PREP FOOTBALL: Miners win OT thriller in Napa
MINERS 20, GRIZZLIES 14 – OT
NU: Jaxon Horne 4-yard run (Moises Tovar kick) 2:57
N: Christoph Horton 33-yard pass from Hunter St. Clair (Erik Vargas kick) 5:40
NU: Horne 19-yard run (Tovar kick) 10:44
N: Brock Bowers 90-yard pass from St. Clair (Vargas kick) 10:23
NU: Horne 6-yard run (no kick) 0:00
NAPA — It took all four quarters and then some, but the Miners got it done.
Behind a stellar defensive showing and a Herculean effort by Jaxon Horne, the Miners beat the Napa Grizzlies in overtime, 20-14, for their first win of the season.
“When they say ‘Miner Magic,’ that’s what that was,” Nevada Union head coach Brad Sparks said to his team after Friday night’s victory. “That was a group of men who refused to give up. You refused to give up on each other.”
There was no quit in the Miners, who never trailed but were never able to put the game away — until overtime.
After battling to a 14-14 tie through regulation at Napa’s Memorial Stadium, the two non-league combatants went to overtime.
The Grizzlies started on offense, but went nowhere as NU’s senior linebacker Duke Morales made two tackles at the line of scrimmage. Then, on third down, Napa dropped back to pass and as NU’s pass rush began to close in, the ball slipped out of the quarterback’s hands and defensive tackle Landon Low fell on it for the Miners.
NU took over on the 25-yard line needing only a field goal to win, but the kicker never got the chance. After three run plays got the Miners down to the 6 yard line, Horne finished the job with a barreling run into the end zone to send NU home with the win.
“I was thinking ‘score, right now.’” said Horne, who scored all three of NU’s touchdowns on the night. “I trust my offensive lineman, I knew we were going to score … It was 110% and everyone contributed. I’m just speechless at how much work we did tonight. Just speechless.”
Horne did a little bit of everything Friday night. The junior running back toted the ball 27 times for 225 yards, caught three passes for 45 yards, completed a pass for 21 yards, had a 26-yard punt return which set up his second touchdown, and on defense had a sack and an interception.
“The game is not too big for him,” Sparks said of Horne. “He’s a dude. He’s one of those guys who wants his hands on the ball in that moment. And, those kids are special.”
On a night when NU’s passing game struggled to get going, it was the ground game that kept the chains moving. In addition to Horne’s big night, Tino Sanchez-Lane tallied 33 rush yards on nine carries, and A.J. Meyer chipped in with 29 yards on four carries.
The Miners’ defense was strong all night, and refused to bend when the game was on the line.
“I told the kids they got to find a way. Winners find a way,” said NU defensive coordinator Jim Rubiales. “The defense played well, but Duke (Morales) really stepped it up. He’s the veteran. He was all-league last year, he led our team in tackles last year, he led the league in tackles last year, and he just has a nose for the football.”
Morales finished the night with a team-high 12 tackles.
Also making plays on defense was senior defensive end Matt Dal Bon, who tallied a sack and hounded Napa’s quarterback all game. Fellow defensive end Nathaniel Ward was also a force in the pass rush and notched a pair of sacks. Sophomore linebacker Gabe Baker wrapped up eight tackles. Jon Patterson came up with a fumble recovery. And, Meyer made six tackles and snagged an interception to halt a Napa drive.
“We needed A.J. to have a game like that tonight,” said Sparks. “He is a dynamic player who is a super high competitor.”
NU grabbed its first lead of the night when Horne darted into the end zone from 4 yards out in the first quarter.
The score stayed at 7-0 until the third quarter when Napa’s Hunter St. Clair hit Cristoph Horton on a slant route that went for a 33-yard score.
NU responded in the fourth quarter with an impressive 19-yard run by Horne in which he ran through several tackle attempts and spun out of another before charging in for the score.
The Grizzlies clawed right back on their next possession, hitting on a 90-yard touchdown pass from St. Clair to Brock Bowers.
The Miners had opportunities in the red zone late in the fourth quarter, but failed to capitalize on a pair of deep drives, which sent the game to overtime.
The victory is NU’s third straight over Napa. It was also the second time NU and Napa settled things in overtime. In 2016, it was Napa coming out the victor, 35-34, in double overtime.
“Feels great,” Horne said of getting the win. “But, we got a long road ahead of us and need to win more games.”
The Miners (1-1) have next Friday off with a bye. Their next game will be Sept. 14 at Harbor High School in Santa Cruz.
“Our kids performed through adversity and represented our school the way I know they can,” said Sparks. “To come out on top is a blessing. I love it, I love it.”
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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