Just three weeks into the 2017 season, Pierce stands alone as the only undefeated 11-man football team remaining in Colusa County. The Bears will face their greatest challenge yet when they host the East Nicolaus (3-0) at Gregg LeMaster Field in Arbuckle on Friday, in a game that is likely to have serious Northern Section Division IV playoff implications.
Pierce head coach Michael Barber put it simply after his team’s win last week.
“East Nic, you know it’s going to be a tough challenge. We’re going to go in there – we’ve got confidence, and we’ve got momentum, and we’re going to give it our best shot,” Barber said.
Pierce comes into the game riding high, fresh off a 49-24 win against rivals Williams in the 87th Annual Rice Bowl. Through three games, the Bears are scoring an average of 46 points, while giving up an average of just over 15 points.
The Bears have been doing the majority of their damage on the ground so far this season, making use of a talented stable of backs to amass 1,100 rushing yards. Leading the way on the ground have been fullbacks Curtis Vaughn and Tommy Davis, running back Levi Kalfsbeek, and quarterback Dutch Kalfsbeek. In particular, teams have had a difficult time corralling the latter Kalfsbeek, a speedster who has racked up 395 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground, while averaging an eye-popping 16.5 yards-per-carry. While he hasn’t been called on to throw the ball much, Kalfsbeek has shown an ability to make teams pay for over-committing to the run, completing 9-of-20 passes for 270 yards and 5 touchdowns.
Vaughn’s consistent work between the tackles– the bruising senior fullback is averaging more than five yards-per-carry – has gone a long way in setting his quarterback up for long gains in the Bears’ first three games. Without question, however, the Bears’ play on the offensive line has been the impetus for their success in the ground game. After the Bears blew out Hamilton 41-14 two weeks ago, head coach Michael Barber lauded his line’s play, particularly in the latter stages of the game. The Bears’ big men followed up that impressive showing with an encore performance against Williams, largely dominating the point of attack against the sizable defensive front of the Yellowjackets.
The Bears dominance in the trenches will need to continue this week in order for the team to have a chance at beating the Spartans – who boast an impressive defensive front of their own. Anchoring the middle of the defensive line for East Nicolaus is big-bodied, senior defensive tackle Christian Hovey – who is listed at 6 feet 2 inches tall and 275 pounds on MaxPreps. Junior Ian Novak, who is second on the team in tackles for a loss, joins Hovey on the defensive front, as does senior Roy Smith.
While the Spartans haven’t yet come across as the offensive juggernaut that they were last year, they – like Pierce – have a stable of capable backs to carry the ball. Against an injury depleted Colusa squad two weeks ago, Mauricio Bautista, Corey Taylor, and Dominic Morse each scored on long touchdown runs, proving the Spartans are still capable of putting points up in a hurry. East Nicolaus has amassed 654 yards on 112 carries so far this season. Sophomore quarterback Gavin McAuliff, meanwhile, has completed more than 50 percent of his passes and has passed for just shy of 300 yards.
After putting on a solid showing on defense over the past three weeks, Pierce will look to continue that trend against the Spartans. Last week against Williams, defensive back Gabe Villa broke out with an interception and a fumble recovery, and defensive end Hector Rodriguez had a breakout game with a pair of sacks. ■