Shepard: Bruins need to pick up pieces, move forward
Special to The Union
The numbers don’t lie.
Bear River found itself staring up at a goose egg on the scoreboard at the end of Saturday night’s 28-0 rout by Placer.
It’s one of the hardest things to do, but the Bruins need to shrug this one off and get right back at it because the Pioneer Valley League is far from over. The Bruins close out the regular season with a pair of home games against Center and then Lincoln. Winning both would likely ensure Bear River a top seed and at least one home playoff game. Regardless, Placer (6-2, 3-0 PVL) is the clear frontrunner in the PVL.
Call it over the top or just plain zealous, but the Hillmen and head coach Joey Montoya were absolutely determined to keep the Bruins out of the end zone. With a 28-0 lead late in the fourth quarter Bear River had moved the ball inside the red zone for the first time and were set up first-and-goal at the 5-yard line. Yet, the Hillmen dug in their cleats and drove the Bruins backwards, calling two consecutive time outs in the process to regroup, as they turned up the heat.
A pass interference call gave the Bruins one last chance to break up the shutout, setting up fourth-and-goal from the 6-yard line, but the Hillmen swatted down Bruins quarterback Jason Voter’s pass. In the end, the Hillmen outgained the Bruins in total yards 437-174, extending their win streak in the crosstown matchup to six. All of Voter’s 41 passing yards came in the first half and the running game had little success. Junior Kyle Uclaray led the team and had some positive bursts with his 14 carries for 65 yards, but nothing ever added up to points.
“I’m proud of our guys in the second half,” said Bear River co-head coach Terry Logue. “We’ll lick our wounds and be back at it.”
The Bruins did hold Placer to a single touchdown in the second half, a small consolation after falling behind 21-0 in the first half. Bear River surrendered 234 yards rushing, well below the Hillmen’s usual 281.1 yards they had been averaging. Yet, the real surprise was senior quarterback Clark Pietromonaco, who beat the Bruins both on the ground and through the air.
Pietromonaco didn’t let the wet conditions slow him down as he surpassed his normal 137.2 yards passing with ease and also broke free, striding through the secondary en route to a 51-yard score. He threw 8-for-15 for 203 yards with a pair of touchdowns and an interception, an astounding average of 25.4 yards per completion.
Placer’s scoring plays were of a longer variety, coming from 24, 51, 10 and 45 yards. Busting open big plays for scores often swings momentum, adds pressure to respond and can defeat an opponent mentally as well. The Bruins did a good job of not letting a 21-0 deficit get to their heads because Placer would surely have racked up the points even more so if Bear River had let it.
“We told our kids to keep their heads up,” added Bruins co-head coach Scott Savoie. “There’s still a lot of big things ahead for us.”
No doubt, Bear River still has a lot to play for. The PVL is shaping up to be quite a dog fight thus far, but mostly for second place unless someone finds a way to knock off Placer. Unfortunately, Center’s forfeit to the Hillmen benefits only Placer and no one else, which is rather skewed. Sure the Cougars deserve to be penalized for a brawl that escalated earlier this season, but why should the rest of the PVL not benefit equally like the Hillmen?
Center defeated Placer twice last year, including the playoffs. To hand the Hillmen a win over a tough opponent like that and grace them with yet another bye week just seems too good to be true. If a team must forfeit a game, then it should have been an earlier preseason game or maybe even have the players participate in community service, but to shorten a 5-game PVL schedule is harsh when looking at the larger scope of teams being affected.
Nonetheless, Bear River (6-2, 2-1 PVL) will look to right its ship and avenge last year’s crushing defeat to Center when it welcomes the Cougars (5-3, 2-1 PVL) to J. David Ramsey Stadium this Friday on Halloween.
Brian Shepard is a freelance sports writer who contributes to The Union regularly.
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