Prep football: Miners blast Bella Vista in season opener (VIDEO/PHOTO GALLERY) |

Prep football: Miners blast Bella Vista in season opener (VIDEO/PHOTO GALLERY)

Nevada Union High School’s Gabe Baker straight arms Bella Vista High’s Caelan Sallander during the Miners 44-34 win over the Broncos Friday in Fair Oaks. The Miners are scheduled to play Sheldon High School out of Sacramento next Friday night.
Photo: Elias Funez

Behind strong play in the trenches and a huge game from senior captain Gabe Baker, the Nevada Union Miners opened the prep football season with a resounding victory, 44-34, over the Bella Vista Broncos, Friday night in Fair Oaks.

“I’m proud of how many points we put on the board. We did some great things offensively,” said Nevada Union head coach Brad Sparks. “(Baker) had a great game, but I’m really impressed with the offensive linemen. I think we allowed one sack. So, they did a great job protecting (Baker), and they did a great job up front getting holes for our running backs.”

With the offensive line giving Baker plenty of time in the pocket and clearing the way for NU’s backs, the Miners built up a substantial lead through the first three quarters and then held off a late surge by the Broncos to secure the road victory

“It was amazing,” Baker said of the win, “especially after everything that’s been going on. A win like this means a lot to everybody.”

The Nevada Union High School cheerleaders perform during Friday’s halftime show where the Miners led the Bella Vista Broncos 20-7 en route to their 44-34 point win.
Photo: Elias Funez


The 6-foot, 3-inch, 240-pound Baker put the Miners on the scoreboard midway through the first quarter when he busted through the Broncos defense on a quarterback keeper and rumbled 30-yards to the end zone.

He was just getting started.

Nevada Union’s Gabe Baker reads the field before throwing a pass during Friday’s game against the Bella Vista Broncos.

Baker then showed off his passing prowess by hitting junior receiver Clay Renner with a 16-yard dart for a touchdown on fourth-and-11. He followed that with a 44-yard bomb to Ethan Billock to put NU up 20-0 in the second quarter. The Miners took a 20-7 advantage into halftime.

In the second half, Baker picked up right where he left off. He connected with running back Cameron Cormack for a pair of third quarter scores (32-yards, 9) to put the Miners ahead 36-7.

After a pair of Bella Vista touchdowns tightened the game to 36-20 in the fourth quarter, Baker put the contest out of reach with 54-yard touchdown toss to Renner, who hauled the pass in and out ran the defense the rest of the way. Renner led all NU pass catchers with eight grabs for 124 yards and two touchdowns. Billock was second with 77 yards on two catches.

Nevada Union’s Ethan Billock celebrates after scoring a touchdown during Friday’s win at Bella Vista High School in Fair Oaks.
Photo: Elias Funez

Baker finished the game with six total touchdowns (five passing, one rushing), 284 yards passing and 73 yards rushing. He also caught a pair of two-point conversions and ran another one in.

“The O-Line did amazing,” said Baker. “I know that’s the stereotypical quarterback thing to say, but I had time to go through three, four progressions and step up and throw, and that’s all I can ask of them.”


Cormack, a versatile senior play maker, made his presence known in several different facets.

The speedy back tallied 88 rushing yards on 18 carries, caught four passes for 51 yards and two touchdowns, and accounted for more than 100 yards on kick returns, including a long of 60 yards.

He was also quick to credit his offensive line for the team’s success.

“The linemen definitely had a great day today,” Cormack said. “They blocked, they kept the quarterback safe, and the run game was perfect.”

Leading the Miners up front was seniors Elliot Tinnel, Timber Wilkins, Justin Lopez, Tim Steffenson, Ryder Querequincia, and junior Roland Betito.

Cormack noted that the Miners are still developing in certain areas, and that Friday’s win will only motivate them to continue improving.

“It’s great. It’s motivation for the next games down the road,” he said. “The more we play, the more we learn, the more we’re going to grow as a team.”

Nevada Union’s Cole McCracken moves the ball forward for the Miners during Friday’s matchup against the Bella Vista Broncos.
Photo: Elias Funez


The fourth quarter aside, NU’s defense was impressive. The Miners forced five turnovers overall, nabbing three interceptions and falling on a pair of fumbles.

The Miners allowed just seven points through the first three quarters, but gave up 27 in the final frame.

Miner’s defensive tackle Justin Lopez takes down Broncos running back Elijah Shaw during Friday’s game at Bella Vista High School in Fair Oaks.

Baker led the defensive charge, wrapping up 12 tackles and grabbing two interceptions from his linebacker position.

Also making an impact on defense for NU was Renner, who tallied nine tackles from his defensive end spot, including a sack. Senior linebacker Jedi Vculek notched eight tackles. Defensive back Andrew Webster accounted for five tackles and nabbed an interception to thwart a deep Bella Vista drive. And, Tim Steffenson chipped in with a strip sack and fumble recovery.

Nevada Union’s Andrew Webster squares up with Bella Vista opponent while running the ball during Friday’s 44-34 win over the Broncos.


Nevada Union (1-0) is set to host Sheldon (1-0) at Hooper Stadium next Friday. Sheldon beat River Valley, 49-14, in its opener.

Nevada Union’s Gabe Baker secures an interception during Friday’s win over the Bella Vista Broncos.
Photo: Elias Funez


The junior varsity Miners pounded the JV Broncos en route to a blowout win in the afternoon game Friday.

Nevada Union was led by quarterback Nolan Chappell, who tossed four touchdown passes in the game and ran for another. Grady Kamba hauled in two of Chappell’s touchdown passes. Izaya Little and Alex Ruiz also caught touchdowns in the win.

On the defensive side, Brian Phou picked off a pass and took it back for a touchdown. Zane Smith also grabbed an interception. Jake Barefield led the team in tackles with nine.

The Nevada Union High School cheerleaders were hard at work getting the Miner faithful into Friday’s game against the Broncos.
Photo: Elias Funez



NU: Gabe Baker 30-yard run. Extra point no good. (4:04)


NU: Clay Renner 16-yard pass from Baker. Extra point no good. (6:26)

NU: Ethan Billock 44-yard pass from Baker. Two-point conversion good. (2:59)

BV: Caelan Sallander 63-yard run. Extra point good. (1:48)


NU: Cameron Cormack 32-yard pass from Baker. Two-point conversion good. (3:53)

NU: Cameron Cormack 9-yard pass from Baker. Two-point conversion good.(2:27)


BV: Sallander 32-yard run. Extra point good. (11:27)

BV: Sallander 61-yard run. Extra point no good. (9:43)

NU: Renner 54-yard pass from Baker. Two-point conversion good. (7:41)

BV: Gabriel Carrillo 5-yard run. xtra point no good. (4:03)

BV: Sallander 25-yard catch from Ian James. Two-point conversion good. (:38)

To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, email

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