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High school football: Bear River Bears 2018 preview

Note: Bear River finished with a 6-5 overall record in 2017 and was fourth in Region 12 with a 2-3 record. It lost to Orem 36-7 in 4A first round.

Bear River 2017 Offensive and Defensive Stats

GARLAND — It’s very easy for Bear River to look back at the 2017 season and wonder what if.

What if the Bears had executed better in back-to-back narrow region losses to Mountain Crest and Ridgeline and in Week 7 and 8? It definitely would’ve avoided eventual 4A state champion Orem in the first round, but also might’ve been the team to advance to the semifinals instead of Region 12 runner-up Mountain Crest.

Learning from near misses is something coach Chris Wise has talked about with this players throughout the summer in building toward the 2018 season.

“We’ve got to make sure we do a couple things better as far as execution,” said Wise.

Reflecting on last year, Wise doesn’t necessarily believe losing to Orem in the first round was a bad thing. It exposed his players to the best of the best in 4A and gave them a tangible expectation to work toward. Plus, even though the score got out of hand, Wise liked the way his team competed in that 36-7 playoff loss to Orem.

That loss was a rare poor defensive performance from Bear River, which actually ended the season with the No. 1 ranked scoring defense in 4A allowing only 13.7 ppg. Wise credits defensive coordinator Jared Lish for instilling a proper mindset in his players.

“He’s got the system to where it’s so simple and fun and they’re making calls at the line of scrimmage that they actually feel like they’re part of the game strategically speaking,” said Wise.

Bear River’s defense returns five starters from last year’s top-ranked squad, while the offense returns seven starters including quarterback Brady Brown.

As for filling in around those starters, Wise said he and his coaching staff have a large variety of players to choose from with 80-plus players on the varsity squad.

With a mix of players back from every position group, the expectations are there for Bear River to be competitive every Friday night, and perhaps win a few more games along the way.

Bear River Bears at a glance

Coach: Chris Wise is entering his 17th season as Bear River’s head coach, and he’s one of the longest tenured coaches in school history. He’s amassed a 97-84 record along the way, including state titles in 2003, 2004 and 2006. He’s a graduate of Bear River High School.

Bear River Offensive Snapshot

Offensive coordinator: Chris Wise

2017 offensive production: 21.8 ppg (14th in 4A)

  • 7 returning starters
  • Multiple option offense

Key offensive returning starters

  • Brady Brown (QB): Bear River’s starting quarterback last season complete 101 of 227 passes for 1,629 yards, nine touchdowns and 14 interceptions.
  • Logan Pond (OL): Is one of just two returning starters on the offensive line this season, and his leadership will be important in bringing the newcomers along.

Returning offensive starters

  • Wyatt Jeppesen (TE)
  • Braxton Jeppsen (ATH)
  • Brady Brown (QB)
  • Parker Coombs (WR)
  • Kelton Summers (WR)
  • Logan Pond (OL)
  • Dallas Miller (OL)

Offensive newcomers to watch

  • Porter Tackett (RB)
  • Kase Jones (RB)
  • Carson Day (FB)
  • Chance Udy (FB)
  • Logan Litchford (OL)
  • Logan Frazier (OL)
  • Devin Lewis (OL)

Coach Wise comments on QB Brady Brown:

“He’s always been a good decision maker, he’s been a little bit cautious so I expect him to be a little bit more of a gunslinger and take a little more risks than he did last year. I think he was so concerned about making a mistake last year that sometimes he didn’t pull a trigger on things he should’ve. Even though he’s the starter and has the nod, he’s being pushed by two other kids. Brady has the experience, but he also knows that he doesn’t have any wiggle room. He knows he’s got to be making those right decisions.”

Coach Wise comments on tight end Wyatt Jeppesen:

“It’s no mystery, we’ve got to get the ball into Wyatt Jeppesen’s hands. He’s a D1 tight end. He’s 6-foot-8, he’s getting recruited by several D1-type schools, and the fact of the matter is if we’re throwing the ball we have to get it into Wyatt’s hands.”

Coach Wise comments on breaking in three new starters on offensive line:

“Even though we’re young, these kids have been working really hard, they’ve been lifting well. I like these kids.”

Keys for Offensive Success in 2018:

Utilizing the skill set of Wyatt Jeppesen correctly could make or break Bear River’s offensive production this year. A year ago he only caught four passes for 122 yards before he was injured in Week 4. With his size and athleticism, Jeppesen should easily be catching seven or eight passes a game from quarterback Brady Brown, unless defenses are completely overplaying him. And if that’s the case, other elements of the passing game or running game need to be exploited.

Bear River Defensive Snapshot

Defensive coordinator: Jared Lish

2017 defensive production: 13.7 ppg (1st in 4A)

  • 5 returning starters
  • 5-2 defense

Key defensive returning starters

  • Carson Day (LB): Finished fifth on the team last year with 33 tackles.
  • Parker Coombs (DB): Finished third on the team in tackles with 43 last season and also added three interceptions.

Returning defensive starters

  • Wyatt Jeppesen (OLB)
  • Braxton Jeppsen (SS)
  • Parker Coombs (DB)
  • Logan Fraser (NT)
  • Carson Day (LB)

Defensive newcomers to watch

  • Kase Jones (LB)
  • Chance Udy (LB)
  • Ren Fonnesbeck (CB)
  • Colt Lish (SS)

Coach Wise comments on nose guard Logan Fraser:

“Logan is our strongest player and has been working extremely hard in the weight room. He’s a wrestler as well. One of those intelligent-type players that you just say this is your job this is what you’re doing, get it done, and he finds himself around the ball and doing his job. That’s something that’s a bonus, especially for a kid who was a sophomore starter last year.”

