Whether it was McQueen’s defense, its power run game or first game jitters for Nevada Union, the Miners started the Dennis Houlihan era off a bit rough with a 34-16 loss at the hands of the Lancers.
The Miners managed only 45 yards and three first downs in the first half as they struggled to find a groove.
McQueen had no such problems.
Talented senior Lucas Weber, who is a preseason all-state (Nevada) defensive back, showed he is pretty good at carrying the ball as well. The bruising, 6-foot, 2-inch, 195-pound back carried the ball 21 times for 115 yards and two touchdowns before sitting most of the fourth quarter.
“He was a horse,” Nevada Union head coach Houlihan said. “We were in the right positions. We just didn’t tackle very well, and it’s hard to tackle a guy like that.”
While Weber kept the Miners busy with the run game, quarterback Delon Buncio dinked and dunked McQueen up and down the field through the air. Buncio was 8-of-9 passing for 74 yards, including a 5-yard touchdown to Austin Rukthavornsakul. Buncio also rushed for a touchdown on fourth and goal from the six for McQueen’s first points. Buncio did suffer an injury though and spent the second half on the bench.
While the Miners struggled to get things going on the ground, McQueen built a 21-0 lead at the half.
The Miners’ lone bright spot in the first half was a long punt return by Jake Berger, but as the talented runner was fighting for extra yards, the ball came loose, and McQueen recovered.
Berger had an impressive day running the ball, finishing with a team-high 89 yards on nine carries. Berger also scored a two-point conversion.
“In the first half, we had our chances,” Houlihan said. “We just fumbled once. We had a 10-yard punt. We had chances to get things going. Maybe we were a little nervous. They were big, and we are going to face big linemn.”
In the third, Nevada Union fell behind 27-0 when Weber punched through from the 1.
The Miners finally got on the board in the fourth when sophomore quarterback Justus Spillner found Travis Owens for a 32-yard touchdown. Spillner hit a wide open Owens at around the 5-yard line, then Owens spun through a couple defenders for the score.
Spillner, who split time with senior quarterback Michael Tapia, went 2-for-5 on the night for 39 yards and a touchdown. Tapia went 1-for-4 for six yards.
Owens also added 51 yards on the ground.
After the two-point conversion, a scrum broke out in which NU’s Gareth Noxon lost his helmet and was subsequently sucker-punched in the face by a McQueen player.
The McQueen player was ejected, and Noxon did not return to the game.
McQueen added another score to put the game at 34-8, but NU wasn’t resigned to give up. NU’s Joseph Voight went off tackle for 72 yards and a touchdown. Mo Nieves scored the two-point conversion.
Nieves left the game late in the fourth with a leg injury. He tallied 59 yards on 11 carries. Nieves had taken over the kicking duties for the Miners after their kicker, Chandler Heppe, went down in the second quarter trying to make a tackle on a punt return.
The Miners were much better offensively in the second half and finished with 278 yards on the ground and 323 total yards from scrimmage.
Defensively for the Miners, Josh Belendez led with 12 tackles, a sack and a forced fumble. Nieves also had a sack, Noxon had 10 tackles, Brock Grininger had eight, and Chase Frey had two tackles for loss.
“We played hard and played hard all the way to the end,” Houlihan said. “That’s what I was looking for tonight. Of course we want to win, but at the same time, it could have been a lot worse, so I thought they did a pretty good job.”
JV: McQueen 28, Nevada Union 7
The Miners had a tough time putting points on the board Friday as they fell to McQueen by 21.
Leading the NU offense was Bryan Sparks with a 41-yard touchdown run. Brandon Mrozowski added 39 yards rushing in the loss.
On the defensive end, Mrozowski tallied 10 tackles, Sparks had six, and Kase Scott had seven.
Drew Daniels also pulled down a pick for NU.
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.