With the Sierra Foothill League season kicking off tonight at Hooper Stadium, the Nevada Union football team will look to top a much-improved Rocklin squad and open league play with a win for the first time since joining the SFL in 2010.
In last season’s SFL finale, Rocklin pushed the Miners to the brink, but NU didn’t break, responding with a 30-27 overtime victory.
The Thunder are a much better team compared to last season and boast a very tough defense, said NU head coach Dave Humphers.
“The strength of (Rocklin’s) team is their defense,” he said. “Their D-line is excellent.”
Rocklin’s defense has allowed just under 19 points a game, which is best in the SFL.
The Thunder are 2-3 this season, including a win over Inkerdum, No. 24 in Northern California, in their final non-league game, showing that they can hang with top-tier teams.
Rocklin’s starting quarterback at the beginning of the season, Daniel Kniffin is expected to be back after a Week 2 injury, but it is unclear if he will get the start over junior Logan Webb who has led Rocklin to a 2-1 record since taking over.
Humphers said his team will be prepared for either quarterback.
“We’ve worked extremely hard at improving our game on defense,” Humphers said. “And our players have responded.”
Rocklin attempts to maintain a balanced offense but gets the bulk of its yards and touchdowns through the air.
Through five games this season, the Thunder are averaging 188.4 yards a game through the air and 65.6 on the ground. Rocklin has scored 12 offensive touchdowns in 2012, 10 of which have come via the pass.
To say that the Miners have put in some extra work these past two weeks of practice concerning their pass defense would be an understatement, said Humphers.
Rocklin’s top back, senior Raymon Kendall, has rushed for 226 yards this season but has yet to score a touchdown.
The Miners come into the game with the SFL’s second highest scoring offense, 29.8 points per game, and second best defense, 23.8 points per game.
NU quarterback Kyle Cota will look to continue his stellar season, 194.4 passing yards per game, 12 touchdowns and one interception, and make up for his worst game from last season.
Against Rocklin last year, Cota threw four of his seven interceptions on the season but was able to rally the Miners to an overtime win.
The Miners offense through five games is averaging 352.6 yards per game, 158.2 of which come on the ground from a host of backs.
Leading the Miners in rushing this season is the bruising tandem of Hank Humphers, 223 yards, 6 yards per carry and one touchdown, and Tanner Vallejo, 229 yards, 7.16 yards per carry and three touchdowns.
The SFL matchup also pits first year NU assistant coach Jared Amalong against his former team.
Amalong was an assistant on the Rocklin team last season.
To contact Sports Writer Walter Ford call (530) 477-4232 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org