PREP FOOTBALL: Bear River set to face Lincoln in PVL opener
Know & Go
What: Bear River (2-3) vs. Lincoln (2-3)
When: 7:30 p.m., Friday
Where: J. David Ramsey Stadium, Bear River High School
Follow along: On Twitter @theunionsports or online at TheUnion.com
Heading into Pioneer Valley League play, the Bear River football team is in unfamiliar territory.
With a 2-3 non-league record, the Bruins enter Friday night’s league opener with a losing record for the first time in more than a decade.
“We haven’t been in this situation in a while,” said Bear River co-head coach Scott Savoie. “We haven’t been 2-3 in a while. But, the kids aren’t hitting the panic button, and the coaches aren’t either.”
Last season the Bruins went 5-0 in non-league play, and from 2010-2015 Bear River went 28-2 in non-league play. This year, the Bruins ran a gauntlet of tough teams in non-league play, including Sutter (5-0), Marysville (4-2) and El Dorado (4-1), and emerged with just two wins coming against El Dorado and Union Mine. But, Savoie said his team continues to improve and will use what they’ve learned so far to help them find success in league play.
“The battle scars you pick up along the way (in non-league games) will hopefully make you better,” Savoie said. “I feel like they continue to get better.”
Despite the losing record in non-league play, the Bruins have yet to drop back-to-back games this season, which bodes well for them Friday after a loss to Sutter last week.
“I like the way that they have responded to the three loses,” Savoie said of his team. “They come back and regroup really well.”
The Bruins open league play tonight against Lincoln, who like Bear River is 2-3 this season, but come into the game on a two-game winning streak.
Bear River co-head coach Terry Logue knows just how important tonight’s game is.
“(Preseason) is over now and we’re focusing on league,” he told The Union after Bear River’s loss to Sutter. “We got a huge game Friday, I think the biggest game of the year. If we can go 4-1 in league, 5-0, we’re going to be in the playoffs. (It) is a critical game for us. We’re at home and we got to play well.”
The Fighting Zebra’s are led by former Bear River junior varsity coach Chris Bean, who is now in his third year at Lincoln. With Bean at the helm, Lincoln and Bear River have split their last two meetings with the Bruins winning 47-6 in 2014, and the Zebras taking last year’s game, 49-35.
This season, the Zebras come into the game with a different offensive approach than years past, but a very familiar defense.
“Their defense is much better this year,” Savoie said of Lincoln. “They returned almost their entire defense from a season ago. They are much better defensively.”
Lincoln’s defense struggled early on, allowing 39.3 points per game through the first three games, but has since been much better. Against their last two opponents the Zebra’s have allowed just 21 points total.
Scoring points has been a bit of a problem for Bear River this season, averaging just six points last week against Sutter and averaging just 21.2 per game for the season.
“We need to be able to move the ball and score some points,” Savoie said.
Bear River’s most effective offensive weapon this season has been Austin Baze with 289 rush yards, an 8.2 yards per rush average, and five rushing touchdowns. But, he was held to just 20 yards last week and the Bruins were able to get little else going.
Other offensive weapons for Bear River include junior Stephen Taylor, senior Peyton Turner, senior Colton Wood and quarterback Bradley Dzioba.
The defensive side of the ball is where the Bruins have been strong this season, allowing just 16.4 points per game this season.
Baze is also the leader on defense with a team-high 59 tackles and three fumble recoveries. Bear River has defensive playmakers in Luke Baggett, Landen Clark, Kyle Wooner and Shane Flores.
That defense will be looking to stop a Zebra charge that is averaging 27.2 points per game. Leading Lincoln’s offensive push is senior running back Ryan Graham, who has 665 rushing yards and 14 total touchdowns (12 rushing, 2 receiving). Graham has topped the 200-yard mark in two games this season and averages 6.2 yards per carry.
“Obviously their running game is awfully good and we need to have an answer for that,” said Savoie.
Lincoln doesn’t go to the air as much as they have in past seasons, but they do keep defenses honest by throwing the ball more than 16 times a game on average. Senior Isaac Adams takes the snaps for Lincoln, completing 54 percent of his passes for 405 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions this season.
Savoie said his team is pumped up to get the league season started and take on the challenge that is Lincoln.
“How can you not be excited about a PVL opener at home?” he said.
The Bruins and Zebras kickoff the PVL season at 7:30 p.m. tonight at J. Davis Ramsey Stadium.
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email email@example.com.
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