PREP FOOTBALL: Rivals Bear River and Colfax face off in D-V Championship
KNOW & GO
What: Sac-Joaquin Section D-V Championship
Who: No. 6 Bear River (9-3) vs. No. 5 Colfax (9-3)
When: 1 p.m., Saturday
Where: Cosumnes Oaks High School, Elk Grove
Follow along: On Twitter @WalterLFordIII or online at TheUnion.com
Coaches in all sports across all levels use the term often. It’s the idea that if players and coaches alike believe whole-heartedly in a predetermined process for success, great things can be achieved.
For the Bear River Bruins football team, players have bought in and are “all in,” using their belief in each other and their plan for gridiron prosperity to quiet any doubters. The result is a spot in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-V Championship Game for the third time in four seasons.
“Without buying in, without being a team guy, this can’t happen,” Bear River co-head coach Terry Logue said after the Bruins topped Ripon, 14-7, in the semifinals. “The kids are just putting their heart and soul into it and getting it done.”
Fellow Bear River co-head coach Scott Savoie said “buying in” is what has taken this year’s Bruins from a good team to one that is competing for a section title.
“Our kids have worked real hard and have hung together, and you keep hearing ‘family’ and you keep hearing ‘bond’ and that’s all real, that’s not fake stuff,” he said. “It’s not an easy thing to get 38 guys flying in the same direction, being selfless, being team guys. That’s a special thing, and I think that’s what separates the good teams from the great ones.”
Bear River senior fullback and defensive end Austin Baze, a four-year varsity player who will be competing in his third section title game, also spoke to the close bond the Bruins share.
“It’s special. They’re like family to me,” Baze said. “I come out here everyday, not just because I love football, but because these guys are my family, they’re my best friends and I wouldn’t want to play with anyone else.”
The tight-knit Bruins (9-3) will be taking on longtime rival and Pioneer Valley League foe Colfax (9-3), who reached the title game after knocking off No. 1 seed Sonora, 56-55, in the semifinals.
The Bruins and Falcons took two very different routes to the title game, with the Bruins getting it done with a staunch defense. The Falcons leaned on their high-powered offense.
Leading the Falcons offensive attack is senior quarterback Ryland Heimann and senior running back Mason Ahrens.
Heimann has put up impressive numbers this season, throwing for 2,915 yards, 35 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. The second-year starter has been especially impressive in the playoffs, averaging 323.5 yards per game and throwing eight touchdowns and no interceptions.
“Ryland loves football. He’s obsessed with the game,” Colfax head coach Tony Martello said. “He wants to know every situation and he wants to understand every read, every defense, every coverage and every scheme. Last year he wasn’t there, and he’s made tremendous growth in just understanding fronts, coverages and pressures.”
Heimann has several options to throw to as the Falcons boast four different receivers with at least 500 yards this season. Colfax’s top receiver has been Jake Green with 50 catches for 844 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Ahrens is a dual threat out of the backfield, having rushed for 1,749 yards and caught 587 yards worth of passes.
“Mason has that unique blend that very few players have,” Martello said. “Every now and then you get a power back, or fast guy who can flat-out fly, or a guy that cut, and I think Mason has a blend of all those things, all those intangibles you want in a back. And, he has incredible vision. And, If you watch him catch the football, there’s no one that tracks the ball better, there’s no one that catches the ball better. If the ball’s in the air, he’s going to go get it.”
Ahrens is averaging 253.5 yards rushing and 81.5 yards receiving per game in the playoffs.
Looking to slow the Falcons offense will be a Bruins defense that has allowed just 14 points total through two playoff games.
The defense is led by senior middle linebacker Travis Carpenter, a ferocious pass rush and a solid secondary.
As a team, the Bruins have forced five turnovers and notched eight sacks through two playoff games.
“We’re coming together and hitting on the defensive side of the ball,” Carpenter said. “We’re just going to keep hitting and our offense needs to just keep driving down the field. We’re just going to keep going forward.”
On the offensive side of the ball, Bear River leans on Baze (557 rush yards, nine touchdowns), senior quarterback Luke Baggett (1,228 yards passing, 10 touchdowns, six interceptions), receiver Tre Maronic (224 rush yards, 364 receiving yards, five touchdowns) and receiver Calder Kunde (30 catches, 484 receiving yards, three touchdowns).
“I remember my very first section championship, it was nerve-racking,” said Baze. “It was at the Lodi Grape Bowl and that was a big stadium. It kind of overwhelmed me. I just got to bring that knowledge and tell everyone it’s just a regular game. Yeah, it’s the section championship, but don’t let that get to you and just play smart.”
Today’s game will be the 32nd time Bear River and Colfax will have faced off since 1986. Colfax holds a 17-14 overall advantage through the last 31 bouts, including a 31-14 win earlier this season. This is also not the first time the Bruins and Falcons have battled it out with a section title on the line. In 2014, Bear River rallied from a 10-7 halftime deficit to win 28-17 in the D-V Championship.
The Bruins and Falcons will duke it out for the 2017 D-V title at 1 p.m., today at Cosumnes Oaks High School in Elk Grove.
“You can’t describe it,” said Logue. “The last three weeks with the pressure and how much they have put their souls into it, and they have got out what they have put into it. Never been prouder of a team ever.”
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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