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Bear River edges Woodcreek in thriller

By: Ray Hacke, Journal Sports Staff
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LAKE OF THE PINES — Football coaches often describe opposing star running backs with this phrase: “You can’t stop him, you can only hope to contain him.” In the case of Woodcreek High senior James Nunley, doing either one is a monumental task. On Friday night, however, Bear River did it when it needed to most. Nunley rushed 28 times for 310 and yards and four touchdowns, but Bear River nose guard Brett Gatto stopped him on a two-point conversion run with 1:45 to play, preserving a 35-34 victory for the host Bruins at J. David Ramsey Stadium. “They have the best player on the planet,” Bruins co-coach Terry Logue said, exaggerating only slightly. “But we stopped him at the right moment.” Nunley had scored his fourth TD of the game on a 1-yard run only moments beforehand. “At that point, I thought, ‘Oh, man, we are in deep trouble,’” Bear River co-coach Scott Savoie said. Woodcreek coach John Hildebrand said he would have gone for a tying extra-point kick after the TD had Bear River (2-1) not committed two consecutive encroachment penalties that put the Timberwolves (0-3) just inches from the end zone. “I thought they were going to go for two after the first encroachment,” Logue said. “We don’t usually go for two to win the game, but when they got those back-to-back penalties, I decided to go for it,” Hildebrand said. “I said, ‘Let’s go — let’s get it done.’ “It was our best guy against their defense, and they got it done when they had to. I’ve got to tip my cap to ‘em.” Gatto’s stuffing of Nunley’s run up the middle wasn’t the only stellar defensive play that ultimately decided the game in Bear River’s favor. Senior safety Johnny Jewett intercepted a pass in Timberwolves territory with 6:12 remaining and returned it 33 yards for what proved to be the winning touchdown. The TD was Jewett’s second of the night. The other came on offense when Jewett, playing running back, scored on a 33-yard reverse in the second quarter, to cut Woodcreek’s lead to 14-13. Senior running back Cole White led the Bruins (2-1) with 111 yards and three touchdowns on 23 carries. His second TD helped knot the game at 21-21 at halftime, and his third put the Bruins ahead 28-21 in the third quarter. After that, Bear River never trailed, though Woodcreek (0-3) did tie the game at 28-28 and nearly caught up after Nunley’s fourth-quarter TD run. Nunley’s first three touchdown runs all went for 33 yards or longer, with the longest being 65 yards. All came less than a minute and a half after Bear River touchdowns. Bear River, by contrast, had just two runs from scrimmage that went for 33 yards or longer and had fewer team rushing yards (215) than Nunley had individually. Still, the Bruins pounded away at the Woodcreek defense and ultimately wore it down. “They only had (11) plays in the third quarter,” Savoie said. “We ate up that quarter. We wanted to do that all night.” Wooodcreek had one last chance to win the game. After recording three straight tackles for loss on Bear River’s next-to-last possession, the Timberwolves got the ball back at their own 35 and reeled off three third downs in the next four plays. That put the Timberwolves at the Bruins’ 21. Junior kicker Bobby Reeves came in to attempt a 39-yard field goal, but his kick 7.1 seconds remaining sailed underneath the crossbar. Moments later, the Bruins were celebrating a thrilling victory. “Bear River’s just a tough team with a lot of heart,” Hildebrand said. “They battled and battled and battled and made the play at the goal line when they had to.” JV: Bear River 14, Woodcreek 7 — Quarterback Dallen Huetter’s 48-yard touchdown pass to running back Trevor McGee with eight minutes to go in the fourth quarter put the Bruins ahead to stay as they improved to 3-0. Huetter completed 7-of-16 passes for 143 yards and two TDs and was also Bear River’s leading rusher, carrying six times for 69 yards. His first scoring pass of the game went to wideout Brandon Wooner in the first quarter. Cornerback Johnny Cassar led Bear River defensively with three interceptions. He also broke up two passes in the end zone with 1:42 remaining to help preserve the win. Defensive tackle Dillon Huffman led the Bruins in tackles with 10 (two for losses), followed by linebacker Jimmy Bamburg with eight.