As the Eagles from Pleasant Grove roll into Hooper Stadium for a week-three matchup with Nevada Union, the Miners are still trying to get the right pieces in the right places.
Nevada Union Head Coach Dennis Houlihan has moved around the offensive line, mixed up the backfield and will start a new quarterback tonight as the Miners host the No. 4 team in the Sac-Joaquin Section, according to the MaxPreps rankings.
“Ive made changes again,” Houlihan said about his offensive line. “It looks like it’s a step closer. It’s based on how they’ve performed this week, but there’s not a lot of depth there. We’re trying to make the right changes for the team’s sake. But a guy like Josh Belendez can’t go both ways right now, so we’re having him focus on defense, even though he’s our best lineman, and other guys have to step up for him.”
Senior Trevor Moore (6-foot, 2-inches, 195 pounds) and junior Matt Cross (6-foot, 2-inches, 245 pounds) will be the starting guards, senior Davi Pettinato (6-foot, 3-inches, 220 pounds) and senior Tyler Stroud (6-foot, 230 pounds) will be the tackles and junior Tyler Droivold will get his first start at center.
Belendez, who is the team’s middle linebacker and leads the team with 26 tackles, can now focus all his energy on leading the Miner defense.
Also moving around is the Miners backfield as they attempt to get bigger and stronger in the ground game. Seniors Jake Berger and Gareth Noxon will start in the backfield, bringing size along with speed, and Brandon Lopez takes over the fullback duties.
“I’ve made changes in the backfield,” Houlihan said. “Bigger backs, better blocking, we should be able to pound the ball and get some yards.”
Through the first two games the Miners have tried out senior Michael Tapia and sophomore Justus Spillner at quarterback, but with little success from either, so this week Houlihan has called Chase Loper’s number to lead the first team.
Loper, a junior and a starting cornerback, was the junior varsity quarterback. The 5-foot, 8-inch, 145-pound player doesn’t look like the prototypical quarterback. But it’s not his size or throwing ability that won him the job, it’s his capacity for deception that landed him the spot.
“Loper is going to start the game,” Houlihan said. “Every time he’s been in, and I’ve had a lot of people say it … they couldn’t find the ball. So, we’re going with the guy that fakes the best this week to see if it helps us move the ball.”
These changes are hopefully the correct concoction for the Miners as they prepare for a very good Pleasant Grove team.
“Pleasant Grove is always well coached,” Houlihan said. “They play real technical football. Whether they have the studs they have had in the past or not, it doesn’t look like it, but they don’t make mistakes. That’s why they’re (No. 4). They will be tough.”
The Eagles (2-0) are led by their rushing attack, which boasts three backs that carry the majority of the load. Senior Deundre Terrell is the team’s quarterback and most efficient runner. The 5-foot, 8-inch Terrell has three touchdowns and 131 yards through the first two games while averaging 8.19 yards per carry. Junior Demaree Morris and senior Ian Broom will handle the bulk of the carries at running back.
Through the air, Terrell completes 48 percent of his passes, but the ones that are caught are for an average of 20 yards.
As for the Miners’ morale after suffering back-to-back blowout losses to open the season, Houlihan said they haven’t lost their focus, and the players have taken upon themselves to find and eradicate the problems.
“It really hasn’t been a challenge to keep them focused,” Houlihan said. “They want to do well. It bugs them as much as it does the coaches that we’re not executing as well as we should. The guys have held strong. They held their own team meeting this week, without coaches, at their request, and it was a better practice. So, whatever they were saying, they know exactly what needs to change, and that’s the leadership were looking for.”
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.