Just who are these Bear River Bears?

Winners of eight straight games, the guys from Garland eliminated defending 4A champion Pleasant Grove last week and enter Friday's state semifinal with West armed with a talented cast and high hopes."I think we are a team that has obviously been unknown to a lot of people, but we're a team that has played with a lot of self-confidence," said Bear River coach Doug Parry. "A week hasn't gone by where we haven't gotten better in some aspect of the game."

After a disappointing 0-3 start, the Bears have yet to lose since sophomore Coby Reese took over as the team's starting quarterback. His efforts have complemented the play of senior running back Stuart Petersen, who leads the state in rushing. The duo, protected by a solid line, headlines a talented cast which includes fellow college prospects Donnie Allred and Ryan Toone.

"We just really came together as a team," said Reese. "We're on a roll and not letting anything stop us."

Not even anonymity has prevented Bear River from crashing the final four. Despite a sparkling 8-3 overall record, the team never made the state rankings.

"The Bear River Bears have come out of nowhere this year," said Petersen, who has 1,633 yards on 231 carries and 17 touchdowns this season. "No one expected much from us. We've kind of changed a lot of minds about Bear River football."

Several times a bridesmaid, the Bears are focusing in on the ultimate goal.

"We're excited for the opportunity," said Parry. "These kids have one thing in mind - to win a state championship."

What a difference a year can make. Bear River went 3-7 in 1993 and were eliminated in the inter-region playoffs.

"We found out we could do it," said Petersen. "We proved to ourselves that we can play football."

Unlike most teams in the state, the Bears have very few gridders playing both offense and defense. Players, most of whom participated in an extensive off-season conditioning program, were asked to accept roles.

"It's a real family atmosphere. No one cares who gets the credit," said Parry. "We've just quietly gone about our jobs and enjoyed the successes."

In 17 years of coaching, including the last three with the Bears, Parry has never enjoyed a team more - even if Bear River is a relative unknown outside of Region 5.

"The lack of recognition hasn't bothered us. We've just gone about our business and things have blossomed tremendously," said Parry. "Right now, I honestly feel like our kids feel like they can't be beat. However, let us be the darkhorse. It's worked for us all season."

And speaking of all season, few players in the state can compare accomplishments with Petersen and Reese.

"Both of them have worked extremely hard in the off-season. They are good students of the game. They know what to do," said Parry. "(Being able to run and throw) has obviously made my job a lot easier."

In addition to Petersen's rushing success, the Bears have also capitalized on Reese's ability. The slight sophomore, who stands 5-foot-8 and weighs just 145 pounds, has completed 68 passes for 959 yards since taking over. Reese has been intercepted just three times while throwing seven touchdown strikes, including a game-winning 88-yard connection with Toone last week at Pleasant Grove.

"The kid just bubbles with confidence," said Parry. "He's not arrogant. He leads and works by example."

Case in point, Reese's postseason plans: "We want to take this thing all the way."

Ready or not, here come da Bears.