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High school football: Bear River Bears 2020 preview

Here’s an in-depth look at the Bear River Bears football team heading into the 2020 season.

Note: Bear River finished with a 5-7 overall record in 2019 and was fourth in Region 11 with a 2-3 record. It was RPI seed No. 12 in the 4A playoffs, and was eliminated by Pine View 49-7 in second round.


GARLAND — A few years ago when the Bear River football players from the Class of 2021 were freshmen, they won the region championship.

Now granted, early success is never a guarantee for varsity success as teams blend players from three age groups together, but what it does reveal is that Bear River has a very strong foundation of seniors to work with in 2020.

Coach Chris Wise has a son in this age group and has coached them since they were in little league, and he’s very excited about their potential.

“At camp we were able to make it all the way through camp without incident, whether it was Covid or injury, and I was pleased with the progress we had at camp and the effort,” said Wise.

One of the big questions Wise has heading into the season is leadership. No doubt the experience is there with eight returning contributors offensively and six defensively, but he believes leadership is a quality that will be equally as important.

Offensively, Bear River will lean heavily on running backs Kace Jones and Chance Udy as they run behind a line that includes three returning starters. River only averaged 15.8 points per game last season, an obvious weakness that must get better to compete in Region 11.

Defensively, Bear River was pretty strong a year ago, but there are question marks at linebacker will multiple positions to fill.


Bear River Bears at a glance

Coach Wise’s thoughts on how his players dealt with the COVID-19 adversity in the spring and summer:

“I think they did really well considering. I don’t know that they’ll understand the amount of stuff that was stolen from them until they get a bit older. They obviously know that their baseball season and softball season and stuff like that was taken, but that’s stuff will never come back. In spite of that, we’ve had great attitudes.”

Bear River Offensive Snapshot

Offensive coordinator: Chris Wise

2019 offense: 15.8 ppg (18th in 4A)

2019 offensive statistics
  • 8 returning starters
  • Multiple option offense
Returning offensive starters
  • Josh Payne (QB/WR)
  • Corbin Kierstead (RB)
  • Chance Udy (RB)
  • Kace Jones (RB)
  • Garrison Marble (WR/ATH)
  • Braden Munns (OL)
  • Hunter Pugsley (OL)
  • Trevin Toone (OL)
  • Offensive newcomers to watch
  • Easton Lish (WR/TE)
Coach Wise’s keys for offensive success in 2020:

“Health is A1. Kace Jones has had injuries every high school season and it’s because I believe he goes so hard. This is a kid in little league, I was coaching him and he was playing defensive end and I set up a pass block to block him and he ran right through my arm and blew my bicep out. He only has one speed. He needs to stay healthy, and if he doesn’t that’s going to impact our offense and defense. And the next key is how well Josh Payne our quarterback leads. He needs to get a little more comfortable being in charge, but I think he’ll get there.”


Bear River Defensive Snapshot

Defensive coordinator: Jared Lish

2019 defense: 24.8 ppg (10th in 4A)

2019 defensive statistics
  • 6 returning starters
  • 5-2 defense
Returning defensive starters
  • Braxton Christensen (DL)
  • Justice Dworshak (DL)
  • Kace Jones (LB) — moving to safety
  • Darien Johnson (DB)
  • Josh Payne (DB)
  • Garrison Marble (DB)
  • Defensive newcomers to watch
  • Ryker Jeppsen (DB)
  • Logan Knudsen (DL)
  • Jeshua Koch (DL)
Coach Wise’s keys for defensive success in 2020:

“Kace Jones is going to have a big impact on how we do. Everything runs through our defensive front, so our defensive line has really got to do their job. Their job isn’t necessarily to make tackles as much as it is to cancel the gaps the linebackers can’t. We Zoomed a meeting with the Utah and we really liked some of the things they did in certain situations with their Mike linebacker. That’s been something that’s very interesting and impactful in our team camp.”

Deseret News outlook for 2020

A year ago, Bear River opened Region 11 play with wins against Ridgeline and Logan, but the next three weeks defined its season, as it lost to Green Canyon, Mountain Crest and Sky View by scoring a combined six points. It was a weakness all season but was exacerbated in those three games. The big question Wise and everyone associated with the program is wondering is will 2020 be any different? There’s enough returning experience to believe so, but the Bears need to prove it on the field.


Felt’s Facts for Bear River

  • All-time record: 399-457-19 (98 years)

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

  • Playoff appearances: 38

  • All-time playoff record: 39-35
  • State championships: 3 (2003, 2004, 2006)

  • State championship record: 3-5

  • Most played rivalry: 99 meetings with Box Elder dating back to 1923. Box Elder leads 71-26-2.

Last 5 Seasons

  • 2019 — 5-7 (2-3 in region 11 – 4A Second Round)
  • 2018 — 4-6 (1-4 in Region 12 – Missed playoffs)
  • 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)

Bear River coaching history

  • 2002-current — Chris Wise (106-97) *3 State Titles
  • 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)


Bear River All-State at-a-glance

Deseret News Mr. Football recipients
  • 2004 — Jason Zundel, QB

Deseret News First Team all-staters the past 10 years
  • 2019 — Caeden Miller, OT
  • 2019 — Ren Fonnesbeck, CB
  • 2017 — McCoy Christensen, LB
  • 2017 — Walker Wise, OL
  • 2016 — Jordan Watson, DE
  • 2016 — Gunner Sorensen, S
  • 2013 — Justus Wise, OL

  • 2012 — Justus Wise, OL