The current moniker for the rivalry game between the Pierce Bears and Williams Yellowjackets football teams is relatively new, the rivalry itself is not: On Friday, the Bears (2-0) will travel to McCarl field in Williams to face off with the Yellowjackets (2-0) for the 84th time in the schools’ history.
This year, both squads are heading into the Week 2 match-up undefeated, which will make year’s rendition of the Rice Bowl one worth watching – but that’s usually the case for the two schools that sit just 10 miles apart. For residents of the two towns it always is.
“I’m a little torn this year. My allegiance is really to Williams, but my grandchildren attend Pierce. It was getting talked up by the announcer at the (Pierce) game last week,” Colusa County Supervisor Mark Marshall said on Tuesday morning. Marshall graduated from Williams in 1966. Colusa County Supervisor and Williams High Graduate Mark Marshall said on Tuesday morning, “Williams and Pierce will always be a strong rivalry. I’m looking forward to it.”
Arbuckle resident and 1961 Pierce High grad John Schimer said that the schools first began exchanging a trophy in the rivalry during the 1960 or 1961 season, but that game wasn’t dubbed the Rice Bowl until much later.
“It wasn’t called the Rice Bowl when I was playing,” said Schimer. “But it has always been a rivalry. When I was playing, it always seemed like our last game of the year. Sometimes it came down to the league championship. I remember we used to have a small parade down main street, meet up in town, and have a rally — it was the big game of the year.”
From 2011 to 2013, Pierce dominated the Rice Bowl, but the games have been close for the last couple years. Last year, the ‘Jackets came out on top in a 16-14 thriller, which put the series at 49-32-4 in favor of Pierce. Their match up in 2014 was another one possession game, with Williams emerging with a 20-14 victory.
“It’s always an emotional game. The fans are up for it, the kids are up for it. It’s usually a hard hitting one too. We need to harness that emotion and avoid silly mistakes,” Pierce head coach Don Friel said. “I tell my kids that some of their parents have played in this game, some of their grandparents have played in this game. It goes without saying how important this game is, and I don’t think there will be any surprises.”
Williams opened the season with a Week 0 come-from-behind victory against the Live Oak Lions, and followed that with a 28-18 win over University Prep. The ‘Jackets have relied heavily on the legs of running back Julius Fisher, who is averaging over 163 yards per game and has scored five times for Williams.
Williams’ defense has struggled at times in their first two games, allowing 20 points in Week 0 and 18 points in Week 1. Still, the ‘Jackets defense has shown up when necessary, shutting out Live Oak in the second half and forcing a key turnover on a strip-sack against U-Prep last week. Fisher leads the ‘Jackets defense in sacks, while Jorge Rodriguez is tops on the team in tackles.
Meanwhile, Pierce comes into the contest after taking down Esparto 35-6 in Week 0 and beating Hamilton 28-7 last Friday in their Week 1 game. Pierce’s triple-option attack lacks a true feature back, which is perhaps their greatest strength. The Bears are averaging over 284 yards per game on the ground. Levi Kalfsbeek, Ralph Delgado, and Sergio Saavedra have each received a significant number of carries, with a number of other backs chipping in. A revelation for Pierce this year has been quarterback Dutch Kalfsbeek and receiver Cole Travis. Travis, who played quarterback for Pierce last season, has transitioned smoothly into a new role and has quickly become Kalfsbeek’s favorite target. Kalfsbeek threw for 126 yards against Esparto, and added 155 yards against Hamilton.
“You would have to look back in the history books to find the last time a Pierce quarterback threw for more than 100 yards in a game two weeks in a row,” Friel said last week.
The Kalfsbeek-to-Travis connection has accounted for the majority of the Bears’ passing yardage through two games.
Keys to the game
Stop Julius Fisher
Fisher has been responsible for an astounding 58 percent of Williams’ total offensive yardage. He is averaging 7.3 yards per carry, and has accounted for more than half of the ‘Jackets points as well: Williams has scored 64 points this season, 38 of which have come from Fisher via 5 rushing touchdowns and 4 two-point conversions.
Pierce’s two tight games this season have been tighter than they look on paper: The final scores don’t indicate that the Bears were in dogfights through the third quarter against both Esparto and University Prep. In an emotional rivalry game, it will be important for the Bears to get off to a good start.
Don’t give up the big play
Teams have had a hard time resisting the temptation to stack the box against the Bears this year, and for good reason: Pierce is averaging 280-plus yards rushing so far, and simply put, it is Pierce’s usual modus operandi: run the ball. This year, Dutch Kalfsbeek has been a revelation for the Bears, and he has demonstrated an ability to make big plays through the air, particularly when tossing it up to receiver Cole Travis. The pair have hooked up on two 50-plus-yard scores already, and Travis is just getting accustomed to his new position. Williams will need to focus on stopping the run first, as Pierce still doesn’t throw the ball often. The ‘Jackets will nonetheless have to be cognizant of Kalfsbeeks ability to beat teams deep, and avoid allowing game-changing plays through the air.
Editor’s Note: In the 9/7/16 print edition of the Pioneer Review, it was reported that Pierce defeated Williams 16-14 in the 2015 Rice Bowl, and that the all-time series stood at 50-31-4 in favor of the Bears. This story has been corrected to reflect that Williams won the 2015 Rice Bowl by a score of 16-14, and that Pierce leads the all-time series 49-32-4.