PREP FOOTBALL: Bruins look to reclaim winning tradition
Bear River BRUINS
Head coaches: Terry Logue and Scott Savoie
2016 record: 3-7 overall, 1-4 Pioneer Valley League (fifth)
Last league title: 2005
Last Sac-Joaquin Section championship: 2014
Game 1: vs. Orland, 7:30 p.m., Friday
Game 2: at Union Mine, 7:30 p.m., Sept. 1
Game 3: vs. Pershing County, 7:30 p.m., Sept. 8
Game 4: at Marysville, 7:30 p.m., Sept. 15
Game 5: at El Dorado, 7:30 p.m., Sept. 22
Game 6: at Lincoln, 7:30 p.m., Oct. 6*
Game 7: at Foothill, 7:30 p.m., Oct. 13*
Game 8: vs. Colfax, 7:30 p.m., Oct. 20*
Game 9: vs. Placer, 7:30 p.m. Oct 27*
Game 10: at Center, 7:30 p.m., Nov. 3*
*Pioneer Valley League game
That’s the unofficial motto for the Bear River High School football team, which aims to turn last year’s 3-7 record into a 7-3 mark this year.
The Bruins suffered just their second losing season in the program’s 30-year history in 2016, finishing 1-4 in the Pioneer Valley League.
“The goal is to have a winning season and make the playoffs,” said longtime coach Terry Logue, who’s entering his 28th season overall in his second stint with the Bruins. “Those two words (flip it) have been used.”
One losing season — the Bruins’ first since their inaugural campaign in 1987, when they played with no seniors — isn’t enough to change the culture at Bear River. Reclaiming a winning tradition and getting the program back on track is a responsibility everybody takes seriously.
“They’re reminded of it,” said co-head coach Scott Savoie, who enters his 16th year as a Bruins head coach, his 14th in tandem with Logue. “It’s a big thing to us. It’s a big thing to them. Right now I’m seeing a group of guys with a chip on their shoulder. Let’s see if we can carry that over into Friday.”
The losing season was a culture shock in Lake of the Pines, where Bear River reached the Sac-Joaquin Section Division V finals in 2014 and 2015, winning their second section banner in 2014.
The Bruins open the 2017 season on Friday at home against Orland, which finished 7-4 last year, 4-1 in the Butte View League. The Trojans beat the Bruins in last season’s opener, 23-18, in Orland. A victory would give Logue career win No. 222.
THE GAME PLAN
Improving from three wins to seven is a lofty goal.
So how do the Bruins reverse course and earn a trip to the playoffs for the 25th time in program history?
“We’re trying to get this team to push themselves outside their comfort zone, because they’re going to be outmatched a lot,” Logue said. “They’re going to have to play above and beyond their capabilities.”
Bear River will have to capitalize on its strengths and improve on its weaknesses.
One strength, Savoie said, lies in the secondary, led by seniors Luke Baggett and Josh Zimmer, who may also see time at linebacker alongside senior standout Travis Carpenter.
“Most of our returners are talent guys,” Savoie said. “I think we have a lights-out secondary. Travis Carpenter … is really important for us. It’s his toughness. He’s an all-state wrestler guy, just really tough. We like him a lot.”
While Carpenter — who also anchors the offensive line, moving from center to guard this year — is among the team’s defensive leaders, the linebacking corps represents what Logue considers the Bruins’ most significant weakness.
“Depth is our biggest concern,” he said. “On defense, we’re very thin at linebacker. Offensively we’re very thin at running back.”
Another important difference this year is attitude.
“Things are a lot more positive this year,” said Austin Baze, a standout defensive end who’s also the team’s top running back. “Last year seemed a little negative at times. … We have to have a better effort. Last year, it just seemed a lot of guys just didn’t care about the team, but this year guys care. As last season went on, guys got more negative. I don’t think guys on this team will let that happen.”
CALLING THE SHOTS
Baggett, who caught four passes for 30 yards as a receiver last year, will move to quarterback for the first time at the varsity level, though he was under center on the junior varsity and freshmen teams.
With some scrimmage work now under his belt, the senior has a better idea of what to expect.
“It’s a lot different,” he said. “Higher level, higher speed. The reads are a lot faster, there’s people wanting to kill you. It’s a lot harder to make an accurate throw with a bunch of people in front of you.”
While Savoie understands his new quarterback is inexperienced, he knows the kid well and understands what he brings. Baggett’s father, Jeff Baggett, is the team’s offensive coordinator.
“I’ve known Luke since he was a baby,” Savoie said. “The thing you get with a guy like Luke Baggett is a guy with a very high football IQ. I think that’s pretty typical of having a dad who’s around all the time.
“And he’s passionate. He’s passionate about football. That’s a pretty good combination.”
Baze will become the first four-year varsity starter in school history, but he won’t start a game until at least week three, when the Bruins host Pershing County from Lovelock, Nevada.
The 6-foot-1, 230-pound senior fullback led the team with 352 yards rushing on 53 carries, with six rushing touchdowns despite missing three games with an injury last year. He had surgery on May 2 to repair a torn labrum, the second shoulder surgery of his high school career, and won’t be cleared for the Bruins’ first two games.
“We’re sure as heck hoping we have him back (by week three),” Savoie said. “Just watching him run around here, he’s at a different level in the backfield than what we have at running back right now. It’ll be awesome to have him back on both sides of the ball.”
Recovery is on schedule, Baze said, and the week three return is likely.
“Everything is going well,” he said. “Physical therapy is going well. I feel strong. I’ve got really good flexibility.”
OTHERS TO WATCH
Jake Leonard: The 6-foot-4, 153-pound senior defensive end recorded four tackles as a junior but is expected to step into more of an impact role.
Garrett Pratt: The junior defensive tackle and defensive end recorded 40 tackles, including a sack, while starting as a sophomore a season ago.
Stephen Taylor: The 5-9, 155-pound senior will see time at running back and receiver, where he had six catches for 149 yards and two touchdowns as a junior. “We’re counting on him to be both,” Savoie said. “He’s got soft hands and he’s one of our fastest guys.”
Calder Kunde: The 6-1, 165-pound junior caught 13 passes for 98 yards with a touchdown as a sophomore, but could find himself all over the field depending on circumstances. “He’s just so darn athletic,” Savoie said. “He can do a lot of things to help this football team. There’s a lot of places where he can play and he will play.”
Stephen Roberson is a freelance sports writer who contributes to The Union regularly.
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