawyer kick

BR: Ben O’Lena 50-yard pass from Voter (:54) PAT no good

Still alive and kicking.

The Bear River football Bruins rose from ashes Friday night and topped the Ripon Indians on their home field, 20-7, to advance to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division V semifinals.

“We’re still around baby,” said Bruins’ co-head coach Scott Savoie, whose team trailed 7-0 at halftime but lit up the scoreboard with 20 points in the third quarter. “We’re still swinging… When it counted, we got it done. The first half we got carried by our defense. In the second half, we got the ball and had a big third quarter. That was huge.”

Coming out of halftime, Bear River’s offense flipped the switch and fired on all cylinders like it had earlier this season. Senior quarterback Jason Voter threw three touchdown passes, the first a 25-yarder to junior Toran Maronic to cap off a 63-yard drive to open the second half.

“At halftime I kind of lit a fire under them,” said Voter, who finished his night passing 5-for-14 for 159 yards and three touchdowns. “I told them that this is not how we want this year to end. We’ve done so many great things here and it is not time for us to go.”

Ripon responded by taking the ensuing kickoff 85 yards to set itself up nicely at the Bruins’ 12-yard line, but the Bear River defense had other plans. The Indians stalled and eventually missed a 29-yard field goal attempt, giving the Bruins the ball back.

Four plays later on second-and-15 from their own 35, Voter dropped back and found an open Dave Mastrella across the middle, who juked his way into open space and left the defenders in the dust, sprinting 65 yards for the score.

“It was actually not even supposed to go to me that play,” said Mastrella, who had the 65-yard touchdown catch in addition to banging his way through the trenches for 111 yards on 16 carries. “Me and Jason kind of made a last minute switch and I was open, got to run.”

Also aiding the Bruins in their ground attack was Maronic, who piled up 61 yards on 10 touches, followed by Colton Wood with five carries for 17 yards.

After a few punts were exchanged, the Bruins took over at their own 37 and a 13-yard run by Maronic gave Bear River a fresh set of downs from midfield. Voter took another shot down field, this time to senior Ben O’Lena, who caught it in stride, blazing down the sideline and eventually dove for the pylon to score.

“As soon as I started running (Voter) stepped up and I just knew my quarterback was going to find me,” said O’Lena, who had two catches for 62 yards, including the 50-yard touchdown. “I have complete faith in him. It just all worked out for us today.”

Keeping the Indians out of the end zone in the second half wasn’t an issue for the Bruin’s stingy defense, led by senior Gunnar Simpson, who smothered Ripon quarterback Nick Price for three sacks totaling a combined loss of 24 yards. Jimmy Vaughn also got in on the sack-fest adding one for a loss of five yards as the team finished with six.

“Defensively just a phenomenal game, just phenomenal,” added Bruins’ co-head coach Terry Logue. “When you go from 49 points (Lincoln) to seven points, I’m very pleased. I was so proud of our kids. And offensively from the second half on we got it going. It reminded me a lot of the section title game. We just got a lot of momentum going.”

Senior Beau Baggett swarmed in for 11 tackles to lead the defense. He was followed by Connor Hollister with nine and senior Kyle Uclaray made an inspirational return, and wrapped up three. Jake Potts stepped up in crucial moments for the Bruins too, nabbing two interceptions, including the final pass that ended the game.

Indians quarterback Price concluded his night passing 16-for-30 for 153 yards and two interceptions. Ripon’s only score came on a 4-yard plunge by Caleb McCusker, who had 16 carries for 121 yards and a touchdown. As a team the Indians netted just 108 yards rushing on 39 carries.

Up until the Bruins’ explosive third quarter, both teams had combined for 10 punts and desperately battled for field position. Twice the Bruins began drives inside their own 5-yard line and relied heavily on its defense to keep them in it.

Bear River (8-3) looks to keep its title hopes alive next week in the semis when it visits No. 2 Capital Christian (11-0), who advanced after crushing No. 7 Highlands, 49-6.

Brian Shepard is a freelance sports writer who contributes to The Union regularly.

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