Coach Wise comments on defensive expectations:

“If you look at the last three years and that’s when we really kind of made some changes defensively, or defense has been right at the top or near the top. I would expect that again. The best predictor of future performances is the part performances.”

Keys for Defensive Success in 2018:

If Bear River is going to finish with the top-ranked scoring defense in its classification for the third straight year, it needs to find complementary pieces to put next to nose tackle Logan Fraser on the defensive line. Fraser is the strongest player on the team and should be able to plug the middle, and if the players on either side of him do their job as well, it will give Bear River’s linebackers the opportunity to roam free and dominate again.

Coaches preseason Region 12 straw poll: Fourth

Deseret News Region 12 prediction: Fourth

Key Region Game: vs. Ridgeline, Oct. 5 (Week 8)

Bottom line: Bear River was a 6-5 football team a year ago, but was close to being an 8-3 team as it owned a fourth-quarter lead against both Mountain Crest and Ridgeline, games it ultimately lost. In its other three losses, Bear River scored three points against West Jordan, three points against Sky View and just seven against Orem. In order to take that next step as a program, Bear River needs to figure out how to be more explosive offensively to alleviate some of the pressure from the defense.

2018 Schedule

  • Aug. 17 — at Juan Diego, 7 p.m.
  • Aug. 24 — at Box Elder, 7 p.m.
  • Aug. 31 — BONNEVILLE, 7 p.m.
  • Sept. 7 — MORGAN, 7 p.m.
  • Sept. 14 — SKY VIEW, 7 p.m.
  • Sept. 21 — GREEN CANYON, 7 p.m.
  • Sept. 28 — at Mountain Crest, 7 p.m.
  • Oct. 5 — RIDGELINE, 7 p.m.
  • Oct. 12 — at Logan, 7 p.m.
  • Oct. 17 — at Ogden, 7 p.m.

Felt's Facts for Bear River

All-time record: 390-444-19 (96 years)

Region championships: 13 (1937, 1959, 1983, 1984, 1985 co, 1986 co, 1987, 1990, 1998, 1999, 2003, 2004, 2006)

Playoff appearances: 37

Current playoff appearance streak: 6 (2012-2017)

All-time playoff record: 38-34

State championships: 3 (2003, 2004, 2006)

State championship record: 3-5

Most played rivalry: 97 meetings with Box Elder dating back to 1923. Box Elder leads 69-26-2.

Felt’s Factoid(s): Bear River's 97 meetings with Box Elder makes the game the longest uninterrupted active rivalry in state history, having been played every season since 1923. The winner has taken home a traveling trophy, the Golden Spike, since 1959. ... BR recovered 10 fumbles — a state record — against Jordan in a 1981 Class 3A playoff game.

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Last 5

  • 2017 — 6-5 (2-3 in Region 12 – 4A First Round)
  • 2016 — 8-4 (5-2 in 3AA North – 3AA Quarterfinals)
  • 2015 — 3-8 (2-4 in 3AA North – 3AA First round)
  • 2014 — 5-7 (3-3 in 3AA North – 3AA Quarterfinals)
  • 2013 — 7-4 (4-2 in 3AA North – 3AA First round)

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Bear River coaching history

  • 2002-current — Chris Wise (97-84)
  • 2001 — Jay Graft (5-4)
  • 1998-2000 — Ryan Bishop (23-10)
  • 1997 — Jeff Kilts (2-8)
  • 1992-1996 — Doug Parry (34-22)
  • 1988-1991 — Mike Rosky (26-16)
  • 1981-1987 — Dan Cox (58-21)
  • 1979-1980 — Mark Pierce (4-14)
  • 1978 — Hal Lewis (2-7)
  • 1976-1977 — Bill Jacobson (7-13)
  • 1968-1975 — Don Peterson (20-50)
  • 1959-1967 — Gerald Simmons (38-39)
  • 1957-1958 — Donald Smith (8-10)
  • 1955-1956 — Hess Peterson (6-11)
  • 1954 — Wendell Hess (6-3)
  • 1952-1953 — Howard "Tuff" Linford (7-9)
  • 1946-1947 — Floyd Rasmussen (4-10)
  • 1944-1945 — Moyle Knudson (2-9)
  • 1943 — Mr. Leavitt (0-6)
  • 1940-1942 — Carl Smith (0-19)
  • 1937-1939 — Lyle Tripp (9-11)
  • 1932-1936 — Vern Harris (7-17)
  • 1927-1931 — Leo Walker (10-14)
  • 1922-1926 — Unknown (6-12)

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Deseret News Mr. Football recipients

  • 2004 — Jason Zundel, QB

Deseret News First Team all-staters the past 10 years

  • 2017 — McCoy Christensen, LB
  • 2017 — Walker Wise, OL
  • 2016 — Jordan Watson, DE
  • 2016 — Gunner Sorensen, S
  • 2013 — Justus Wise, OL
  • 2012 — Justus Wise, OL
  • 2009 — Hunter Payne, LB

To view second team and honorable mention all-staters through the years, check out the Deseret News All-State Archives.