Miners take down Cardinals | TheUnion.com

Miners take down Cardinals

ELK GROVE – Just before Nevada Union kicked off the second half Friday night against host Laguna Creek, NU assistant coach Kelly Graham let the Miners know the importance of the final two quarters of play.

“We’ve got 24 minutes to live!” Graham shouted. “This is our season here!”

That season looked to be on life support midway through the third quarter, after Laguna Creek’s Bryson Littlejohn took a Brandon Summers pass 38 yards down the left sideline for a touchdown and a 21-7 lead.

But then the Miners added yet another chapter to the annals of “Miner Magic,” rolling off 35-straight points to pull out a 42-28 Delta Valley Conference victory at Elk Grove High School.

“At halftime, we talked about really getting after them with our offensive line,” said NU head coach Dave Humphers, whose Miners avoided falling to 0-2 in league play for the first time since 1995. “We wanted to just run the ball between the tackles and we thought that would open up other things.”

Nevada Union senior Jesse Ettlin made the most of that second-half gameplan, churning out 152 yards after halftime to finish with 19 carries for 173 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Nevada Union answered Laguna Creek’s third quarter score on the Miners’ ensuing possession, marching 75 yards in 13 plays. NU senior quarterback Chad Mason faked a handoff to Ettlin and kept the ball around the left side for a 4-yard touchdown to cap the drive and bring the Miners within eight at 21-13.

On Laguna Creek’s next possession, the Cardinals switched to a shotgun formation from the power rushing attack that had produced 100 yards and two touchdowns from senior running back Bryan Hilliard.

The Miners were ready for the switch and forced the Cardinals to punt after three plays. NU’s Matt Anderson then returned the kick 38 yards to the Laguna Creek 8-yard line. Ettlin scored from 8 yards out on the next play and then added a two-point conversion run to knot things at 21-21 with 59 seconds remaining in the third quarter.

“I thought it was a pretty big play for us,” said Anderson, a junior, of his return. “It got us rolling and got us psyched up.”

As did the play of Mason and fellow senior wideout Doug Dolan. After forcing another Laguna Creek punt, the Miners drove to the Cardinals’ 28-yard line and faced a fourth-and-17.

Mason lofted a spiral to the right corner of the end zone, where the 6-foot, 2-inch Dolan and Laguna Creek’s 5-foot, 8-inch Roman Gray both lept for the ball. Dolan, though, pulled the ball away for the touchdown and a 28-21 lead.

Nevada Union linebacker Tucker Colomb came up with an interception of Summers on Laguna Creek’s next possession, which set the Miners up for business at the Cardinals’ 11.

Three plays later, Mason again looked to Dolan deep in the right corner and this time Dolan came up with the touchdown catch against double coverage.

Dolan, who struggled to put the ball away on a few occasions earlier this season, said those two plays epitomized the NU program.

“I just think it represents our whole team,” he said. “No one is perfect. We worked through our flaws and overcame them for a big victory.

“Coach gave me the opportunity to make a play. I couldn’t let the team down, so I had to go up and make a couple of plays.”

Several Miners made plays down the stretch, including junior defensive back Kemp Stanford, who picked off a Summers pass and returned it 55 yards for a touchdown to lift NU to a 42-21 lead with just more than four minutes remaining in the game.

“Teams have been going after our young corners all year, but tonight they made the plays,” Humphers said. “Kemp and Matt Anderson played great tonight and a lot of credit goes to our coaches Brad Dal Bon and Mike Cartan.”

Another key play in the contest came just before the end of the first half, when Laguna Creek faced first-and-goal at the NU 9-yard line. After Littlejohn took a Summers pass on first down to the NU 1-yard line, the Miners stuffed Hilliard on two-straight plays, setting up fourth-and-goal just inches from the end zone.

Instead of kicking the field goal, Laguna Creek head coach Mark Nill elected to take one more shot at six points. But NU’s Kamil Shehadeh and Taylor Dever stopped Littlejohn well short of the end zone, swinging momentum the Miners’ way at the half.

“It’s a game of momentum,” Nill said. “And we lost it a bit at the half and didn’t get started on the right foot in the second half. It can switch on you like this. We were high, but they took the momentum away.”

Nevada Union 42, Laguna Creek 28

NU (5-2) 7 0 14 21 – 42

LC (5-2) 7 7 7 7 – 28

First quarter

NU – Jesse Ettlin 1 run (Kyle Bielen kick), 6:56

LC – Bryan Hilliard 8 run (Steven Burke kick), 3:37

Second quarter

LC – Hilliard 4 run (Burke kick), 6:33

Third quarter

LC – Bryson Littlejohn 38 pass from Brandon Summers (Burke kick), 7:05

NU – Chad Mason 4 run (Kick failed), 2:44

NU – Ettlin 8 run (Ettlin run), :59

Fourth quarter

NU – Doug Dolan 28 pass from Mason (Bielen kick), 7:23

NU – Dolan 8 pass from Mason (Bielen kick), 5:03

NU – Kemp Stanford 55 interception return (Bielen kick), 4:17

LC – Malcolm Riley 1 pass from Summers (Burke kick), :04



First downs 16 12

Rushes-yards 52-298 31-116

Passing 84 184

Comp-Att-Int 6-9-0 8-23-2

Penalties 6-50 7-65

Fumbles 3-2 1-0


Rushing – Nevada Union, Ettlin 19-173, Mason 6-19, Corey Browning 8-35, Dave Zealear 13-61, Andrew Metroka 5-16, Dolan 1-(minus 6). Laguna Creek, Hilliard 23-111, Justin Swanigan 2-(minus 6), Riley 3-16, Summers 3-(minus 5).

Passing – Nevada Union, Mason 6-9-0 for 84 yards and 2 TD. Laguna Creek, Summers 8-23-2 for 184 yards and 2 TD.

Receiving – Nevada Union, Dolan 4-52, Metroka 1-4, Wes Plummer 1-28. Laguna Creek, Christian Edwards 2-34, Littlejohn 3-93, Hilliard 2-56, Riley 1-1.

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