Miners preview: ‘The tough get going’ | TheUnion.com

Miners preview: ‘The tough get going’

In terms of wins and losses, it was the worst season a Nevada Union football team had put together in three decades.

Not once in the Dave Humphers era ” entering its 18th season this fall ” had the Miners finished with fewer wins than losses. NU’s program has perennially been a proud one, producing a 165-47-2 record, three Sac-Joaquin Section championships and numerous league titles with Humphers at the helm.

Still, 4-6 is what the ledger read at season’s end. And one of those victories actually came by way of forfeit.

“It was really a coaching challenge,” Humphers said of the 2007 season. “To come out every day and work at improving our team, it was tough. But I just think it really says a lot about the strong character of those kids … The team continued to get better and it was evident by our last two games. You could see how much they improved.

“As to a losing season, though? With our program, it’s just made us more determined.”

NU’s coaching staff typically evaluates all areas of the program each offseason. And even though Humphers said he “always feels a great sense of urgency,” there’s little doubt that the evaluation delved even deeper this time around.

“We looked at every part of the program, from top to bottom, looking at how to do things better and what areas we can improve on,” Humphers said. “No subject was sacred. We talked about it all.

“It’s easier to be more honest about being critical of yourself after losing some games. It’s actually a pretty refreshing exercise. I think we have a renewed sense of things, where nobody is above constructive criticism.”

One has to wonder whether if such a critical review would have seemed so necessary had the Miners not been tripped up by injuries early and often in ’07. NU kicked off the season without Steele Jantz, the starting quarterback whom the Miners had planned to carry much of the offensive load.

And after breaking his leg in game three against Del Oro ” his first action in his senior season (See cover story) ” Jantz was gone for the year.

That put extra pressure on the pair of young and inexperienced passers who filled the void. John Wivholm, then a junior, and Broughan Jantz, Steele’s then-sophomore brother, shared snaps ” and apparent varsity growing pains “through much of the season.

“Teams packed the box because we were primarily running the ball while bringing along our two quarterbacks carefully, and a young offensive line,” Humphers said. “It was tough.

“We were really struck by injuries. We had 10 starters out at one point. I don’t want to sound like I’m whining … but our young team gain did get a chance to gain a lot of experience. We were an entirely different team in game 10 than in the middle of the season. A lot of maturing and growing had gone on.”

The strides the Miners made down the stretch of the ’07 season, and the addition of a talented cast of this fall’s junior class, has Humphers believing bigger things are on the horizon.

“We’ve got a pretty experienced team coming back, with 14 returning starters, and yet a lot the juniors are winning starting positions,” Humphers said. “We’ve got a lot of guys competing for playing time. And from a coaching standpoint, that means we’ve got pretty good depth at most positions.

“Above all, though, the No. 1 strength of this team is its toughness. I think fans and supporters of Miner Magic are going to enjoy seeing an old-fashioned Nevada Union team come out and hit.”

Two of the team’s returning starters, Broughan Jantz and Cameron Ryan are at key skill positions.

After Jantz put together a pair of strong performances in the final two games last fall (13-of-18 passing for 258 yards and three touchdowns), the 6-foot, 1-inch southpaw got the nod over Wivholm as NU’s quarterback.

He’ll be heading up an offense that features a stable of talented backs and experienced linemen.

Joining Jantz in the backfield, at left halfback, is Ryan, a 6-3, 225-pound senior speedster. As a junior, Ryan rushed for 502 yards ” at a rate of 6.4 yards per carry ” and five touchdowns.

Also expected to carry a load will be halfbacks Jared Ralph, a 5-10, 175-pound senior, and junior Drew Hoskin (5-7, 170).

Leading the way for the ground game will be a front line that offers some size and experience. Headlining the list are seniors Trendon Amuzie (6-0, 235) at left guard and classmate Nick Souza (6-5, 270) at right tackle.

Another imposing figure up front will be Dan Pettinato, a 6-4, 220-pound junior who will provide Jantz with one large target at tight end.

On the defensive side of the ball, senior safety Cole Stanford is the top returning player.

As a junior, Stanford earned second-team All-Delta Valley Conference honors at defensive back. He had 79 tackles, two interceptions and a fumble recovery. But not only will the 6-2, 205-pounder line up in the defensive backfield, he’ll also be called upon at several other spots on the field.

Stanford will also likely see action at split end, halfback and tight end, while he’s also listed No. 2 on the depth chart at quarterback.

Pettinato and Souza give the Miners some size at the end positions, while seniors Ty Dentinger (5-11, 190) and Jordan Mosbarger (5-10, 170) will start at defensive tackle and noseguard, respectively.

A trio of seniors ” Kennan Morris (6-1, 190), Henry Harrison (6-0, 180) and Travis Milhous (6-0, 180) ” will be joined by junior Zach Vallejo (6-1, 195) as the starting linebackers.

Joining Stanford in the defensive backfield will be Wivholm (6-0, 180) and junior Chris Bierteumpfel (5-8, 185) as the starting cornerbacks.

Nevada Union’s first two seasons in the Delta Valley Conference have been tough rows to hoe, which is stark contrast to the dominating display NU showed in years past while competing in the Metro Conference and the Capital Athletic League.

The Miners have gone a combined 5-5 in its first two seasons of DVC action.

“All the teams are good,” Humphers said of the conference. “The last couple of years there have been great balance and competitive equity. Two years ago, I think all the league games were decided by seven points, or at least almost every league game.”

But how competitive the DVC will be this fall remains to be seen, mainly due to the fact that only Humphers and Laguna Creek’s Mark Nill return to the sideline as coaches. Four other DVC programs ” Davis (Dan Gazzaniga), Elk Grove (Chris Nixon), Franklin (Brian Pahl) and Valley (Jeff Dietrich) ” had changes at the top.

Before NU kicks off year three of the DVC, however, the Miners will have faced a full slate of new non-league opposition. Nevada Union opens Sept. 12 at Ponderosa, followed by home dates with Rocklin (Sept. 19) and Cesar Chavez of Stockton (Sept. 26) before a final non-league tune-up at Natomas (Oct. 3). Franklin of Stockton, the only non-league holdover ” which also has a new coach after forfeiting its ’07 season due to recruiting improprieties ” comes to NU’s Hooper Stadium on Oct. 10.

To contact Sports Editor Brian Hamilton, e-mail bhamilton@theunion.com or call 477-4240.

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