It’s Week 8 for the Nevada Union football team and with it come the Tigers of Roseville.
The Miners will host Roseville tonight, possibly for the last time as the Tigers depart from the Sierra Foothill League in 2014 to make room for Folsom and Oak Ridge, according to the Sac-Joaquin Section Realignment Plan. Roseville will join the Capital Valley Conference.
The Tigers are currently stumbling through a three-game losing skid and, like the Miners, are hungry for their first Sierra Foothill League win of the season.
Roseville (3-4, 0-2 SFL) doesn’t boast the superstar athletes at running back or wide receiver the Miners have been accustomed to seeing week in and week out, but it does bring to the table one very important aspect of the game that NU woefully lacks — physical size.
“We will not be able to move bodies by down blocking,” NU head coach Dennis Houlihan said. “They are so big and stack the box so much it’s difficult to get to the linebackers. We still have that mentality of let’s go forward, lets’ try to get 4 to 5 yards on the run and keep them off balance with the pass.”
Sophomore quarterback Justus Spillner will start the game under center as the Miners continue to get him reps and groom him to be the signal-caller for the next two years, said Houlihan. Senior quarterback Michael Tapia, coming off his best game of the season with two touchdown passes against Woodcreek, will also see some action, Houlihan said.
Taking snaps for Roseville is senior Kyle Downie. The 5-foot, 10-inch quarterback completes passes at a 56 percent clip and has thrown for 1,098 yards this season with five touchdowns and five interceptions. Downie can also tuck the rock and roll, amassing 230 yards on the ground, which is good enough for second on the team.
When throwing the ball, Downie looks most often for senior pass-catcher Jonathon Lopez. The 6-foot, 1-inch, 175-pound receiver leads the team with 35 catches for 489 yards and four touchdowns.
Senior Gabriel Lira (14 catches, 254 yards, touchdown) along with juniors Carson Miller (14 catches, 222 yards) and Bryce Couch (11 catches, 207 yards, two touchdowns) also see their fair share of targets.
On the ground, Roseville leans on senior Matt Razzano who gets the bulk of the team’s carries and leads the Tigers with 348 rushing yards. Razzano, a 5-foot, 7-inch, 187-pound back, only has one rushing touchdown this season as most of the glory carries go to Isaac Carrell. Carrell, a 5-foot, 9-inch, 220-pound power back, has seven touchdowns on the ground on just 36 carries this season.
The Tigers average 327.9 yards of offense per game (201 passing, 126.9 rushing) and score 24.1 points per game. The Miners on the other hand average 174.6 yards per game (47.9 passing, 126.7 rushing) and score 9.14 points per game.
If the Miners offense is to get going this week, it will need big efforts from Mo Nieves, Travis Owens and any other of the many ball-carriers the Miners have auditioned this season.
Nieves, who returned two weeks ago from a Week 1 injury and leads the Miners in rushing since putting the pads back on, is still nursing a knee injury and will be a game-time decision. Owens leads the Miners with 63 carries this season for a team-high 221 yards but is yet to find the stride that made him so effective as a junior varsity runner. The Miners have eight backs who have toted the ball more than 10 times this season. With just three weeks left in the season it should be interesting to see who emerges as the feature back heading into next season.
If the Miner offense is to be successful, it will need to locate and neutralize Roseville’s stud linebacker, Jordan Kunaszyk. The 6-foot, 2-inch, 218-pound tackling machine leads his team in tackles (68), sacks (2) and interceptions (1).
The Miners have taken this matchup the last two years, beating Roseville 52-19 last season and 54-30 in 2011. Tonight’s game kicks off at 7:30 p.m. at Hooper Stadium.
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.