by A.C. Hall
Brewer ran into their toughest challenge so far this season on Friday as they pulled out a 23 – 21 victory against Arlington Heights. After doing a great job in protecting the ball in the previous two weeks, the Bears were plagued by turnovers in front of the home crowd. They lost a total of 5 fumbles over the course of the game, each one making the road to victory more and more difficult.
The Bears heavy reliance on their running game was on display once more, as they showed one of the biggest run to pass discrepancies in recent Brewer football history. The team had 52 offensive plays in the game, 49 of them being run plays. Going deeper into this huge discrepancy, of the 49 run plays, 44 of them were handled by quarterback Chris Gibson and running back Keric Burleson. Considering that both Gibson and Burleson are also taking a lot of snaps on defense, this is a massive workload that the two young men are carrying.
The three pass plays the Bears attempted were all incomplete, meaning they had zero passing yards. It was previously unclear how the team would react once an opposing defense stacked up the line and challenged the run, but Brewer proved that their two main rushers are good enough to still find yards. Both Gibson and Burleson gained over 100 yards in the game, but it didn’t come as easily as it did in the previous two games. The increased defensive pressure on the run game played a role in the five fumbles as well.
With so many turnovers, much of the game fell into the capable hands of the Brewer defense. Gibson and Burleson may have stockpiled a few hours worth of highlight runs over the first three games of this season, but the Bears defense have been the unsung heroes so far. They’ve gotten big contributions from linebackers Tyler Rainwater and Damien Hernandez, while safety Hunter Plumlee has also been a big key to the success.
On Friday, the defense was forced to prematurely return to the field five times after the fumbles, but they consistently held Arlington Heights’ offense in check. The game was won by just 2 points, and those came from a clutch fourth quarter safety the defense secured for the Bears.
The 3 and 0 start to the season is huge for the Bears, but similar hot starts in recent years haven’t carried over into the playoff berth that the school so desperately craves. As they move into district play, the opponents get tougher and the true challenges await. The team has a solid identity, showing they can win a game without gaining a single yard passing. The emergence of all the fumbles should be worrying to fans, but if the team can regroup and get back to protecting the ball they’ll greatly improve their chances of keeping the winning ways going in the coming weeks.
Brewer is off this Friday, but will return to action next week with another home game.