For the second straight week, the Nevada Union football team will be on the road for a Sierra Foothill League battle as they take on Woodcreek in Roseville.
The Miners (0-6, 0-1 SFL) roll into the Timberwolves’ stadium reeling from a 55-7 loss to Rocklin last week. The Timberwolves (2-4, 0-1 SFL) are also licking their wounds after a 42-6 loss to Del Oro, making for a matchup of teams hungry for SFL success.
“I told them ‘this could be the only time we match up with a team,’” NU head coach Dennis Houlihan said. “We haven’t played a team yet that we match up physically with, now’s our chance.”
It’s a matchup of the two worst defenses in the SFL as NU allows a league-worst 46.8 points per game, and Woodcreek isn’t far behind, allowing 39.2 points per game.
The major difference between the two is the Timberwolves have managed to score on a regular basis. Woodcreek, averaging 26.7 points per game, is powered by their duel threat quarterback, veteran tail back and two talented receivers.
“Woodcreek definitely has the talent on the offensive side,” Houlihan said. “They have two big junior wide outs that make a lot of plays.”
Isaiah Harboth, a 6 foot, 2-inch, 185 pound junior, takes the snaps for the Timberwolves and is a weapon when throwing, as well as running.
His favorite targets are juniors Malcom Thomas, a 6-foot, 2-inch tall, 185 pounder, and Lenny Nelson, a 5-foot, 11-inch, 180 pounder.
“We’re just going to try and stay disciplined, read our keys and try to stop them as much as we can,” senior defensive captain and safety Gareth Noxon said. “Wrap up well and try to tackle because that’s what we haven’t been doing well in these games. We’ve been allowing too many points, and we have to put a stop to that.”
Woodcreek also brings to the table a tail back who is in his third year starting and has led Woodcreek’s run game since 2011. Mitchell Llayton, a 6-foot, 1-inch, 205 pound senior, leads Woodcreek in rushing this season and has since he was a sophomore. Between his junior and sophomore season’s Llayton totaled 1,635 yards and 15 touchdowns.
Those are the big threats Woodcreek will offer up and that NU will have to contend with; on the other side of the ball, the Miners are looking to finally get their offense on track.
“We have to be able to move the ball against this defense,” Houlihan said. “If you look at the film, the schemes are all there, the kids are where they’re supposed to be, we’re just not doing anything. It’s the same thing from week one. I’m hoping this is the week our backs and our quarterback can make some plays.”
Woodcreek showed they can be exposed by the wing-T offense against Placer as the Hillman racked up 333 yards rushing and four touchdowns on the ground in a 48-47 loss to Woodcreek.
Junior running back Travis Owens said this is the week that NU’s offense kicks it up a notch.
“We have to work as hard as we can, our line needs to block and we need to hit the holes,” Owens said. “We want it bad. We’re going to get it.”
Noxon said he thinks this is the week NU can snap its six-game losing streak.
“We know we can beat this team,” he said.
“It’s kind of like a Chico situation. We are capable of beating them, it’s just we need to go out there and perform, and hopefully, if we can go out and win this game, we can turn around our season and get a couple more wins before it’s over.”
NU’s sophomore pigskin slinger Justus Spillner said he and sophomore wide receiver Drew Daniels are starting to get on the same page thanks to before and after practice work. They have also put in weekend workouts on their own time.
“Hopefully, it’s going to come together,” Spillner said. “I’ve improved a little bit, and coach has been pushing me hard this week, pulling me into his office and saying, ‘it’s week six, now you have to improve and put it in your game.”
Since the Miners joined the SFL in 2010, they, along with Woodcreek and Roseville, have been relegated to the middle of the pack or worse.
NU hasn’t finished better than third in the SFL and has a 5-11 record in league play since joining. Woodcreek has had it even harder, tallying a 2-14 SFL record since 2010, and Roseville checks in at 4-12. Reigning SFL and Division-I state champions Granite Bay has won the division once, last year, since NU joined and has a 14-2 record in that time. Del Oro has two league tiles (2010, 2011) and a 14-2 SFL record since 2010.
Nevada Union is currently experiencing one of its worst seasons in the program’s history, and that fact isn’t lost on Houlihan.
“Whenever you have a losing season, you’re going to have people complaining,” he said. “People that are outside of the program, that don’t really understand why. The question is, what do we do? And what are we doing? And rightfully so. NU has never seen this before. We new coming in it was going to be a down year. We didn’t know it was going to be like it is, but I believe our kids are still trying hard, they haven’t quit on themselves, they come out everyday.”
The Miners and Timberwolves tangle at 7:30 p.m. tonight at Woodcreek High School in Roseville.