PREP SPORTS: The best moments and games from the 2015-16 prep sports year |

PREP SPORTS: The best moments and games from the 2015-16 prep sports year

Bear River's Jake Rogers celebrates a walk-off home run with his teammates after their playoff win over Los Banos.
Laura Mahaffy/ | The Union

The 2015-16 prep sports year was filled with captivating games, thrilling finishes and amazing team efforts. Here are some of the best games and moments from an unpredictable year of local prep sports:

Rally Bruins

(May 18, 2016)

After a five-year absence from the playoffs the Bear River baseball team looked a little rusty taking on Los Banos in the first round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV playoffs. The Bruins fell behind 7-0 after two innings and it looked like their stay in the postseason would be a short one. But, the Bruins never hung their heads, settled in and chipped away at the seven-run deficit. Bear River scored seven runs in the fifth inning, including a three-run double by Jacob Cross to tie the game up. After a scoreless sixth and seventh inning, the contest went to extra innings, and that’s where Bear River’s sophomore catcher Jake Rogers’ came through with the biggest hit of his high school career. Rogers, the Bruins’ No. 9 hitter, ripped a solo home run over the left field fence.

“That was amazing,” said Bear River head coach Eric Van Patten. “We just stayed in it, never gave up and that’s the real deal. That’s what baseball is all about. You can’t predict this game until the last out.”

The Bruins would advance to the semifinals, but were ousted by El Capitan.

Down to the final strike (May 21, 2016)

With her team one strike away from elimination, Bear River’s Nerissa Eason dug into the batter’s box and launched a two-out, two-strike, two-run home run over the center field fence to beat Casa Roble, 3-2, in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-IV Championship series. Making the Eason home run possible was an impressive at bat by sophomore Mallory Borrego, who drew a full-count walk to keep the inning alive and bring Eason to the plate. The victory forced a second, winner-take-all game with Casa Roble, but the Bruins would fall 7-4.

Miners win NUIT (Dec. 12, 2015)

The Nevada Union basketball team was the best it has been in years and they let it be known early in the season by winning the Nevada Union Invitational Tournament for the first time under head coach Jeff Dellis.

The senior-laden Miners crushed it’s first two opponents and continued to roll in the championship game, beating Enterprise 55-41.

“Frankly it’s a little bit of a weight off my back,” Dellis said. “And, we don’t shy away from anybody. We’ve had some phenomenal teams, including Enterprise…We’re very proud our kids stepped up and held court.”

In the win, the Miners were impressive defensively as they held Enterprise to just 16 first half points. Offensively, the Miners hit 10 3-pointers and were led by senior Jahn Chensee’s 19 points.

Three overtime thriller (Jan. 15, 2016)

The Bear River boys basketball team only won three games in the Pioneer Valley League this season, but two of those were over rival Colfax and one of those victories was an instant classic.

After trailing 21-20 at the half, the Bruins rallied to tie the game and force overtime. The Bruins jetted out to a 58-50 lead in the first overtime, but Colfax would soar back into the game, scoring eight unanswered points including a desperation, buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Will Biles to force a second overtime. After another period went by, the bitter rivals were still knotted, 64-64. In the third overtime, Colfax jumped out to a five point lead, 74-69, with less than 3-minutes to play. That’s when the Bruins turned it on. Rhiley Harrison got things going with a bucket and the foul. He hit the free throw to make it 74-72. Colfax’s responded with a bucket to put the lead back at four. Bear River’s David O’Brien then hit a free throw and teammate Jason Voter hit a tough inside shot to bring Bear River to within one at 76-75. After a stop by the Bruins, Jimmy Kelly put Bear River ahead with a 3-pointer with 27 seconds on the clock. The Bruins would hold Colfax again and free throws by Grant Skowronski and Kelly put the game away.

Skowronski led the Bruins with 30 points, 13 rebounds and seven made 3-pointers.

