ST. GEORGE – By Gene Wilcox – November 10, 2020
The Bear River High School football team’s season came to an end on Friday, Nov. 6, with a 49-7 loss to Pine View High School in St. George during the 4A state playoffs.
After making it to the quarter finals, the Bears found themselves against a talented Panther team with little room for error if they were to come away with an upset victory.
The Bears elected to receive the opening kick and put together a nice drive. The offense stalled at the 50-yard line, and on fourth and four, the Panther defense stopped Bear River’s Kace “Bucket” Jones two yards short of a first down. The Panther offense drove down the field with Dominique McKenzie and Enoch Takau both making big catches and powerful runs to put the Panthers at the goal line. Pine View drew first blood by scoring on a four-yard touchdown pass. The Panthers stopped the Bear offense again and scored another touchdown. McKenzie showed off his elite speed with a long 72-yard pass down the sideline.
In the second quarter the Bears put together a drive and finished it with Jones’ three-yard touchdown run. Izzy Varrela’s P.A.T. was true, and suddenly the Bears looked confident.
The Bears’ hopes were quickly extinguished when Mckenzie showed his skill set again. He took the kick right in front of the goal line and raced 99-yards for a touchdown. The teams traded turnovers but the Panthers put together another sustained drive and scored on Takau’s three-yard plunge. The score gave the Panthers a 28-7 lead.
After another turnover, Pine View started another drive. Linebacker Jones jumped a receiver’s route and came up with an interception in the flat. Jones was able to break one tackle but was forced out of bounds by the last defender. The Bears were unable to convert the turnover into points and Pine View took over. The Panthers were again able to march down the field and convert on a quarterback sneak for a touchdown. At the half, the Bear gridders went into the locker room, behind, 35-7.
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In the second half, the Bears played much better and were loose and aggressive. Unfortunately, they were forced to go to the air almost exclusively. Senior Bear River quarterback Josh Payne was effective running and passing but Pine View was able to play with an extra defensive back, putting Payne into almost impossible passing situations. The Panther defense came up with multiple interceptions. Jones had a solid game but was never quite able to break the last tackle for another touchdown. He finished the game with 99-yards rushing and 18 carries and a touchdown.
Pine View added a touchdown late in the third quarter and added another one midway through the fourth quarter to bring the final score to 49-7. The game was closer than the score but Pine View’s talent and size were apparent - and they were the better team.
The game ended the season for the Bears but they battled and represented the school and community with class and skill. The Bears put three members on the fall 2020 Academic All-State team - the most in team history. The athletes who made the list were Rayden Coombs, Hayden Lewis and Braden Munns. The team also represented well by having the third highest academic G.P.A. in 4A football.
Collectively, the Bears were able to make it to the 4A state quarter finals, beat Mountain Crest, Morgan and Juan Diego and take home the Golden Spike by beating Box Elder in the 100th annual game.
More importantly, the Bears were able to compete in, and complete the 2020 season, when many states and programs were shut down. The senior class took a picture on the field and reflected on the years spent playing together from little league on through.
Bear River’s head coach Chris Wise couldn’t have put it any more succinctly when he commented at the start of the season.
“I feel blessed to coach this team and these young men this season. I am grateful that we have the opportunity (during the COVID-19 pandemic) to play the game we love, to learn the lessons that can only happen in sport and to forge the bond of brotherhood that we will remember for life,” Wise said.