BEAR RIVER HIGH - By Tate Atkin, Headliner Sports Editor, September 12, 2022
On September 9, the Bear River High football team hosted their first region game of the 2022 season against the Green Canyon High Wolves. Bear River came into the game 1-3 overall after a disappointing start to the season, including last weeks' loss to their cross-county rivals. Green Canyon was picked by many to be the team to beat in Region 11, but had a slow start as well, entering the game 0-4 and looking for their first win of the season.
Entering the region portion of the season can give teams a fresh start and an opportunity to use it as a turning point for the rest of the season. Unfortunately for Bear River, the same woes that haunted them in the preseason carried over into the first region contest against Green Canyon.
For starters, the offense has struggled to find their groove all season long. There have been glimpses when things seem to be clicking and they are able to move the ball and end the drive with a touchdown, but those moments are few and far between. More often than not, the offense struggles to gain a first down on the drive and many times moves backwards due to penalties or sacks.
"Offensively, we are not working as a unit right now. We are continuing to play behind the sticks whether that be negative plays or missed assignments. To be successful on offense you can't do those things," said Bear River High football's head coach Trampis Waite.
The lack of offensive success has made things harder on the defense. For the most part, the Bear River defense has played well. They have forced turnovers, came up with big stops to end scoring opportunities, and have even added some scoring of their own. When the offense quickly runs three plays and punts, forcing the defense to go back out there without much rest, it puts the defense in a tough position, forcing them to play tired, and that is when they start giving up big drives and scores.
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That trend continued Friday night against the Wolves. Bear River started slow on offense going three and out on their first drive. The defense forced and recovered a fumble, giving the ball back to the offense. The Bear River offense put a few plays together and got into scoring position before they turned the ball over on downs, coming up just one yard shy of a first down on a fourth down run.
The Bear River defense went right back on the field and caused another fumble on the next drive, giving the ball to the offense inside the 30-yard line. Senior Ryker Jeppsen found Junior Owen Olsen for a 15-yard gain before Sophomore Tydon Jones put together a couple of runs, including a huge run converting on fourth down. Jeppsen used his athleticism and skill to break a tackle and stretch out over the goal line to give the Bears the early 7-0 lead.
Special teams had a huge impact on Friday's game, something that hasn't been much of a story so far this season. The first of the big special team plays for Green Canyon came on the kickoff when they returned the ball past midfield and started their drive on the Bear River 38-yard line. Bear River nearly came up with another takeaway as they almost intercepted a pass in the end zone. Green Canyon was able to score on the next play with a run up the middle, tying the game at 7-7.
Turnovers then plagued the offense for the Bears as they turned the ball over on consecutive drives. The first was an interception thrown by Jeppsen. The defense came up with a big stop, forcing the Wolves to try a field goal from the 20-yard line. The kick was missed and the Bear River offense took the field. A couple of plays later, the turnover bug bit the Bears again when Jeppsen was sacked and fumbled the ball. Green Canyon took over at the 21-yard line and ran it in for another touchdown, extending their lead to 14-7.
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Each team had another possession before halftime. Bear River got a much needed first down on third and long when Jeppsen made a spectacular run to get the first down. He scrambled for another first down, but the drive ended when he was sacked on third and long, forcing a Bear River punt. Green Canyon looked poised to score again before the half, but that scoring attempt was stopped by Jeppsen when he forced yet another Green Canyon turnover with an interception. The Bears went into the locker room at halftime trailing 14-7.
The second half started with another long kickoff return for Green Canyon, this time starting their drive at the 50-yard line. The first play of the second half was a 50-yard touchdown run for the Wolves, that was called back due to a holding penalty. Green Canyon was able to gain first downs and were nearing the end zone when the Bear River defense forced their third fumble of the game, taking over at the 25-yard line.
After three unsuccessful plays on offense, the Bears punted. Again, the specials team play had a huge impact on the game when the punt was blocked and sent backwards, giving Green Canyon excellent field position again, this time just 20 yards from the end zone. Another rushing touchdown for Green Canyon left the Bears trailing 21-7.
The offense showed one of those glimpses on the next drive when Jeppsen scrambled for a first down. On the next play he ran for another first down before he was forced out of bounds. With a late hit on the play, the Bears were were set up for a score of their own. Jeppsen found Olsen near the goal line, but the drive ended with an incomplete pass in the end zone on fourth down.
Green Canyon was in the shadows of their own end zone and were unable to move the ball thanks to outstanding defensive plays by the Bears led by Junior Tyson Braegger, who led the Bears in tackles and was all over the field all night. With the Wolves punting out of their own end zone, Bear River started with excellent field position. On the third play of the drive, Jeppsen found Junior Talon Marble on the sideline and he outran the defenders to the end zone, cutting the lead for the Wolves to 21-14.
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For the third time in the game, Green Canyon was able to return the kickoff past midfield and start the drive with excellent field position. This time at the Bear River 37- yard line. Green Canyon quickly moved the ball towards the end zone and punched it in from one yard out for their fourth rushing touchdown of the game. On the extra point attempt, the holder mishandled the ball and was forced to try and run. He instead threw the ball up in the air, and a Green Canyon player was able to track it down for a successful, yet unorthodox two-point conversion. The Wolves now lead 29-14.
Offensively, the Bears moved backwards due to penalties and quickly punted the ball back to the Wolves. Another great return gave the Wolves the ball on the Bear's 42-yard line. The defense was again forced onto the field without much rest and it was evident that they were gassed and tired of drives starting on their side of the field. Green Canyon ran the ball with ease on their way to yet another touchdown run. The Wolves now lead 36-14.
To make matters worse, Green Canyon had one more outstanding special teams play when they kicked the ball to the Bears and it took a very fortuitous bounce for the Wolves, ending up in the arms of a Green Canyon player at the Bear River 35-yard line. The Bear River defense, though tired, stopped the Wolves and forced a 4th and 13. With the big lead, Green Canyon opted to continue their attack and threw the ball on fourth down and found a receiver on the sidelines for a first down. They ended the drive in the end zone with a quarterback run for the final score of the game as Green Canyon defeated Bear River 43-14.
Special teams played a very important role in the game and was a big factor in the loss for the Bears. Giving the opposing team outstanding field position over and over again proved to be too much for the Bear River defense. They held strong but were eventually wore down. The offense didn't help as they struggled to get first downs and didn't allow the defense time to rest and regroup before sending them back out there to defend a short field. It seems to be a trend for the Bears so far this season, and one that can hopefully get turned around soon as the Bears enter the second half of the season.
"Obviously, special teams need corrected. We are going to do some different things to correct that during the week. I believe the right guys will step up and lead and we will get the football stuff corrected and look to compete and challenge a good Logan squad," Waite said.
Rewatch the Bear River vs. Green Canyon game courtesy of Bear River Live, on the links below.
Next up for the Bears is a road game against the Logan High Grizzlies in Logan on Friday, September 16. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. Watch the game live-streaming courtesy of Bear River Live on the link below.
Photos by John Fronk