Senior strong: 5 Bruins to watch on the gridiron |

Senior strong: 5 Bruins to watch on the gridiron

Bear River's John Voter closes in on T.J. Dove during a game last season. Voter is a senior this year and will be counted on to lead the Bruins' linebacking core.
Photo by Brian O’Brien |

Playmakers; the athletes who put the weight of the team on their shoulders and step up under pressure when the game is on the line, filling key roles and providing valuable experience and leadership.

Every football squad has its share of core guys and it isn’t surprising that Bear River will look to its seniors to catapult this year’s campaign in the right direction.

The Bruins lost a wealth of experience with the graduating class of 2014, but so did every other high school, and now, the time has come for new names to rise up and battle for the almighty yard.

Here’s a glance at five players to follow for Bear River in its 2014 season:

John Voter III (senior), RB/LB

“We count on our seniors to be leaders, especially at the beginning of the year,” said Bear River co-head coach Terry Logue. “John was first team All-League for linebacker last year. We can definitely count on him to lead the defense.”

The Bruins’ defense yielded 23.5 points per game last season as Voter led the way with 80 total tackles, including 55 solo and three for a loss. He also hauled in a team-high three interceptions. In the trenches, Voter carried the ball 51 times for 239 yards, an average of 4.69 yards per touch with his longest run breaking loose for 19 yards. Bear River has always had tremendous talent and depth out of the backfield and this year is certainly no exception.

Sam Elizondo (senior), C

Nobody touches the ball more than the quarterback, except the center, which is why Elizondo’s role is so vital for the team’s success. Everything hinges on a crisp snap and solid blocking out front, without it any offense is destined to fail. Elizondo will be a vital anchor of stability right up the gut.

“Sam played every snap last year,” Logue said. “We didn’t have anybody else. He’s going to be a key part of the offensive line firing balls back between his legs. Most of it will be out of shotgun.”

Kyle Krogman (senior), FB/LB

Behind Voter and recently graduated David Chorjel, Krogman finished with the third-most tackles on the team last season, 51. He will also try to help spark the offense from the fullback position, one previously held by the Bruins’ 2013 leading scorer Brad Botsford. Like many Bruins, Krogman has a dynamic ability that serves as a dual threat no matter which side of the ball he lines up on.

“Kyle is a returning linebacker from last year,” added Logue. “He started nine or 10 games for us last year. He had an excellent football camp at Nevada Reno. We’re counting on him and Voter to run that defense.”

Ryan Wagner (senior), WR/DB

“Ryan is going to be a two-way starter at wide receiver and defensive back,” explained Logue. “He’s the only one starting both ways. He can get deep. He has good speed and instincts on defense.”

Wagner caught 10 balls for 102 yards and one touchdown in 10 games last season, the squad’s third-leading receiver behind recent graduates Kirs Edie and Hunter Cramer. Now as the primary target, he will have plenty of opportunities to showcase his athleticism as his relationship with the team’s quarterback strengthens. Wagner also wrapped up 20 total tackles on defense last year.

Austin Smith (senior), QB

And, last but certainly not least, is the quarterback position where Smith will be at the helm. In 2013, the Bear River offense averaged 26.2 points per game while passing for 119.8 yards and rushing for 186.6. Smith was able to get his feet wet a little bit behind recently graduated Braden Duncan. He appeared in six games and threw 11-of-19 (.579) for 167 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions.

“(Smith) didn’t play a lot last season, playing behind our other senior,” said Logue. “We’re counting on him to lead our offense. Jason Voter and David O’Brien are good juniors, but Smith has the experience stepping in there with good athletic ability. He throws the deep ball almost better than the short ball just like his brother. They aren’t big kids, but they have really good arms.”

This season is no different than any other for Bear River as it will be all hands on deck in pursuit of a Pioneer Valley League title, and at the very least, a playoff berth. Co-head coaches Scott Savoie and Logue recently concluded the team’s summer practice sessions earlier this week and now the players have a short break before returning to the field August 11.

The Bruins will finally get to pound pads against an opponent with a preseason scrimmage Aug. 23 against Nevada Union and Mesa Verde.

Brian Shepard is a freelance sports writer who contributes to The Union regularly.

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