Rubio’s no-no clinches playoff spot (May 5, 2016)

With a playoff spot on the line, Falcons pitcher Mikey Rubio was at his best.

Rubio, a senior on the Forest Lake Christian’s baseball team, battled through the rain and tossed his first career no-hitter to lead the Falcons past the Foresthill Wildfires, 10-0, and clinch a playoff spot for FLC.

“Mikey was focused,” said FLC head coach Jess Soria. “The elements can always get you off track, and you can always make excuses, but he didn’t do any of that. He just battled one pitch at a time, got good defense behind him and made some great pitches.”

Rubio pitched all five innings, allowed no hits, no runs and struck out three while walking five before the game was called due to the mercy rule.

“I didn’t even realize it until the end. I was just going along,” Rubio said. “I had my good curveball, I was snapping it pretty good and my fast ball was working. I threw in a cutter a little bit and kept them off balance.”

Stampede rumble to NorCal title (May 22, 2016)

The Gold Country Stampede went 14-0 in the regular season and crushed its first two playoff opponents, but in the NorCal Championships against Oakland Tech they fell behind 9-4 after three quarters. With the Northern California Junior Lacrosse Association Championship on the line, the Stampede marched forward with a renewed sense of urgency and took it to Oakland Tech. The Stampede outscored Oakland Tech 7-1 in the final frame and got the game-winning goal from Toran Maronic with a little more than two minutes remaining.

“I told them ‘it’s one goal at a time. We’ve been in this situation before, and we know how to face adversity,’” Porter said of his halftime speech. “I believed in my heart and I think the rest of the kids believed that we were the best team on the field, we just needed to start playing like it.”

The Gold Country Stampede varsity team is a high school level lacrosse club comprised of student-athletes from Bear River, Nevada Union and Ghidotti high schools.

Playoff motivation (Nov. 13, 2015)

The Bear River football team had won the 2014 Sac-Joaquin Section D-V title and looked to be a contender in the 2015 season. But, after stumbling into the playoffs, they found themselves down 7-0 to Ripon in the first round of the playoffs.

Senior quarterback Jason Voter took it upon himself to rally his team at halftime and did he ever.

The Bruins came out in the third quarter and scored 20 unanswered points, including a pair of touchdown passes (25, 65) touchdown passes from Voter.

“At halftime, right before we came back out, Jason (Voter) got us all pumped up and we knew we were going to win this game,” said senior running back Dave Mastrella.

Voter added that his team just needed to find their confidence.

“I knew the last two weeks (Center, Lincoln) didn’t really represent who we are,” said Voter after the game. “We kind of lost some of our confidence in losing players (to injury), but I think we got it back. I’m so proud of everyone and just the way they responded after halftime, and that third quarter mainly, that was great.”

Anna Oneill Jersey Retirement (April 13, 2016)

It was a year ago that O’Neill died in an auto accident when returning home from a playoff soccer game. She was 14 years old.

As a way to honor and recognize all that O’Neill brought to Forest Lake Christian High School, her soccer jersey was retired during a ceremony in April.

“(O’Neill) was tenacious, skilled and brought out the best in her teammates,” FLC athletic director Steve Koch said in front of a packed gym filled with students, teachers, administrators, coaches, members of the media and O’Neill’s family. “It’s our honor to recognize Anna O’Neill and retire the No. 5 jersey from Forest Lake Christian girls soccer.”

Since 1966, When Forest Lake Christian High School first opened its doors, only two jerseys have been retired. O’Neill’s No. 5 soccer jersey will now hang alongside Brooke Hodges No. 00 basketball jersey and Josh Ritchart’s No. 23 basketball jersey.

“In the 50 year history (of Forest Lake Christian High School) only two jerseys have been retired, so this is a very significant moment,” FLC Principal Lisa Zea said.

O’Neill also played volleyball and basketball at FLC as well as being a member of the choir.

To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email

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