PREP FOOTBALL: Undefeated Bear River gears up for Pioneer Valley League gauntlet
The Bruins have barreled through their non-league schedule, going 5-0 and leaving teams from Orland, Union Mine, Pershing County, Marysville and El Dorado in their wake.
Bear River has impressed on offense, shined on defense and overcame some early season adversity on its way to an undefeated record against foes outside the Pioneer Valley League.
“It’s great to be 5-0 and it’s great to go into league with some momentum,” Bear River co-head coach Scott Savoie said after his team topped El Dorado in the Bruins’ non-league finale. “We also stayed healthy throughout the first half of the season. That’s a huge deal. A huge variable.”
Through five games, the Bruins are averaging 36 points per game while allowing just 8.6 points per game.
Bear River does much of their offensive damage on the ground, averaging 217.2 yards per game behind a stable of backs. Leading the Bruins’ ground game has been senior Stephen Taylor with 442 yards and six rushing touchdowns. Taylor averages 10.8 yards every time he rushes the ball, and is a force in the passing game as well with 11 catches, 111 yards and two receiving touchdowns.
Taylor is joined in the backfield by Josh Zimmer, Austin Baze and Clayton Anderson.
Through the air, the Bruins rely on senior quarterback Luke Baggett who has completed 26 of his 48 passes for 386 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. Baggett has a handful of receivers he can go to, including juniors Calder Kunde and Dylan Scott, as well as sophomore Tre Maronic.
On the defensive side of the ball is where the Bruins have been dominant this season, holding four of their five opponents this season to 10 points or less.
The Bruins’ defense is anchored by linebacker Travis Carpenter, who leads the team with 38 tackles to go with a sack, an interception and a forced fumble. As a team, the Bear River gets after the quarterback with 10 sacks this season, led by Sam Davis’ three. The Bruins secondary has also been strong, led by Baggett (13 tackles, one interception) and Kunde (12 tackles, three interceptions).
With all that has gone right for the Bruins this season, co-head coach Terry Logue warned there is still much to improve upon before PVL play kicks off.
“It’s great to be 5-0, but we definitely have things to work on,” Logue said.
Bear River opens league play on the road at the Lincoln Zebras Friday. Here is a breakdown of what lies ahead in league play for the Bruins.
AT LINCOLN ZEBRAS (4-1)
7:30 p.m., Friday
The Bruins open SFL play on the road at the Lincoln Zebras, who are coming off a solid run in non-league play.
So far this season, the Zebras have beat Ponderosa, Nevada Union, Wheatland and Casa Roble. Their only loss came at home against Antelope.
Lincoln boasts a high-powered offense which averages more than 400 yards and 30.8 points per game. Leading the offense is junior quarterback Tommy Turner (78-for-135, 1,170 yards, 13 touchdowns, four interceptions).
The Zebras can also run the ball, averaging 191.2 yards per game behind a balanced attack that features four capable running backs.
Defensively, the Zebras are allowing 20 points per game.
When Bear River and Lincoln met up last year, the Zebras won 27-14.
AT FOOTHILL (1-4)
7:30 p.m., Oct. 13
Foothill is the only PVL team the Bruins beat last season, topping the Mustangs 27-6 at home.
This season, Bear River will head to Sacramento to face the struggling Mustangs, who have a new coach in Anthony Eustace.
Foothill’s only win so far this year came against Mira Loma in the season opener. The Mustangs have since lost four straight against Cordova, Rio Linda, Woodland and Oakmont.
As a team, Foothill is averaging 19.6 points per game and allowing 37.6.
They are led by senior quarterback Carlos Merced.
VS. COLFAX (5-0)
7:30 p.m., Oct. 20
The Bruins will be at home for the first time since Sept. 8, hosting league rival Colfax.
The Falcons have crushed their competition this season, averaging 47.6 points per game while allowing just 5.8 points per game.
Colfax has wins over Golden Sierra, Winters, Argonaut, Bella Vista and Wheatland. The Falcons haven’t had a game closer than a 22-point margin and have pitched three shutouts this season.
Offensively, they get it done through the air with senior quarterback Ryland Heimann (49-for-62, 806 yards, 12 touchdowns, three interceptions). On the ground, senior Mason Ahrens is averaging 12.7 yards per carry on his way to 595 rush yards and eight rushing touchdowns.
The Falcons bested the Bruins a season ago, 31-14.
VS. PLACER (4-1)
7:30 p.m., Oct. 27
The Bruins will host the defending PVL champs in their last home game of the regular season.
The Bear River defense will certainly be tested in this one as the Hillmen boast an impressive ground game that is averaging 303 yards per game. Placer has several backs to contend with in their highly efficient Wing-T approach. Leading the Hillmen rushers is Mario Perez with 509 yards and five touchdowns.
The Hillmen have wins over Pleasant Grove, Aptos, Laguna Creek and Vista del Lago this season, with their only loss from Nevada Union.
Bear River struggled at Placer last season, falling by a score of 31-6.
AT CENTER (3-2)
7:30 p.m., Nov. 3
The Bruins will close the season at Center in a game that will likely have playoff implications for one or both teams.
Bear River and the Cougars usually play each other closely, with Center taking the last two matches by a combined nine points, including a 31-28 win in overtime last season. Bear River topped the Cougars, 7-6, the year before that.
So far this season, the Cougars have wins over Rio Americano, Bradshaw Christian and Natomas. Center has dropped games to Rio Linda and River City.
Center is averaging 35.2 points per game while allowing 32.2 per game.
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email email@example.com.
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