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Rams ruin Bruins' title hopes

Dixon's defense stifles Bear River's offense in playoffs
By: Ray Hacke Journal Sports Writer
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DIXON – “Electrifying” would have been an apt word to describe the Bear River High football team’s offense during the regular season. In the postseason, however, the Bruins ran into a team that knew how to hit their “off” switch. Dixon dispatched Bear River from the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV playoffs Friday night, handing the Bruins a 28-14 defeat. The Rams (9-2) became just the second team to hold Bear River (8-3) to less than 27 points this season. The other was Whitney, which beat the Bruins 29-15 on Oct. 17. “(Dixon’s) defense was just like Whitney’s,” Bear River quarterback Tanner Mathias said. “They were super-strong, well-coached and they executed.” “They only gave up 95 points during the whole regular season, so obviously we knew they were pretty good,” Bruins co-coach Scott Savoie said. “They were very physical up front, they had good pass defense and obviously had a good pass rush. They knocked us out of our rhythm, and anytime you get knocked out of your rhythm, it’s tough.” Bear River’s top two rushers, senior fullback Jason Varni and junior halfback Johnny Jewett, managed just 100 yards between them against Dixon. One or the other could usually be counted on to rack up at least that many yards against any given opponent during the regular season. The Bruins’ passing game didn’t fare much better. In addition to being sacked three times, Mathias completed just 4-for-15 passes for 49 yards. The senior also threw an interception to Rams safety Rhiley Norton while attempting to avoid another sack deep in Bear River territory. James Franklin, Dixon’s defensive line coach, said it helped to be familiar with the type of offense the Bruins ran. “Other teams we’ve faced this season run a very similar offense,” Franklin said. “Our defensive line has been very physical all year, and the difference in the game was how our defensive line played.” Bear River got on the board first Friday night. With 10:06 left in the second quarter, Mathias dumped off a short pass to Jewett, who raced 8 yards for the touchdown. The lead instantly evaporated when Dixon senior Jesse Stewart returned the ensuing kickoff 85 yards for the game-tying touchdown. Norton’s interception then set up an 11-play, 41-yard drive that ended with Norton catching a 2-yard TD pass from junior quarterback Jeffery Anderson and sent the Rams into the locker room at halftime with a 13-7 advantage. Bear River tied things back up early in the third quarter when junior running back Cole White took a snap directly out of a “Wildcat” formation, burst up the middle and ran 20 yards for a touchdown. Junior Cody Van Fossen’s extra-point kick put the Bruins on top at 14-13. Dixon responded by marching down the field in just seven plays on its next drive. Stewart carried the ball around the right end on a 1-yard run to put the Rams ahead to stay. White, who led all rushers with 61 yards on 11 carries, ran eight yards on the first play of Bear River’s next possession, setting up second-and-2 at the Bruins’ 35. However, the Rams stopped the Bruins for no gain on each of the next three plays, setting up the game’s final touchdown, a 13-yard pass from Anderson to junior running back Josh Byington. “We were at a time in the game when we needed to move the ball, and they stopped us,” Savoie said. “You’re not going to win a championship game if you get stopped on fourth-and-(2). “We win that battle most of the time, but we lost it tonight. It was a gamble on our part, but we felt like we needed it to get our offense going.” Although the season ended earlier than Savoie would have liked, he said it was a successful one overall. “We had a great season,” he said. “Our guys played tough throughout the season. I’m very proud of ’em.”