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Top sports moments: Pierce football goes undefeated in regular season
A heartbreaking 3-0 overtime loss to Willows High in the Northern Section Division III semifinals on Nov. 16 cost the Pierce High football team a chance at an undefeated season, but the Bears can hold their heads high after an incredible year.
For the second time in as many years, the Bears beat the Honkers in the regular season but lost in the playoffs. Willows went on to win the section championship both times.
Pierce won the Sacramento Valley League title outright despite playing three intensely competitive, one-score games against Durham, Live Oak and Willows.
The Bears relied on a clock-eating offense and a dominant defense which allowed less than 10 points a game, and no team scored more than 20 points.
Senior running back Andy Corona earned the Sacramento Valley League's offensive co-MVP after carrying the ball 250 times for 1362 yards and scored 19 touchdowns. Six times the senior workhorse eclipsed 25 carries in a game yet he only grew stronger as the season wore on, rushing for more than 120 yards in each of the Bears final five games.
Though Pierce (11-1, 5-0 SVL champions) often wasn't the biggest team on the field, they were at their strongest in the middle of the field. Chas Benton led the Bears with 12 sacks on defense and cleared the way for the Bears running game, which averaged 258 yards a game.
Linebackers Preston Smith (108 tackles) and Joe Howard (93 tackles) frustrated opposing coaches and players with their speed and sure tackling.
Benton, Corona, Howard and Smith led a the Bears contingent of all-league players, which included defensive backs Nate Smith, Jesus Huerta and Oscar Sanchez, and lineman David Castaneda. Coach Scott Burnum was the SVL Coach of the Year.