PREP FOOTBALL: Bruins, Hillmen clash in matchup of undefeated teams
Know & Go
What: Bear River (7-0) vs. Placer (7-0)
When: 7:30 p.m., Friday
Where: J. David Ramsey Stadium, Bear River High School
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The gridiron gladiators for Bear River and Placer have yet to taste defeat this season. But, for one team that will change tonight as the two Pioneer Valley League heavyweights clash at J. David Ramsey Stadium.
“I told our kids, ‘It’s an honor to be able to play in a game like this,’” Bear River co-head coach Scott Savoie said. “Two ranked teams, two undefeated teams and obviously PVL rivals. It’s great to have a chance to play in a game of this magnitude.”
Placer (7-0, 2-0 PVL) is the reigning PVL champ, and comes into the matchup on the heels of a 52-26 blowout win over Foothill. The Hillmen are ranked No. 10 by the Sacramento Bee, and boast an offense that averages 43.9 points per game.
“I don’t think you can stop them, I just hope we can slow them down and eliminate the big plays,” Bear River co-head coach Terry Logue said. “They have an awfully big, physical line, they have three really good running backs, a good quarterback and some good receivers and they are well coached so it makes it difficult.”
Placer is averaging 340.6 rush yards per game from their wing-T attack, getting high levels of production from several running backs. Leading the Hillmen ground attack is Jared Halbert (561 rush yards, 10 rush touchdowns), Waylen Cozad (591 rush yards, six rush touchdowns, and Owen Scott (417 rush yards, 527 receiving yards, 12 total touchdowns).
Placer can also air it out with quarterback Marcus Ante. The athletic senior averages 147.7 passing yards per game and has 14 touchdowns to just three interceptions.
“I think if we can hold them around 21, 24 (points) maybe we have a chance,” said Logue. “We’re not going to beat the in a 40-39 game so, we are going to have to play Bear River scrappy defense.”
The Bruins defense has been strong all season, allowing a league best 14.7 points per game this season. Bear River’s defense hasn’t yielded more than 20 points in a game this season, and hasn’t allowed more than 14 points in a game since mid-september.
On the offensive side of the ball, Bear River will have to do a better job than it did a year ago against Placer when it was shutout, 28-0.
“Obviously we have to be able to score some points,” said Savoie. “They shut us out last year, 28 to zip… (Placer) is very big, physical, fast and well coached. They are the whole package. We have to do a much better job offensively than we did last year.”
The Bruins, ranked No. 12 in the area by the Sacramento Bee, are still dealing with several injuries to their backfield and will be without two of their top running backs in David O’Brien and Austin Baze.
Bear River has been hampered with injuries the last two seasons which has created a “next man up” approach, said Savoie.
“That’s been our mentality since last year,” Savoie said. “We got hit hard with injuries and we had an ejection last year and some how, some way we found a way to win, and I think that truly sold our kids on that it is truly, next man up.”
The Bruins average 193 rush yards per game, and still have multi-talented senior Dave Mastrella as well as Toran Maronic and Colfax transfer Beau Baggett in the backfield.
Like Placer, Bear River isn’t a one-trick pony on offense and can also hurt defenses through the air. Bear River senior quarterback Jason Voter is coming off a strong game against Colfax in which he threw for 178 yards and two touchdowns.
“We’ve known all year that Placer is the road to the PVL,” Voter said. “That’s who you got to go through and we believed in ourselves, believed we’d be 7-0 and we had a pretty strong feeling they were going to be 7-0. It’s pretty crazy to meet up like this with two 7-0 teams. I don’t remember a game like this before I went to Bear River. Either way, I’m hoping for a great game.”
The last time Bear River and Placer were in a similar situation was 2012 when both teams were 6-0 and met up at J. David Ramsey Stadium. Placer, led by offensive and defensive lineman Eddie Vandergoes who is now at UCLA, won that game 14-7, and went on to win the PVL. The Hillmen have won at least a share of the PVL title every year since. Bear River hasn’t won a league title since 2005. A win tonight would be a big step toward ending the decade long drought.
“Right now, it doesn’t get any bigger than this,” Savoie said. “Hopefully down the road we’re playing for something real big, but right now this is a great situation to be in.”
Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. tonight at J. David Ramsey Stadium on the campus of Bear River High School.
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Brian Shepard contributed to this report.
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