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December 30, 2013
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2013: Nevada County sports year in review

It was an up-and-down year for Nevada County sports with several section championships earned by local high schools, as well as impressive individual accomplishments and feats that boggle the mind.

2013 also bid farewell to the most decorated high school football coach the area has ever seen and saw the passing of a local lacrosse legend.

There is so much sport that happens in a calender year, it is hard to keep track, but here are five stories that stuck out and helped define what kind of year it has been for Nevada County sports.

Humphers retires, Houlihan hired

Since 1991, Dave Humphers roamed the Nevada Union sidelines, coaching the Miners football team to 195 wins, 10 league titles and four Sac-Joaquin Section championships. But with his two sons graduated and playing college football, Humphers decided it was time to dive into family life. He hung up his fisherman’s cap and passed the whistle to a hometown boy in Dennis Houlihan. Houlihan came in as a legend on the field but with a checkered coaching background. The NU football community embraced Houlihan immeadiately. Houlihan struggled to find success on the field, leading NU to its worst season ever, losing every game in non-competitive fashion. While Houlihan has been criticized for his on-the-field performance (Jim Black’s letter to The Union calling for Houlihan’s resignation), he has been applauded for the volunteer work his team displayed in the community.

So in a matter of months, Humphers retired, Houlihan was hired and longtime Miner fan Jim Black called for him to be fired.

Bear River softball surprises everybody

The Lady Bruins softball team was coming off a Sac-Joaquin Section title in 2012, but it had graduated nine of its 12 players from that championship team, and longtime head coach Duane Zuaner retired from leading the team. The general consensus was this would be a down year for Bear River softball. No one told the Lady Bruins or new head coach Jason Bohrer that because they went 9-1 in Pioneer Valley League play. Relying on the impressive arm of freshman Nerissa Long (13 wins, 1.31 ERA, four shutouts, 266 strikeouts) and the consistent bat of Rachel Last (.521 batting average, 17 RBI, three home runs), the Lady Bruins won the PVL title and won their first-round playoff game against Woodland.

Forest Lake Christian wins SJS Section soccer title

Everybody loves a worst-to-first story, and even though the Falcons weren’t the worst in 2012, they were pretty close. That’s what makes what FLC did this year all the more impressive. After longtime head coach Thad Kopec stepped away at the conclusion of the 2011 season, newly hired athletic director Steve Koch, aided by his son, Garrett, took over the team. In Koch’s first season, the Falcons went 3-16-3 overall and finished 1-7 in the Central Valley California League. What a difference a year makes. In 2013, FLC got an injection of basketball players to join the team already peppered with some senior talent, and what happened next was nothing short of amazing. The Falcons went 17-5-1 overall, won the CVCL with a 7-1 league record and went on to win the Sac-Joaquin Section Division VII title over Faith Christian.

Lacrosse mourns passing of Avery Blake

Avery Blake Jr. was a major advocate for youth lacrosse and was one of the main driving force behind getting the Gold Country Stampede to the competitive, multi-level program it is today. Blake, a National Lacrosse Hall of Famer, whose goal was to put a lacrosse stick in any kid’s hands who wanted it, died this year, leaving behind a lacrosse legacy that will be carried on by the many young lacrosse players he helped expose the game to.

Reny Kaufmann is tougher than most

By now, most outdoor sports enthusiasts know about the Tough Mudder competition. For those who don’t, here’s a quick explanation: It’s a 12-mile course with 20-plus obstacles covered in mud, and for those who finish, a head band, a beer and bragging rights are the prize. Many from Nevada County brave this event hosted annually at Northstar Resort, but one local showed she was the toughest Nevada County has to offer. Reny Kaufmann ran the Tough Mudder three times over a two-day span in July and repeated that feat when the Tough Mudder returned in September. Kaufmann’s finishes at Northstar were so good she made it to the Toughest Mudder competition in New Jersey in November. Once in New Jersey, Reny ran the Toughest Mudder, which is a 24-hour race in which you traverse the course over and over.

Kaufmann is a great reminder that you don’t need to know how to shoot a 3-pointer or hit a curve ball to be a superstar athlete.

To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email

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The Union Updated Dec 30, 2013 11:33PM Published Dec 30, 2013 10:30PM Copyright 2013 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.