Tough task for Bruins looming at Placer tonight |

Tough task for Bruins looming at Placer tonight

It was a game the Bear River Bruins might rather altogether forget, if it wasn’t, at the very least, serving as a source of motivation for tonight’s Pioneer Valley League opener at Placer.

The last time Bear River took the field against Placer, the Hillmen had their way, and then some, in the most lopsided loss – 51-7 – the Bruins had suffered since a 56-6 defeat to Oak Ridge during Bear River’s first year of play in 1986.

Placer, on its way to a second-straight Division IV section runner-up run, pounced on the Bruins with 17 first-quarter points, followed by 20 more in the second stanza, for a 37-0 halftime lead.

“Anything that could go wrong, did go wrong,” Bruin co-head coach Scott Savoie said of last season’s loss to the Hillmen. “Some of those things were self-inflicted, but a lot of others were forced by them. Placer was a very good team last year.”

And Savoie, rest assured, knows this year’s version of the Hillmen (4-1) is another quality club.

Placer, a traditional powerhouse program back on the rise, enters tonight’s battle with the Bruins after a pair of impressive offensive outbursts the past two weeks. Since dropping their only defeat of the season to Casa Roble (41-33) on Sept. 17, the Hillmen have hammered both Woodland (58-20) and El Dorado (54-10).

“I don’t think we’re going to win a 48-46 ball game against them,” Savoie said, even after being reminded of his team’s season-opening 50-43 win over Cordova. “We’re going to have to limit them for us to have a chance to win. They can’t score in the 40s for us to win. I just don’t think we’re cut out for that kind of game.

“Placer is a much better defensive team than Cordova. I haven’t seen anybody yet – even Casa Roble – shove the ball down (Placer’s) throat. Teams have had some big plays against them, but they’re a very good defensive team. Everybody talks about their offense, but they’re really good on the other side of the ball, too.”

The Hillmen’s offensive attack has drawn notice mainly due to its prolific performances the past three seasons under former Placer grad Joey Montoya. After posting a 3-7 mark in his first season at his alma mater, Montoya has led Placer back to prominence with a 24-8 record. In that span, his wing-T offense has averaged 36.9 points per game, including six victories in which the Hillmen put 50-plus points on the scoreboard.

Montoya, a former Nevada Union assistant, essentially has replicated at Placer the building project he put forth at Pioneer in his previous four years as a head coach. After struggling through the program’s first varsity season in 2003, Montoya led the Patriots to three-straight league titles and a 26-9 mark over those three seasons.

Placer’s offense is led by running back Josh Turney and his 691 yards and 10 touchdowns. Brad Spangler has rushed for 231 yards and five scores, while Michael Robinson has run for 253 yards and two touchdowns. Joe Mangino (209 yards, 3 TDs) and Jordan Ralls (179 3 TDs) give Montoya even more options on the ground.

Quarterback Colin Burnett has thrown for 499 yards on 29-of-51 passing with two touchdowns and one interception.

Bear River (4-1) will counter with a ground game that has been powered by a pair of backs. Senior Sam Houston has rushed for 464 yards and seven scores, while junior Josh Toft has gained 438 yards with one touchdown.

Bruin quarterback James Harris has hit on 28-of-50 passing for 283 yards and two touchdowns against four interceptions.

“It’s an exciting game, the kind of game you play for,” Savoie said. “We want to play good people and we’re definitely doing that (tonight). Placer is a very talented football team and a very well-coached team. It’s going to be something.”

The game also marks Bear River’s first return to the field since its stirring 14-7 win over River Valley, which was dedicated to the memory of junior wideout Justin Butler, whose accidental death shook the south county community to its core. The Bruins had a bye last Friday, when they celebrated Butler’s life in a memorial service at J. David Ramsey Stadium.

“I think we’re a little better with things,” Savoie said. “On the surface, if you come out to a practice, you wouldn’t notice anything. But there are still some kids out there hurting. It’s still fresh, but with time I think everything gets a little better.”

NOTES: Tonight’s road trip serves as the fourth-straight away game for Bear River. By the time the Bruins return home for next Friday’s game with Center, Bear River will have not played at home for nearly six weeks. … Savoie said the Bruins will still be without senior wide receiver Joey Reina, whose foot injury has sidelined him since the season-opening victory over Cordova, in which he caught seven passes for 138 yards and the game-winning touchdown.

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