TREMONTON — Bear River’s Kyle Zundel broke up a Preston, Idaho, pass on the final play of the game Friday night as the Bears hung on for a 43-35 victory over the Indians.
“That last drive was a major growing experience for us,” said Bear River coach Chris Wise. “You never want adversity, but when it happens you hope the team reacts the way ours did. You’ve got to hand it to them.”
With 39 seconds to play, Preston started its final drive on their own 16-yard line.
A long run by quarterback Baker Ward and a 15-yard personal foul against BR swung the momentum to the visiting team. A completed pass across the middle of the field, aided by another personal foul put Preston within striking distance.
Ward threw the ball to the 10-yard line, and the Indians had one last play with one tick remaining.
On the final play Ward looked to the corner of the end zone where he found his target blanketed by Zundel, who made a nice play on the ball to help the Bears keep the Indians out of the end zone.
“We started to execute a little bit,” said Wise. “We were able to work on some of the things that we didn’t get done last week.”
The Bears dedicated their home opener to Devin Jensen, who was killed in a car accident last November, and to other past Bear River players that were coached by Wise. Players wore a decal with the initials “DJ” and the No. 14 on their helmets.
The Bears got outstanding run blocking from their offensive line, led by Clayton Welch. Running backs Wes Fukui and sophomore Jeramie Selman benefitted from that blocking and each scored two touchdowns. Fukui ran for 153 yards and Selman added 85.
Preston drew first blood with a long touchdown by Tyson Lumbreras. Bear River answered immediately when Selman ran 65 yards untouched to the end zone. Selman put the Bears ahead with his second score after Wade Miller hit Dyllon Mercado on the 1-yard line.
“The offense played really well,” said Bear River quarterback Bubba Miller. “We put up enough points to win the game and that’s all we can really do.”
Miller went 9-of-15 for 151 yards, and his longest pass came on a connection to his cousin, Lane Miller, for 47 yards.
Defensively, Mercardo led the Bears with seven tackles and an interception return for a touchdown. Junior linebacker Dallan Bergman was clutch with a strip and fumble recovery and an interception on back-to-back fourth-quarter series.
Taylor Day made a potential game-saving play when Wyatt Christensen was nearly in the end zone on a 60-yard pass play and Day poked the ball out of the back of the end zone for a touchback.
Preston’s Ward threw for better than 150 yards and five touchdowns.
“You’ve got take your hat off the Preston’s team and coach (Shawn) Marlow,” Wise said. “They are a real class act.”
The Bears (1-1) will travel to Box Elder (2-0) for the annual Golden Spike game next Friday.
Casey is a husband, father of two, USU alum and Utah high school sports fan living in Smithfield, Utah. Follow him on twitter @caseyzundel