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High school football: Fierce defense fuels Bears' win in Spike rivalry (+video)

GARLAND — The last time Bear River High's football team beat traditional rival Box Elder, the young men on this year's Bears team were in elementary school, and likely still trying to figure out the right way to put on their shoulder pads and jockstraps.

Ah, yes, that long, frustrating wait made this one even sweeter for those spunky guys wearing Red and Black.

Bear River's defense, led by senior linebacker Tate Porter, turned in a tremendous performance, stifling the Bees' offense all night long with big play after big play to help give the Bears an impressive 19-0 shutout victory in their annual renewal of the Golden Spike game.

"That was way fun, a total team effort — oh, my gosh," Porter said. "Everyone did their job and it's just so fun doing it. I just think we had our head in the game and everyone just played a hundred percent all game long."

Porter sealed the deal in the fourth quarter when teammate Garret Byington sacked Box Elder's quarterback in the end zone and the ball popped loose. Porter pounced on it before the ball could roll out of bounds for a touchdown that boosted the Bears' lead to 16-0.

"I saw Byington kill the quarterback and that ball popped out, and I was like, 'Dang!' " Porter said. "I was just celebrating. ... Byington totally set that up.

"(Winning back the Spike) was the goal all along, and we finally accomplished it."

Bear River, which last won this storied rivalry in 2010, scored on its first drive of the game and never looked back on its way to beating a solid class 5A Box Elder team which had looked so strong a week earlier in knocking off Layton of the 6A ranks.

"It makes it a lot sweeter," longtime Bear River head coach Chris Wise said of finally snapping the school's long Spike-game drought. "It's a rivalry game, even though we've got half the numbers that they have. (Box Elder) coach (Robbie) Gunter, I can't say enough about him. He develops some quality kids and his guys are gonna be just fine. But that was a good win for us.

"We had three goals this season. One of them is a region championship, another one is get the Spike and the last one is defend the 'Den' and be perfect at home. That's one of the only three goals that they set for themselves, so you can scratch that one off the list. That's how big it is."

The Bears drove down the field on their opening possession and lit the scoreboard on a five-yard run by Drake Marsh. Cole Croney's PAT made it 7-0, and the tone had been set.

"I think jumping on 'em early was the key and getting the pressure on them defensively that we got on them," Wise said.

"Offensively we came out and our guys put together a great drive. My new junior quarterback (Bradey Brown) had to step in; my starting quarterback (senior Kaygen Canfield) blew his ASL last week and is out for the season."

Bear River extended its lead to 9-0 in the second quarter when the Bees' quarterback got his helmet pulled off by a B.R. defender while scrambling to try and get away in his own end zone, resulting in a dead ball and a safety.

After a scoreless third quarter, Porter's huge defensive touchdown extended Bear River's lead to 16-0, and Croney connected on a 42-yard field goal with 54 seconds left to account for the final margin.

Fittingly, Porter picked off a Box Elder pass on the Bees' final possession.

"I've gotta take my hat off to Tate Porter, who sells out on defense and then goes in and plays left guard and goes up against a kid twice his size," Wise said. "It was a huge game for that kid. He was voted a team captain because our kids recognize true leadership and I can't say enough about him. He's just a quality human being.

"I think the kid weighs a 165 pounds and he's my starting left guard (on offense) and he went up against a guy that's honestly 320. He's a wiry little bugger, I'm not gonna lie, but he's quick and he gets to the punch."

Coach Wise credited his defense and the game plan created by assistant coach Jared Lish as being critical to the Bears' success.

"You've gotta love defenses that keep the offense in ball games like that," Wise said. "I'd be lying if I said I knew they'd shut 'em out, but I felt good about the preparation. ... They just didn't quit.

"I was so impressed with the way they did the right things at the right time. We didn't give up any big plays that really put us on our heels, I don't think, and we had two defensive scores. Coach Jared Lish, my defensive coordinator, gets these guys ready to play and they love to play for him."

EMAIL: rhollis@desnews.com