With a new head coach, a new quarterback, new running backs and a new approach, the Nevada Union Miners are preparing for a 2013 season against the same old brutal schedule.
The Miners have the same daunting schedule they had in 2012, facing McQueen Friday before taking on Grant, Pleasant Grove, Chico and Elk Grove before the Sierra Foothill League kicks off Oct. 11 at Rocklin.
“With the preseason we have, playing the top teams every week, I would like to see us compete and learn from our wins and, if we happen to lose, learn from our losses,” Nevada Union head coach Dennis Houlihan said. “But as long as we get better and better each week, I’ll be happy. The goal is to win league.”
Coming into the season McQueen is ranked No. 17 in the entire state of Nevada by MaxPreps, Grant is ranked No. 23 in the Sac-Joaquin Section, Pleasant Grove is No. 10 in the Sac-Joaquin Section, Chico is No. 7 in the Northern Section and Elk Grove is No. 3 in the Sac-Joaquin Section.
“The thing about our schedule is it’s brutal, and these teams are well coached,” Nevada Union defensive coordinator Brad Dal Bon. “We have our hands full in both the pass and run game.”
The Miners went 3-2 last season against this lineup, tallying wins against McQueen, Grant and Chico, but losing to the “Groves.”
“I want to win section,” senior safety Gareth Noxon said. “I also want to give it to Elk Grove, Pleasant Grove and Grant. Our league is rough, but our preseason is even rougher. Nothing easy.”
After an intense five-week stretch to start the season, the Miners get their bye before opening an equally intimidating SFL schedule.
They will travel to Rocklin to open the SFL season, facing a team that routed them last season and is ranked No. 22 in the section. The Miners are ranked No. 33 in the section. Rocklin returns Logan Webb at quarterback following a 2,187-passing-yards and 29-touchdown junior season.
The Miners then travel to Woodcreek to face the Timberwolves, a team they have beaten handily the past two seasons. The Timberwolves are projected to finish last in the SFL, according to the MaxPreps rankings.
Following Woodcreek, NU takes on a Roseville team that is on the upswing. Ranked No. 30 in the section, the Tigers will look to improve on their 2-8 2012 record with their quarterback and top two running backs from 2012 returning for their senior years.
The Miners will then take on Del Oro, which currently owns a three-game division winning streak over NU, having beaten it all three seasons since NU joined the SFL. The Golden Eagles will have a tough time replacing Brandon Monroe at running back, but head coach Casey Taylor always fields a quality team and, like every year, will be vying for a playoff spot.
To close the season, the Miners have the honor of facing the preseason No. 1 team in the section, Granite Bay. The reigning state champions are without recently retired Ernie Cooper but return several talented players from last year’s title team. Speedy back Tony Ellison, who tallied 1,185 yards rushing, 585 receiving and 19 total touchdowns as a junior, will lead the offense.
With 10 games that are riddled with rivals and are sure to test the Miners offensively and defensively, they all seem to have one team in mind that they really want to beat — Grant.
The Miners thumped Grant last season 37-7 on Grant’s home turf, but this season, Grant will travel to NU with revenge on its mind.
The Grant game is one that Nevada Union junior running back Mo Nieves has circled on his calendar.
“It’s a home game, and home-field advantage really matters against Grant,” Nieves said. “They don’t like it here, but we love it.”
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.