PREP FOOTBALL: Bruins excited to claw into D6 playoffs
KNOW & GO
What: Sac-Joaquin Section Division 6 Playoffs
What: No. 7 Bear River (7-3) vs. No. 10 Highlands (8-2)
When: 7 p.m. Friday
Where: J. David Ramsey Stadium, Bear River High School
Follow along: On Twitter @Shepard_Sports or on the radio at 94.1 FM
Bear River co-head coach Terry Logue said it best after last week’s regular season finale.
“From here on out, it’s win or go home,” said the longtime football coach. “We’re kind of used to that around here.”
The Bruins have become accustomed to reaching the postseason, having done so 20 times in school history, including five of the last six years. But getting there this season was a bit of a roller coaster.
The Bruins were all smiles early on as they roared through non-league play, going 5-0 and winning handily in most cases. Then came some difficult and scary moments, including a blowout loss to eventual Pioneer Valley League champ Center, in which the Bruins lost their star quarterback/running back/defensive back Tre Maronic to what was first thought to be a season-ending collar-bone injury. More ups, downs, twists and turns followed as the Bruins crushed Lindhurst the following week, but then suffered lopsided losses to Foothill and Colfax. Bear River then wrapped its league slate with a convincing win over Marysville to assure themselves a spot in the playoffs.
All that has led the Bruins (7-3) to their third straight postseason appearance.
“Sometimes at Bear River, we like to do things the hard way,” Bruins co-head coach Scott Savoie said. “We really don’t plan on things being perfect, and things never are. But, we’re excited to be in the playoffs and we’re excited to have a home game.”
While the postseason is a familiar place for the Bruins, competing in Division 6 is new.
Since 2014, the Bruins have been one of the most dominant teams in D5, having reached the D5 title game four times and claiming the crown in 2014 and 2017.
This year the No. 7 seeded Bruins open their quest for a Section title at home where they will host the No. 10 Highlands Scots (8-2).
“It’s kind of nice to not have to worry about any Pioneer Valley League teams, I’m happy about that,” said Savoie. “Don’t get me wrong, last year it was great to play Center in the playoffs, and to see Colfax in the Section championship three of the last five years. It’s great and it’s not great. I think it’s nice to play somebody different.
“As far as Division 6 goes, there are some good teams in there. This is truly where we belong. We’re not the biggest team in D6 by any means. I feel like we are where we really belong, but by no means is it going to be a cake walk.”
Bear River’s first test is Highlands, a team that went 8-2 overall and placed third in the Sierra Delta League. The Scots boast a high-powered offense which averages 42.4 points per game, and scored at least 28 points in every game this season.
“They are absolutely dangerous on offense,” said Savoie.
The Scots are led by 6-foot, 5-inch quarterback Chrichion Brown. The senior signal caller is averaging 226.8 pass yards per game this season and has thrown 31 touchdowns. He’s also a threat with his legs and has five rushing touchdowns.
Brown has a talented group of receivers to throw to, including senior Harim Reynolds, who leads the team in catches (44), receiving yards (1,330) and touchdowns (16).
The Scots also have a dangerous running back in 5-foot, 8-inch Norris Rivers, who averages 5.8 yards per carry and has six total touchdowns.
“We’re going to definitely have to tackle, hopefully get a pass rush and find a way to stop (Rivers),” said Savoie. “When you play a spread team with good athletes, that’s a challenge.”
Looking to contain the Scots offense is a Bear River defense coming off a strong performance against Marysville in which they didn’t allow an offensive touchdown.
The Bruins defense is led by All-Pioneer Valley League First Team selections Colton Jenkins (DB), Zach Fink (DL) and Jacob Ayestaran (LB), as well as All-PVL Second Team choices Tyler Dzioba (LB) and Warren Davis (DL).
Bear River’s defense also got a boost with the return of Maronic, who saw action in the game against Marysville and made an immediate impact with a first quarter pick six.
“He’s definitely going to play,” Savoie said of Maronic. “Felt like he really got us rolling last week with that pick six at the beginning of the game. That was huge. And, from a players standpoint, knowing you got Tre out there really helps. He was a huge boost for us last week, and he’s a week healthier.”
Bear River’s offense will no doubt benefit from having Maronic back this as he led the Bruins in passing yards, rushing yards and touchdowns before the injury. Despite missing much of the league season, Maronic was still named to the All-PVL second team as a running back, his third such All-PVL honor.
The Bruins offense spreads the ball around as Maronic, Jenkins, Ayestaran, Fink, Jaime Vargas, Ryder Kiggins and Joe Knowlton have all proved to be productive with the ball in their hands. Clearing a path for Bear River’s offensive weapons is an O-line led by All-PVL First Team selection Caleb Hurst, and All-PVL Second Team choice Nick Pasciuti.
Bear River’s offense will be facing a Scots defense that is allowing 24.5 points per game this season. Highlands is led by junior linebacker Jesse Thomas (82 solo tackles) and senior Greg Nivison (45 solo tackles, 13 sacks, four fumble recoveries).
A LITTLE HISTORY
Throughout the Bruins’ 20 treks through the postseason, they have earned 22 playoff wins, reached six championship games and claimed three section titles (1994, 2014, 2017). Bear River competed for the D5 championship last season, falling to Colfax, 31-28 in double overtime.
Highlands is in the playoffs for a third straight season and the 13th time overall. The last time Highlands won a playoff game was in 2012, when they beat Bradshaw Christian in the D5 bracket.
The Bruins and Scots are set to get rolling at 7 p.m., Friday at Bear River’s J. David Ramsey Stadium.
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, email email@example.com or call 530-477-4232.
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