On a rainy evening in Chico, the Panthers pounced on Nevada Union early and never let up, leaving the Miners covered in mud and smarting from another lopsided loss.
In a battle between winless teams, Chico notched its first victory of 2013, throttling the Miners 41-14, and dropping NU to 0-4.
“It’s the same stuff every game,” Nevada Union head coach Dennis Houlihan said. “We’re missing tackles, we don’t look strong in certain areas and we keep making the same mistakes. We preach every week that we need to get better and stop making the same mistakes, but every game is the same scenario. We start OK with some energy, things go wrong, things go really wrong and things go bad from there. It just proves how young we really are.”
Chico’s quarterback, Clayton Welch, set the tone on the Panthers very first drive with a 55-yard touchdown run on a 3rd-and-10. Welch would punch in another first quarter touchdown from 1-yard out to put Chico up 14-0.
The Miners responded with a 28-yard touchdown run by Gareth Noxon. On fourth-and-five, Noxon took a pitch from NU quarterback Justus Spillner, got to the edge, stiff armed one Panther, raced to the end zone and dove in for the score.
The Miners then forced a Chico punt and took their next drive 76 yards on 15 plays, down to the Panther 4-yard line. But the drive would stall and the Miners turned the ball over on downs.
On Chico’s ensuing possession, on third-and-nine, Welch dropped back to pass, was pressured from the pocket and took off for a 79-yard touchdown. Welch finished the night with 181 rush yards and three touchdowns (171 of those yards came in the first half). Welch was also 9-of-14 passing for 139 yards and touchdown.
Trailing 20-7 in the second quarter, the Miners sideline remained optimistic about a possible win, but Chico punched in one more score before half to push the lead to 26-7.
After the break, Chico deflated any hope NU had of a comeback when Cameron Alfaro took the first offensive play of the half 63-yards up the sideline for a score and a 34-7 lead. Alfaro finished with 119 yards on nine carries and two touchdowns, one of which came through the air on a swing pass. The Miners had limited Alfaro for most of the night with six of his nine rushes going for no gain, but runs of 50 and 63 put him over the century mark.
“Chico wasn’t overpowering,” Houlihan said. “They weren’t as good as they have been in the past. We weren’t able to tackle again. You can see a lot of work needs to be done in the weight room and we’re doing it, we’re just behind the curve.”
Josh Belendez led NU in tackles with nine including a tackle for a loss, and Dylan Pfadt wrapped nine tackles. Brandon Ennis chipped in with six tackles, including one for a loss, and Noxon had five tackles.
Noxon, a two-way player, was NU’s best offensive option for the second straight week, amassing 132 total offensive yards (77 rush, 55 receiving) and one of NU’s two touchdowns.
Anchoring the Nevada Union line amid the mucky natural surface was Trevor Moore with three pancake blocks.
Scoring the other Miner touchdown was Joe Voight with a 13-yard scamper in the fourth quarter. It was Voight’s third touchdown of the season, which leads all NU backs. Voight has three touchdowns on just seven carries this season.
Spillner, in his first full game as the Miner’s signal caller, set a varsity career high for himself in passing yards. The sophomore completed 6-of-13 passes for 132 yards and an interception. Noxon gabbed two passes for 55 yards, Drew Daniels caught two passes for 36 yards, Brock Grininger caught his first ball of the season, and Travis Owens hauled in a pass that went for 27 yards.
The Miners also tried out their third kicker of the year in Nikolai Breiter, who went 2-for-2 on extra point attempts and made a touchdown saving tackle on a Chico kick return.
The Miners are now 0-4 with power house Elk Grove on the horizon for Friday.
JV: Chico 27, Nevada Union 6
The Miners went into halftime down 21-0, and never recovered, falling to Chico, 27-6.
NU’s Edwin Dardon broke up the shutout with a 47-yard touchdown run in the fourth. Dardon finished with a team-high 123 yards on nine carries. Brody McCoy added 57 yards on 12 carries.
Defensively for the Miners, Caleb Patterson led the way with 10 tackles and a sack.
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.