PREP FOOTBALL: Miners using summer months to bond and build | TheUnion.com

PREP FOOTBALL: Miners using summer months to bond and build

Nevada Union quarterback Parker Heilaman dropped back and zinged a pass into the end zone where receiver A.J. Meyer had slipped behind the defense and made a sliding catch for a touchdown.

Meyer bounced up in jubilation and the rest of the Miners charged toward him in celebration.

It's plain to see the Miners are putting in the necessary work this summer and having fun doing it.

Heilaman and Meyer were just a couple of Miners that put in impressive showings during a 7-on-7 non-contact matchup against River Valley Wednesday afternoon at Hooper Stadium.

"I had goosebumps seeing the way our guys performed. It was unbelievable," said first year Nevada Union varsity head coach Brad Sparks, who was just as animated and celebratory as any of his players during the 7-on-7 matchup. "Those kids have really worked their tails off and the excuses have faded away quickly. We coached hard, kids practiced hard and we saw the product of that (Wednesday) night."

The Miners continually made stellar plays throughout the matchup and each one was followed by an outburst of excitement.

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"Changing the culture when you've been losing the past five years is difficult and the only way you do that is by creating excitement and literally celebrating all your success, and having a short memory when it comes to your failures," said Sparks. "I want these guys to move forward. We're not going to dwell on the past. It's important to us to celebrate even the smallest successes, by any of our players, and that's how you change that culture."

The offseason matchup was the second of two 7-on-7 bouts with River Valley, a team coached by former NU player Brennan McFadden and former NU coach Dave Humphers.

"(Humphers) and I are very close," said Sparks. "He's a great mentor and great friend of mine… And, Brennan McFadden, what a great young man. Just a top class individual. I love the relationship our kids and our program has with theirs. It was fun having them out there."

The Miners will now turn their attention to a football camp they are hosting at Nevada Union. The Miners will welcome the team from Pleasant Grove for a couple days of team building and bonding exercises.

"There is some football, but it's more about team bonding than it is about football," Sparks said.

The camp will run today through Saturday and include football related drills and competitions in addition to other team-bonding activities such as dodgeball, a trip to the pool for a belly flop competition and an evening showing of "The Waterboy".

After the camp, the football team will get a week off of practice, but will participate in the annual Fourth of July Parade.

"We want to let people know we love our country and we love our community," said Sparks.

In late July, the Miners will also take a field trip to Beale Air Force Base.

The Miners will focus on weight lifting and conditioning during much of July due to a football "dead period" that runs from July 2 through July 22. Nevada Union's first official day of football practice will be July 23. The team's annual Blue and Gold Scrimmage and Meet the Miners event will be held Aug. 3. NU will then have a scrimmage against Bear River the following week and the first game of the season is set for Aug. 17 at Yuba City.

Sparks said he likes what he's seen from his team so far, but knows they have a lot to accomplish before the regular season kicks off.

"Right now we're pretty excited about what we have," he said. "We still have a long way to go, but we saw Wednesday a glimpse of what we can be."

Sparks added he's enjoying his new gig.

"It's truly an honor to be the head coach at Nevada Union," he said. "I couldn't be more happy with the administration, with (principal) Kelly Rhoden and (athletic director) Jeff Dellis. They are doing everything they can to help me and help the program be successful."

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