DRAPER - By Gene Wilcox - August 16, 2020
“For a moment on Friday night, it seemed as though life was back to normal. Two high school football teams playing their opening game, percussion playing in the stands, the crowd cheering. The only concern was when the sun would go over the mountains, so it would cool down. The moment was brief, but it was a much-needed respite from the pandemic, riots, election and general madness-taking place in our country. Thank you for the return of sport.” – Gene Wilcox, Sports Writer – The Valley Headliner at BRVNEWS.com
With the Bear River Bears’ football team traveling to Draper to open the 2020 football season against Juan Diego High School on Friday, August 14, it seemed the only thing that was certain were the changes. Yet both schools were able to start the much-anticipated season on time.
The Bears chose to receive the opening kick and it proved to be a great decision. Junior Garrison Marble took the kick-off on the run, followed a block, and ran 90-yards to the end zone. Quicker than you could put on your facemask, the Bears had a touchdown. The P.A.T. was blocked leaving the Bears with a 6-0 lead over the Soaring Eagles.
Juan Diego showed why they were favored in the papers by taking their opening drive and putting up a touchdown. The Soaring Eagle veer was effective with the running backs ripping off big chunks of yardage, culminating in a Juan Diego touchdown. The Soaring Eagle kicker split the uprights giving them a 7-6 lead.
The Bears’ first offensive possession revealed what would be a monster game for senior running back Kace “Bucket” Jones. Jones ripped off multiple big runs. He was able to elude tackles with his speed and when he couldn’t outrun them, he chose to run them over.
The Bears methodically drove down field with the help of senior Cael Wilcox’s 17-yard reception off a screen pass from Josh Payne. Jones finished off the drive with a punishing three-yard touchdown run. Ammon Nelson was true on the PA.T. and the Bears were back on top 13-7 heading into the second quarter.
The Bear defense started to stiffen and Jones showed off his defensive skills by making multiple sacks from his line backing position. Junior linebacker Kaeson Burn recovered a Juan Diego fumble and the Bears were back in business.
The Bears marched downfield again behind their dominating offensive line and Kace Jones scored again on a 13-yard run. Ammon Nelson’s P.A.T. was true and the Bears were up 20-7 early in the second quarter. Defensive linebacker Kaeson Burn produced another fumble and recovery to stop Juan Diego’s next drive.
The game took a drastic change in momentum when senior quarterback Payne was tackled on a short run. Payne stayed down on the turf as the Bear River faithful collectively held their breath as trainer, Sean Norton, jogged onto the field. It was apparent that Payne had injured his knee and ultimately would miss the rest of the game.
Back-up quarterback Ryker Jeppsen was put into a tough situation but responded well to the pressure. The Bear offense stalled and Juan Diego took over. On the ensuing drive, Jones was able to break in untouched and sacked the Juan Diego quarterback who was injured on the play.
The Juan Diego quarterback, Diego Valdez, injured his shoulder on the play and would not return to the game. Both teams, on ensuing possessions, had lost their starting quarterbacks. The Bears and Soaring Eagles traded possessions. Juan Diego took possession with 43 seconds left in the half. They moved downfield and scored on a short throw, to bring the half-time score to 20-13 in favor of the Bears.
In the second half, the Bears kept a steady dose of Jones on offense, with an extra portion of coach Jared Lish’s defense. The combination proved effective, and dominant. After stopping Juan Diego’s opening possessions, the Bear offense drove down field. The Bears finished the drive with Jones’s third touchdown - an eight-yard sweep. Nelson’s P.A.T. was blocked, and the Bears were up 26-13, five minutes into the third quarter.
Juan Diego wasn’t going away and after a couple of big runs scored on an eight-yard quarterback keeper. The P.A.T. was unsuccessful. The Bear lead was now down to 26-20 halfway through the third quarter.
The Bears finished another short drive offensively, when senior halfback Corbin Kierstead took a pitch and weaved his way into the end zone for a five-yard touchdown run. Gabe Dwaileebe’s P.A.T. was blocked, and the lead was now 32-20 at the end of the third quarter.
In the fourth quarter, the Bear defense started to unload with multiple sacks on the Juan Diego quarterback. Alec Callister recorded two sacks, Braxton Christensen and Justice Dworshak each added sacks, and linebacker Kaeson Burn recovered another fumble for a hat trick.
The Bear offense tacked on a final score, when Jeppsen hit senior Easton Lish on a 15-yard screen pass for a touchdown. Nelson’s P.A.T. was true and the Bears were in a 39-20 shootout.
The Bear defense stayed solid and Easton Lish finished off the evening with an impressive over-the-shoulder interception in the end zone.
Bear River Head Coach Chris Wise was pleased with the outcome and the effort but realized they need to clean up the overall game. Jones finished an amazing game with over 200-yards rushing and three touchdowns. Defensively, he had three sacks to go with many tackles.
The Bears will now turn their attention to their opening home game Friday, August 21, against Morgan High School starting at 7 p.m.
The Trojans are the defending 3A state champions, and also defeated the Bears last year in Morgan by a 37-17 score. Morgan graduated a big and talented senior class, but are still ranked first in 3A, and look to continue rolling.