SPORTS - "Reclaiming the Spike; Bears beat Bees in 100th rivalry game"

BEAR RIVER HIGH – By Gene Wilcox – September 7, 2020

September 4, 2020 - Photo by Andy Marchant

The 100th game of the Golden Spike rivalry between Bear River and Box Elder High School football teams, lived up to the hype on Friday, September 4, 2020. The Bears used a strong fourth quarter to come from behind and earned a hard-fought 26-22 victory over Box Elder.

The Bears will need to turn their focus to region play, where they will celebrate homecoming against a very good, and undefeated, Ridgeline High School team.

In the rivalry game, both teams started slowly with drives that showed flashes but were never sustained. The Bears used a strong running game to move down the field but couldn’t pick up first downs to keep the drive going. The Bear defense was stout, but the Bees’ quarterback Parker Buchanan was athletic and accurate and proved to be as good as advertised.

The Bears’ second series started with a nice punt return by sophomore Ryker Jeppsen. The return gave the Bears great field position at the Box Elder 38-yard line.

The second quarter started with Bear River punter Josh Payne pinning Box Elder at the two-yard line with a great punt. Box Elder grabbed the momentum when the tail-back seemed to be stopped for no gain, but burst out of the pile for a long run, to the Bear 18-yard line. The Bees finished the drive with a 15-yard touchdown reception to put the Bees on the scoreboard first.

The Bears answered the bell on the kick-off when return specialist Gabe Dwaileebe returned the kick 65-yards to the Box Elder 25-yard line. The Bears finished the drive when quarterback Josh Payne found Cael Wilcox wide open in the end zone. The pass covered 14-yards but the P.A.T. was unsuccessful.

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Bear River's Kace Jones, September 4, 2020 - Photo by Andy Marchant

After forcing a three and out, the Bear offense took over on the 16-yard line with 1:23 left before half. On the first play of the series, Payne found Wilcox behind the defense, hitting him with a 32-yard pass, and giving the Bears excellent field position. With 12 seconds left in the half, Payne looked again for Wilcox in the end zone. A questionable no-call, for pass interference, ended the half. When the horn sounded, Bear River was losing 7-6 in a tight game.

The third quarter started with Box Elder finding a rhythm. The biggest play came on a 54-yard pass, which put the Bees on the 13-yard line. The Bees punched the ball in on a five-yard quarterback keeper. The P.A.T. was true and the Bees extended their lead to 14-6 early in the third quarter.

Bear River’s Kace “Bucket” Jones started to heat up for the second half. On the first offensive play of the quarter, Jones took a pitch and sprinted off the left edge, turned the corner, and outran the defense to the end zone. The run covered 72-yards. The P.A.T. was blocked, making the score 14-12 in favor of Box Elder.

Box Elder put together a long drive, but the Bear defense stepped up. On fourth and goal, the Bear gridders stuffed the Box Elder quarterback, ending the drive. The Bear offense was unable to gain any yards and settled for a punt.

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Once again, Box Elder was able to move down the field and score on a three-yard quarterback keeper. The Bees pulled a trick play on the conversion. Buchanan took a direct snap and pitched the ball out to the kicker, who threw a short pass, which was caught in the end zone for a two-point conversion. With 10:18 left in the fourth quarter, the Bears were behind 22-12, with Box Elder looking confident.

The next offensive series saw the Bear gridders start to dig in. On fourth and four, the Bears gave Jones the ball on a delayed hand off. Jones burst through the line, stumbled and regained his footing, and with a stiff arm and some extra juice, Jones sprinted 63-yards to the end zone for a Bear touchdown. The Bears went for the two-point conversion and Payne scored on a designed quarterback keeper. The touchdown brought the score to 22-20 in favor of the Bees.

With momentum turning in favor of the Bears, the defense stepped up.

Stops by Kaeson Burn and Derek Dean forced the Bees into a punting situation. With just over five minutes left in the game, the Bears started the drive that will go down in history. The first break came when, on fourth down, Payne lowered his shoulder and picked up four yards on the quarterback keeper, to keep the drive going. The next series found the Bears in a fourth and five with the game on the line. The next play, Payne dropped back, and under heavy rush, threw a post bomb.

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Bear River's Braxton Christensen, September 4, 2020 - Photo by Andy Marchant

Payne was hit hard on his release, so could only hear the crowd erupt. Wilcox broke free of the coverage. He made an adjustment on the throw, and then hauled in the 36-yard pass, to give the Bears the lead and ultimately, the win.

The Bears had some nervous moments but were able to stop Box Elder’s final drive and the celebration was on. The playing of the 100th Golden Spike game was a classic and the Bears would be in possession of the traveling “Spike” trophy for the next year - with a stunning 26-22 victory.

Bear River head football coach Chris Wise was emotional and proud of his troops.

“Never gave up, never thought they were out of it, fought until the whistle blew,” were just some of the words Wise used to describe the game.

Bear River’s Cael Wilcox was also emotional after the game.

“The 100th game was one of the reasons I felt so strongly about playing this year. To be part of it is special. As a team, we realized that we were more than capable of winning this game. That has always been my dream,” said Wilcox.

The Bears will now need to turn their focus to a talented Ridgeline squad for homecoming. The Riverhawks are 3-0 on the season and currently ranked third in the 4A coaches’ poll.

The Riverhawks are coached by Travis Cox, who is the son of former Bear River coach, Dan Cox. Kaden Cox is the Hawks’ quarterback and is having a very good season at the helm.

“We need to make sure we have a great week at practice, and not get distracted by all the festivities surrounding homecoming,” exclaimed Wise.

It should be a great week of homecoming activities followed by an awesome football game. Game time is set for 7 p.m. at Bear Field.

Photos by Andy Marchant