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Miners rise above East Union: NU grabs 1st playoff win in 13 years; to face West Park in 2nd round

By Walter Ford | Special to The Union
Nevada Union’s Andrew Webster hauls in a touchdown pass during the Miners’ 33-28 playoff victory over East Union Friday. The Miners are set to take on West Park High School in Roseville this Friday at 7 p.m. for a second round Sac Joaquin Section playoff appearance.
Photo: Courtesy Tiffany Marin Graves

This win was more than a decade in the making.

Nevada Union’s football team earned its first playoff victory since 2009 on Friday, beating East Union of Manteca, 33-28, in the first round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV playoffs.

“This was a program wide effort,” said Nevada Union head coach Brad Sparks, citing the Miners’ senior leadership, the coaching staff, strong play by role players and the addition of freshman and sophomore call ups which have given the Miners extra depth for the postseason. “It was a great win for the program and the community.”



The win didn’t come without challenges for the 11th-seeded Miners, who had to battle back from a 14-0 first quarter deficit against the sixth-seeded Lancers. The Miners found their stride offensively in the second quarter, reaching the end zone three times in the frame. The Lancers absorbed the onslaught and responded with a pair of touchdowns of their own to take a 28-20 edge into halftime.

Nevada Union head coach Brad Sparks addresses his team after the Miners’ 33-28 playoff victory over East Union Friday.
Photo: Courtesy Tiffany Marin Graves

In the second half, it was the NU’s defense that shined as it held East Union scoreless across the final two quarters and forced multiple interceptions, including one that senior defensive end Clay Renner took back 40-yards for a touchdown.



Renner led NU’s defensive charge with 17 tackles, a sack and a pick-six. Senior linebacker Trayton Santos chipped in with 11 tackles and a fumble recovery. Senior defensive back James Kinney wrapped up 10 tackles. And, junior defensive end Bodey Eelkema notched 10 tackles and three quarterback pressures in the victory.

Leading Nevada Union’s offense was senior quarterback Maddox Graves, who threw for 219 yards, rushed for 65 yards and tallied four total touchdowns (two passing, two rushing).

Nevada Union’s James Kinney notches one of his 10 tackles during the Miners’ 33-28 playoff victory over East Union Friday.
Photo: Courtesy Tiffany Marin Graves

“The biggest thing about Maddox is his leadership and accountability,” said Sparks. “He is super hard on himself at practice, and he works extremely hard… I got to take my hat off to him.”

Senior receiver Andrew Webster hauled in three Graves passes for 59 yards, including a 35-yard score to put the Miners ahead for good in the fourth quarter. Webster also tallied 15 tackles, forced a fumble and nabbed two interceptions from his safety position on defense.

Fellow senior Brett Cota led all NU pass catchers with six grabs for 121 yards, including a 61-yard touchdown in the second quarter.

Nevada Union’s Brett Cota runs away from the defense for a touchdown during the Miners’ 33-28 playoff victory over East Union Friday. Cota led all NU pass catchers with six grabs for 121 yards, including a 61-yard touchdown.
Photo: Courtesy Tiffany Marin Graves

For Nevada Union, the victory ends a four-game losing streak in the playoffs that dated back to 2012. Before Friday’s win, the Miners hadn’t won a postseason contest since topping Monterey Trail, 20-2, in the 2009 Sac-Joaquin Section Division I Championship Game.

The Miners (5-6) now ride a three-game win streak into thier second-round matchup with the No. 3 West Park Panthers (8-1). West Park grabbed the No. 3 seed after finishing second in the Foothill Valley League. NU placed fourth in the FVL. The Miners and Panthers faced off earlier this season with West Park taking the contest, 36-6. West Park had a bye through the first round.

“We feel good about our chances,” said Sparks. “West Park is a really good team. They’re all really good teams at this stage.”

Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. Friday at West Park High School in Roseville. Family, friends and fans of the Miners are invited to see the team off as they depart for the game at 3:30 p.m. Friday in the parking lot near Nevada Union’s Hooper Stadium.

Nevada Union players celebrate the program’s first playoff win since 2009.
Photo: Courtesy Tiffany Marin Graves
Nevada Union quarterback Maddox Graves runs the ball during the Miners’ 33-28 playoff victory over East Union Friday. Graves finished the game with 219 passing yards, 65 rush yards and four total touchdowns (two passing, two rushing).
Photo: Courtesy Tiffany Marin Graves
Nevada Union seniors James Kinney (from left), Brett Cota, Maddox Graves, Andrew Webster, David Moyer and Trayton Santos after the Miners’ 33-28 playoff victory over East Union Friday in Manteca.
Photo: Courtesy Tiffany Marin Graves

To contact Walter Ford, email walterford44@gmail.com.


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