PREP FOOTBALL: Breaking down Bear River’s 2017 schedule
Special to The Union
In 2016, the Bear River Bruins finished their campaign with a sub .500 record for the first time in nearly three decades.
After falling short of a postseason berth for the first time in three years, the Bruins look to right the ship and get back on track in 2017. The squad’s 30-plus man roster, although small in number, is overflowing with talent and fueled by undying flames in co-head coaches Scott Savoie and Terry Logue.
Bear River will have its hands full with a gauntlet of talented opponents. The Bruins will play six games on the road this season and just four at home. Eight of their 10 games are against teams that had winning records and made the playoffs in 2016. Of course, the Bruins will take it just one game at a time.
“Right now, there’s only one thing that is very important to us, and that is Orland,” said Savoie. “We got lots of other games, but Orland is the one we’re working on right now and that’s where the focus is. The nice thing is that we don’t have any Eurekas this year. All of our games are within reach, within an hour or so. That’s a good thing.”
Game 1: vs. Orland, Aug. 25
In 2016 the Bruins opened at Orland and were handed a tough 23-18 loss. This year, Bear River looks to return the favor, when they welcome the Trojans to J. David Ramsey Field.
Bear River dug itself a hole last season, trailing 14-0 at the half, but rallied to score three times in the second half to nearly stun the Trojans. Orland went on to finish 7-4 and was knocked out of the opening round of the Northern Section DIII playoff by West Valley, 35-13.
“It was a big game last year and we let it slip away over there, made a couple mistakes, had some touchdowns called back,” said Logue. “You’re 0-1, you’re always catching up, always trying to catch up.”
Game 2: at Union Mine, Sept. 1
After a 40-0 romping of the Diamondbacks last year, Union Mine has its own grudge to settle when they welcome the Bruins. Bear River racked up five touchdowns on 326 yards of total offense, with three coming through the air and another pair of scores on the ground.
Game 3: vs. Pershing County (Nevada), Sept. 8
A new opponent for the Bruins, the Mustangs will be making the three-hour journey from Lovelock, Nevada to get a taste of some California gridiron action. It won’t be no cupcake of a game for Bear River either, as Logue and Savoie made sure of that. The Mustangs finished their 2016 campaign a perfect 12-0, winning the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association Class 2A Football State Championship.
Pershing County relied heavily on its ground attack, averaging 240 yards rushing and scoring 36.8 points per game while holding its opponents to 8.3 points per game.
“I looked on the website, looking for games and saw the Nevada school was looking for a game,” said Logue. “We just called them up and asked them, thought it would be a pretty good match. They went 12-0 last year, won their division and the Nevada State Championship so they’re a good football program. They’re a school about our size. We’re looking forward to it.”
Game 4: at Marysville, Sept. 15
A tough 21-14 home loss was not what the Bruins had in mind when the Indians came to town last season. Marysville pummeled the Bruins in the trenches, rushing for 245 yards and three touchdowns. Now it will be Bear River’s turn to make the trip down the hill and try to even things up. This will mark the first of four consecutive road games for the Bruins.
“We call it being road warriors,” explained Logue. “We’ve done it before. Even seasons where we’ve had five home games, we’ve had four road games in a row before. It’s hard, it’s not easy, but you got to play the cards you’re dealt. When we get to that stretch, we have to deal with it.”
Marysville went on to finish its season 9-3 overall and was eliminated from the Sac-Joaquin Section DV semifinals by Colfax, 41-38.
Game 5: at El Dorado, Sept. 22
The Bruins took care of business with a 28-7 victory over the Cougars at home last season. The Bruins rushed for nearly 200 yards and four touchdowns in the win.
El Dorado finished its season strong though, going 8-3 before it was knocked out of the opening round of the Sac-Joaquin DIV playoffs by Los Banos, 23-20.
Pioneer Valley League play
The PVL packed a powerful punch for the Bruins last season as they managed to defeat only one of their five league opponents, Foothill 27-6. Bear River fell versus Lincoln 27-14, at Colfax 31-14, at Placer 31-6 and suffered a home heartbreaker against Center, 31-28.
The Fighting Zebras, Falcons, Hillmen and Cougars all went on to the postseason, with the Falcons and Hillmen each advancing to their respective Section division title games and falling short.
“Our league is brutal this year,” added Logue. “Colfax has a great team. Placer is loaded. Lincoln is loaded. Center is very, very tough. Our league schedule is really tough. Preseason we don’t have any pattycakes on there either.”
The Bruins went 0-4 on the road in 2016. The team’s last road win came Nov. 20, 2015 at Capital Christian in the Sac-Joaquin D-V semifinals. Three out of Bear River’s five league games are away from the comforts of home this season. The squad begins Oct. 6 at Lincoln and then travels Oct. 13 to take on Foothill, returns home Oct. 20 versus Colfax and Oct. 27 versus Placer, then makes one last trek for the season finale Nov. 3 at Center.
Brian Shepard is a freelance sports writer who contributes to The Union regularly.
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