Bruins ready for a breakout?

Bear River looks to carry lower level success to the varsity as it combines experience, talent
By: Todd Mordhorst Journal Sports Editor
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LAKE OF THE PINES — Jimmy Bamburg realizes junior varsity victories are nice, but title banners are only awarded at the varsity level. The Bear River High senior believes the combination of two undefeated JV squads is a good basis for this year’s football team. “It shows that we’re able to be a great team,” said Bamburg, who led the Bruins in tackles last season. “We just have to put it all together this season.” Bear River has played in the shadows of rivals Colfax and Placer in recent seasons. But an impressive collection of athletes and some great size up front have the Bruins believing they can contend with the Pioneer Valley League’s best. “Placer and Colfax have always been up there at the top of the league,” senior Harley Sauers said. “We have to keep our heads high and not let the hype get to us. I think we can compete with those guys.” Senior quarterback James Harris will guide a new-look offense. The third-year starter will work primarily out of the shotgun as the Bruins look to spark the passing game while maintaining the punishing running game that has always been their trademark. “We’ll have the quarterback in the shotgun about 95 percent of the time,” co-head coach Terry Logue said. “We thought it would help the passing game and the running game will be as good as it’s always been. James (Harris) is a tremendous athlete and he’ll be a running threat too.” Harris has several dangerous receivers. Speedster Sauers is hard to handle one-on-one and Trevor McGhee has nice size and quickness. Tight end Brandon Wooner emerged as perhaps the top tight end in the PVL last season and the 6-4, 200-pounder is back. Josh Toft leads the rushing attack after a seven-touchdown season last year. Bamburg is a bowling ball at fullback and junior Andrew Reiss has impressed coaches and teammates with his contributions. The Bruins will be without senior Dallen Heutter, who did a little bit of everything. Heutter played quarterback, running back, linebacker, returned punts and kickoffs and was a tough leader. He suffered a back injury during Bear River’s scrimmage last week and will be unable to return this season. “It’s tough because he did so many good things for us,” Sauers said. On defense, Bamburg will team up with Wooner at linebacker. Juniors Zach Winter and Cody Heard have impressed. Sauers is steady at defensive back and the Bruins have some very good athletes in McGhee, Michael Raigoza and Devaughn Lofton. Returning all-PVL pick Dillon Huffman anchors what should be a stout defensive line. “He’s worked really hard in the weight room and he’s gotten a lot stronger,” Logue said of Huffman, who is 6-2, 260 pounds. Junior Garret Jensen is nursing an injury and will likely miss Friday’s opener at Cordova, but at 250 pounds, he will be another tough matchup when he returns. Bear River’s preseason is intriguing. After facing Cordova, the Bruins will take on Hug of Reno at the Battle at the Capital. A Sept. 16 home game with Woodcreek will provide a serious test and a wide range of emotions. Fallen teammate Justin Butler scored a touchdown against the Timberwolves last season in his final game. Butler died days later as the result of a “choking game” accident. The Bruins are cherishing his memory and playing in his honor again in 2011. “The whole reason I played last year was for Justin,” Sauers said. “We dedicated last season to him and I’m playing for him again. He’s the reason I push so hard.” Logue said last season was an emotional roller coaster after Butler’s accidental death rocked the Lake of the Pines community, but the team regrouped and is able to focus better this season. “I don’t think they’ll ever forget about Justin,” Logue said. “The anniversary is coming up in about four weeks and that will be tough. We still ordered a jersey for him and these kids don’t want to forget. But they have taken that next step and they’re moving forward.”