BEAR RIVER HIGH - By Gene Wilcox - August 24, 2020
The friendly confines of Bear Field proved to be advantageous as the Bear River High School football team hung on to win their home opener, 20-14, against a scrappy Morgan High School team.
Both teams started the game with strong defensive stands. The Bears held Morgan on consecutive series. Morgan was equally adept defensively, keying specifically on senior Kace “Bucket” Jones and the Bear River running game. When the first quarter ended, the Bears were locked in a 0-0 defensive game.
The second quarter started with Bear River's defense coming alive and coming up with a huge turnover. Morgan’s quarterback dropped back and under heavy pressure threw a bad pass right to Bear River defensive-end Justice “Shak” Dworshak. The interception gave the Bears the ball on Morgan's 20-yard line.
Sophomore quarterback Ryker Jeppson, filling in for injured Josh Payne, started to look more comfortable running the offense. A pass interference against Morgan in the end zone gave the Bears a first down at the eight-yard line. The Bears were able to put the first points on the board when senior Chance Udy took a hand-off and powered into the end zone from four yards out, on fourth down.
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The Bear defense continued to play well and created another scoring chance, stopping Morgan on third down. The Trojans were forced into a parting situation and when the long snapper sailed the snap over the punter's head, it was “game on.” The Trojan punter raced back and retrieved the ball, trying to turn it up-field. The punter immediately saw the error in his ways when he saw Braxton “Weasel” Christensen and Dworshak bearing down on him at full speed.
He was able to get a wobbly kick off and then took a brutal hit by both Bear River defenders. In a savvy piece of football skill, return man junior Garrison Marble alertly saw no Trojan defenders near the ball. Marble sprinted toward it and ran 34-yards into the end zone, untouched. Ammon Nelson's P.A.T. was again true, giving the Bears a 14-0 lead.
The Bears dodged a bullet at the end of the half, senior when Jones recovered a fumble at the Bear River five-yard line. When the halftime horn sounded the Bears were solidly in the lead, but still in a tight game.
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The third quarter saw the Bear offense start to air it out. Bears' Jeppson looked sharp, leading the Bears on an opening touchdown drive. Jeppson completed three consecutive passes driving the Bears to the Trojan 20-yard line. With senior Easton Lish starting to heat up, the Bears' injury bug struck again, in an untimely fashion.
Jeppson threw a fade to Lish in the corner of the end zone and Lish landed awkwardly, holding his shoulder. When he left the game, it was apparent his return would not be eminent, leaving the Bears with a huge hole to fill on both sides of the ball.
The Bears finished the drive when Marble hauled in a reception at the one-yard line, giving the Bears a first down. Jones scored on the next play with a one-yard plunge. Nelson hit the upright on the P.A.T., but the Bears were cruising with a 20-0 lead.
The fourth quarter came with the Morgan Trojans trying to pull off a furious rally. The first Trojan touchdown came on a 23-yard interception, which was returned for a touchdown.
The Trojans struck again when their defense blitzed Jeppson, forcing a fumble in the flat. A Morgan defender grabbed the loose ball and returned it 30-yards untouched, for another touchdown. With both P.A.T.s being successful, suddenly the Trojans were a touchdown and a P.A.T. away from leading in a game in which they had been dominated.
The defending 3A champs, Morgan, looked confident, but had three things going against them.
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First, Gabe Dwaileebe was getting huge chunks of yardage on kick returns, giving the Bears excellent field position.
Second, Jones was starting to find his mojo, reeling off big yardage on his running plays. He even scored on a long run but the play was negated by a penalty.
Lastly, and most importantly, the (coach) Jared Lish designed defense had not given up any points and had no intentions of a Morgan rally party. The defense continually put brutal hits on the Trojan quarterback and running backs.
Senior Logan Knudsen had a sack and Christensen and Dworshak put bone-crushing hits on running backs who couldn't turn it up-field. The Bears finally put Morgan's hope of a come-back to bed, with a timely stop on fourth down.
The Bears ended with a home victory 20-14, pushing their record to 2-0 for the young season. The victory did not come without a cost, as senior stand-out Lish will be lost for the immediate future with a broken collar bone (clavicle).
The Bears will now turn their attention to a talented Bonneville High School team, who is 1-1 on the season, on Friday, August 28. The game will be played in Washington Terrace at Thom Budge Field, with a 7 p.m. start time.
Photo coverage provided by Andy Marchant Photography