The Nevada Union football team is coming off a much needed bye week after a 0-5 start, which concluded with the Miners being shutout for the first time since 1983.
The Miners’ 43-0 loss to Elk Grove on Sept. 27 was the first goose egg for NU in 344 straight games, a California state record. Coincidentally, the last time NU was shut out came when current Elk Grove head coach Chris Nixon was suiting up in the blue and gold as a wide receiver for the Miners, according to the Sacramento Bee.
Los Alamitos from Orange County now holds the longest winning streak at 339, a record that dates to 1987, according to Cal-Hi Sports.
In their first five games, NU has been outscored 226-43 and hasn’t been in a contest past halftime. But that is all in the past. What the immediate future holds for NU is a contest with Rocklin.
“We’ve had a tough schedule this year and we’re still trying to get things together,” NU senior lineman Davi Pettinato said. “But I think it was good, and you get a clean slate when you head into league.”
The Thunder will host the Miners today in both teams’ Sierra Foothill League opener.
“We’ve had two weeks to prepare for Rocklin,” Pettinato said. “We’re really pumped up; we’ve had a lot competitions during practice, and we’re preparing like we always do. I think we will have a good chance to win.”
Rocklin enters the contest at 3-2, averaging 24 points per game and allowing a league low 14.2 points per game. Contrastingly, the Miners score a league low 8.6 points per game and allow a league high 45.2 points per game.
The Thunder are the No. 11 team in Sac-Joaquin Section, according to MaxPreps.com, and have wins over Whitney, Del Campo, and No. 18 Inkerdum, and losses to No. 3 Pleasant Grove and Oak Ridge.
On the offensive end, Rocklin likes to air it out with senior quarterback Logan Webb.
The second-year starter has 706 yards passing with a 50 percent completion rate and nine touchdowns to four interceptions.
Webb’s favorite target is junior Blake Laurin, with 15 catches for 253 yards and four touchdowns. Junior Gage Sorenson also gets in the mix, with 11 catches for 171 yards and one score.
In the backfield, Rocklin leans on sophomore call up Evyn Holtz, who has 88 carries for 452 yards and one touchdown in four games.
Webb has also shown he is fleet of foot, with 117 yards on 20 carries.
“They’ve got some pretty good lineman, some tough running backs, obviously a really good quarterback,” Pettinato said. “But we got the same on our side. Our lineman are stepping up, and our linebackers are getting situated, so I think it will be a pretty good battle.”
The Rocklin defense is the stingiest in the SFL, allowing just 71 total points against, 51 of which came in their two losses to open the season. In the Thunder’s subsequent three wins they have allowed just 20 points, an average of 6.6 points per game.
“They’re just as tough (as they were last year),” NU head coach Dennis Houlihan said. “They are very fast and physical on defense. They haven’t given up a lot of points. They do a lot of good things. They slant up front, they make movements, but there are holes in it. The bottom line is, can we get through the holes? Can we move bodies and stick to blocks? But, we’re not really worried about the people were going against. If we did, we would be pulling our hair out even more. Right now, we’re just worried about ourselves and how to run our offenses and defenses right.”
For NU, sophomore quarterback Justice Spillner will be under the center for his third straight start and Houlihan, who has had a carousal of ball carriers this season, said to expect the same today. “We got very limited options, but the guys we’ve been going with are the guys that are still there,” Houlihan said.
This season the Miners have amassed 741 yards on the ground with Gareth Noxon (26 carries, 208 yards, 2 touchdowns), Jake Berger (45 carries, 179 yards), Travis Owens (45 carries, 159 yards), and Joe Voight (7 carries, 94 yards, 3 touchdowns) leading the way.
After a winless first half of the season, Pettinato said that moral on the team had dipped, but with the bye week, the Miners are on the up swing.
“Obviously after starting 0-5, (moral) is kind of low,” Pettinato said. “But the coaches are stepping up, the leaders are stepping up and keeping the guys going. So I think it’s on the rise, definitely.”
To prevent the team from digging deeper into its current rut, Houlihan had the squad play dodgeball one morning in lieu of practice.
“I just wanted them to see themselves being kids, and have fun and smile and play and not be so dreary because it’s hard,” Houlihan said. “It’s hard to lose the way we’re losing, and they didn’t expect that, they don’t want that. It’s hard on them. It’s hard on us.”
The Miners will look to shake their losing streak at 7:15 p.m. tonight at Rocklin.