PREP FOOTBALL: Games to circle on the calendar | TheUnion.com

PREP FOOTBALL: Games to circle on the calendar

The high school football season is just a handful of Fridays away from kicking off and there's plenty to get excited about when it comes to the local teams.

Nevada Union is opening a new era of Miners football as it enters the recently formed Foothill Valley League under first-year head coach Brad Sparks. Bear River is coming off one of its most successful football seasons in school history and the reigning Sac-Joaquin Section Division V champion Bruins will be facing plethora of new opponents in the upcoming season.

With new league dynamics for both teams and fresh non-league opponents as well as plenty of old and budding rivalries to keep an eye on, the 2018 high school football season is shaping up to be an entertaining one.

Here are some Miners and Bruins games to circle on the calendar for the upcoming season:

NEVADA UNION at YUBA CITY – Aug. 17

The Nevada Union Miners open the Sparks Era on the road, facing an old rival in the Yuba City Honkers. The Miners and Honkers first butted heads in 1952, and have had dozens of battles throughout the years, but haven't faced each other since 2005.

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"I am excited about it, they call it week 0, but it's our first game," Sparks said. "I'm excited to go down to Yuba City and play there at Honkers Stadium."

Yuba City is coming off a 6-5 season in which it lost in the first round of the Division III playoffs. The Honkers are one of four non-league opponents on NU's 2018 schedule who did not appear on the Miners 2017 schedule. The others include Spanish Springs (Aug. 24), River City (Sept. 14) and Fairfield (Sept. 21)

BEAR RIVER at SOUTH TAHOE – Aug. 17

The Bruins also open the season on the road, traveling to South Lake Tahoe to face a team they've never faced before.

"We're excited about that one," Bear River co-head coach Scott Savoie said. "That should be a fun one."

The South Tahoe Vikings went 5-5 a season ago, and will be the first of three non-league opponents Bear River will face this season that were not on the Bruins schedule last season. The others include Liberty Ranch (Sept. 7) and Encina Prep (Sept. 14).

NEVADA UNION vs. SPANISH SPRINGS – Aug. 24

The Miners welcome Spanish Springs to Hooper Stadium for their home opener. It will be Sparks' first home game as the head coach of the Miners. It will also be the first home game for the Miners since the tragic passing of team members Tyler Nielson and Justin Gardner. Spanish Springs, out of Sparks, Nevada, is coming off a 6-6 season in which the team reached the second round of the NIAA 4A Northern Region playoffs.

BEAR RIVER vs. EL DORADO – Aug. 24

The defending Sac-Joaquin Section D-V champion Bruins will host El Dorado at J. David Ramsey Stadium in their home opener. The first of just two non-league home games for the Bruins this season. The Bruins traveled to El Dorado last season and topped the Cougars, 34-19. El Dorado is a tough team, which won a share of the Sierra Valley Conference championship and reached the playoffs a season ago.

NEVADA UNION vs. NAPA – Aug. 31

These teams play each other tough, plain and simple. In 2016, the Indians from Napa topped the Miners 35-34 in double overtime on NU's home turf. In 2017, the Miners got some revenge, going to Napa and earning a 14-13 victory over the Indians. Expect this year's bout at Hooper Stadium to be another close one.

BEAR RIVER at PERSHING COUNTY – Aug. 31

The Bruins will take a long trip into the Nevada desert to face the reigning NIAA 2A Nevada State Champion Pershing County Mustangs for their third game of the season. The Bruins topped Pershing County, 31-10, a year ago to hand the Mustangs their only loss last season. Should be a good early test for the Bruins.

"I'm sure they are going to be waiting for us after we got them last year," Savoie said. "We're excited about that one."

BEAR RIVER vs CENTER – Sept. 28

The Bruins open Pioneer Valley League play against longtime foe Center. The Cougars are coming off a 2017 season in which it won seven games and reached the Sac-Joaquin Section D-IV championship game. The Bruins and Cougars seem to always play each other close, splitting the last four matchups (2-2) with neither team winning a game by more than eight points.

"That should be an interesting matchup," Savoie said. "They got a lot of skill kids back and so do we… I imagine that's going to be a tough one. Might as well see them right out of the gate."

NEVADA UNION at PLACER – Sept. 28

The Miners open Foothill Valley League play with a bout against the reigning Sac-Joaquin Section D-IV champion Placer Hillmen. The Miners and Hillmen are now in the same league after duking it out in non-league play the last four years. The Miners are 3-1 in recent games against Placer, including a 43-16 victory at Hooper Stadium last season. That was Placer's only regular season loss as the Hillmen went on to win their next 12 games before losing in the CIF D-4AA State Championship game.

"I think they will have a chip on their shoulder," Sparks said of Placer. "I think they will be coming for us. But, I would never count our kids out. We are not going to back down from anybody."

The Miners will be on the road for this one.

BEAR RIVER at COLFAX – Oct. 19

The Bruins and Falcons rivalry is one of the best in high school football. The fact that these two teams have battled each other in the D-V section title game twice in the last four years has only added to the anticipation for this year's matchup. Since 2014, Colfax and Bear River have faced off six times with the Bruins taking four out of the six, including wins in the 2014 and 2017 D-V section championship games.

"It's been a lot of fun," Savoie said of Bear River's rivalry with Colfax. "They're going to be good again."

The Bruins travel to Colfax this year for what is sure to be another great gridiron battle between the two longtime rivals.

Bear River wraps the regular season the following week with a road game at Marysville.

NEVADA UNION vs. LINCOLN – Oct. 19

Nevada Union and Lincoln have met up in non-league play every season since 2014, with each team winning two and all the games being settled by seven points or less. Two years ago, the Miners topped the Zebras in overtime. Last season, a late Lincoln field goal was the difference in a 23-22 game. The Zebras come to Hooper Stadium as a league opponent this season.

"I imagine that's going to be a game that dictates whether we are playing in November or we're staying home," said Sparks.

The Miners close the regular season the following week at home against Rio Linda.

To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email wford@theunion.com.