The longest consecutively played high school football game in Utah, between Bear River and Box Elder high schools, took place on Friday in Brigham City. It was the 99th consecutive meeting between the rivals, and after both teams lit up the scoreboard, Box Elder claimed a 54-34 victory, retaining the Golden Spike for another year.
Next week the Bears will enjoy a home-field advantage when the Bonneville Lakers come to Bear Field. The Lakers are coming off a 27-0 thumping at the hands of Green Canyon and are looking for their first win of the season.
In the Box Elder game, the Bears dug themselves a steam train-sized hole, surrendering a long kick-off return, a pick six and a long touchdown pass over the defense. With most fans just settling into their seats, Box Elder had taken a 21-0 lead. Bear River was able to answer back with a nice drive set up by some timely passes by senior quarterback Ren Fonnesbeck. Fonnesbeck finished the drive with a two-yard keeper to get the Bears on the scoreboard.
The Bears scored again in the second quarter, after the defense made a stop. Fonnesbeck again engineered a nice drive, with senior wide-out Klayson Roberts making some timely catches. Sophomore halfback Garrison Marble proved that his Juan Diego game last week wasn’t a fluke, by hauling in big receptions and making defenders miss. Fonnesbeck again was able to finish off the drive by going into the end zone untouched. With Porter Tackett’s PAT being true, the Bears found themselves very much in a 21-14 game.
Box Elder was able to tack on two more scores; one was a quarterback keeper and the second score on a punt return. Once again, the Bears showed their mettle when Fonnesbeck hit Colt Lish streaking down the sidelines for a 41-yard touchdown pass. The perfectly timed throw and catch sent a message that the Bears were in the game, even with a 34-21 halftime deficit.
The second half started well for the Bees when they drove down the field and scored on a 13-yard touchdown reception. The Bear defense struggled to contain Box Elder quarterback Parker Buchanan, who made multiple runs and passes to keep the drive alive.
Bear River was not done yet, as Kace “Bucket” Jones started to showcase his skill set by running off tackle for a 19-yard touchdown. Coach Wise rolled out a different look by switching QBs and having junior Josh Payne come in to be the signal caller. Fonnesbeck was then moved to flanker where he was able to use his speed and athleticism.
Payne’s debut started off with two consecutive sacks, but it soon became apparent why Payne’s reputation as a quarterback was warranted. Payne proved accurate and elusive in moving the Bears downfield. Kace Jones finished another drive with a 16-yard sprint to the end zone, and suddenly the Bears were within a touchdown of taking the lead at 40-34 with plenty of clock left in the fourth quarter.
The Bear defense was again unable to contain Buchanan on big plays. Buchanan led the Bees on a time-killing drive, and finished it off with another score. The Bees tacked on one more score on a long touchdown run, to bring the final score to a much-closer-than-it-looks 54-34 final.
Coach Wise was disappointed in the loss, but optimistic about the future. “We can’t dig ourselves into a 21-0 hole and expect to be successful”, noted Wise. “They had four or five big plays that made the difference in the game.”
The Bears were led by junior linebacker/halfback Kace Jones, who had the rare distinction of leading the defense in tackles, and being the leading rusher on offense, while scoring two touchdowns.
The Bears will return home to play Bonneville on Friday at 7 p.m. at Bear Field. Come watch the Bears as they continue their 2019 season!