The featured back here Friday night was Austin Baze, all 6-foot-2 and 230 pounds of downhill fullback fury.
But the showstopper, at least early, was Andrew Hoang, a 5-foot-9, 215-pound jet of a junior whose two first-half touchdowns and team’s inspired defense keyed a 21-14 victory for Marysville over Bear River in a nonleague game of smaller-school powerhouse programs that never seem to play dull games against each other.
Baze is known for his ability to batter teams with his running style and penchant for hitting on defense, and his 2-yard touchdown plunge early in the fourth quarter pulled the Bruins to within 14-7 on homecoming night.
Baze later blocked a punt with 59.2 seconds to go to give his club a fighting chance, but the Indians gallantly held on downs as an end-zone pass from the 13-yard line missed as time ran out, prompting players and coaches to celebrate.
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This sort of late-game drama has happened before with these schools, punctuated by the last meeting in the 2010 Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs, won by Marysville 21-20.
The Bruins scored in the final seconds in that one, went for two and the win but were stopped, prompting Bear River co-coach Scott Savoie to joke earlier Friday in reflection, “We weren’t smart like the Oakland Raiders coaches the other day (with a winning two-point conversion to beat the New Orleans Saints on Sunday). We were the dummies that day. It’s always a good game with them (Marysville).”
Had Bear River punched it in against Marysville on Friday, the Bruins would have gone for it, likely with Baze blasting away off tackle.
And back to Hoang.
He scored on a 69-yard bolt up the middle, all alone after about 2 yards for a 7-0 lead with 6:39 left in the second quarter.
With 53.7 seconds left in the half, Hoang dove in from 1 yard out on fourth and 1, set up by a Bear River fumble at the 30.
Hoang came into the night with 44 yards to his credit this season, a not-so-robust 14.7 yards-per-game average. He might get some more work now as veteran Indians coach Cullen Meyer appreciates effort and results.
Marysville (3-1) opened the season with wins over Las Plumas (43-6) and Wheatland (49-0) and were stymied last week by Northern Section power Sutter 35-13.
Bear River (1-2) was coming off a 40-0 rout of Union Mine, and a bye week.
Savoie and co-coach Terry Logue were concerned with the intensity and focus of the Bruins well before kickoff, with Logue explaining, “If we don’t get into this, we’ll be in trouble.”
Marysville next plays four-time defending Golden Empire League champion Capital Christian and Bear River hosts unbeaten El Dorado.