‘You can’t put a price on it’: Miners, Bruins kickoff football season with spirited bout | TheUnion.com

‘You can’t put a price on it’: Miners, Bruins kickoff football season with spirited bout

High school football made its 2021 debut in the foothills Friday night at Bear River’s J. David Ramsey Stadium.

Nevada Union’s Gabe Baker (15) fires a pass for the Miners during their 20-9 win over the Bear River Bruins Friday night at J. David Ramsey Stadium. It was the first high school football game for both schools since November 2019.

After much anticipation, and a few complications, high school football made its 2021 debut in the foothills Friday night with the Nevada Union Miners and Bear River Bruins battling it out at J. David Ramsey Stadium.

“I think it was great for the community that (Bear River and Nevada Union) were one of the first official games since the pandemic,” said Bear River co-head coach Terry Logue. “It speaks for the whole of Nevada County. … Everybody was a winner tonight. That’s a cliché, but in this situation it just is. To be out here and experience what we experienced, what the kids experienced, you can’t put a price on it.”

It was the first game for both teams in 16 months and while the play was a bit sloppy early on, the Miners and Bruins represented their schools well on the field and gave the socially distanced crowd plenty to cheer about. In the end, it was Nevada Union taking home the victory, 20-9, in the first ever meeting between the Nevada County schools.

A pair of Bear River defenders ready to take down Nevada Union’s Ayrton Swasey (11).

It took 35 years and extraordinary circumstances for the two schools to meet on the gridiron, but once the final seconds ticked off the scoreboard, both coaching staffs beamed with pride.

“I’m just awful proud of you,” Nevada Union head coach Brad Sparks told his team. “The hard work you put in. The months of conditioning and lifting, running offense, running defense, then getting shutdown and coming back again. To get to come out here and do this. It feels pretty good, doesn’t it?”

Nevada Union head coach Brad Sparks talks to his team after Friday night’s win over the Bruins.

It was a game a long time in the making, and it took place in a season that almost didn’t happen. That’s why it meant so much to all the players, said Nevada Union’s Gabe Baker.

“It’s everything,” he said after the game, “because nothing is guaranteed right now. Nothing is guaranteed ever, but more so right now. We knew this is the only thing that was guaranteed. … This was important.”

The junior varsity teams from NU and Bear River found out first hand just how fragile the return of high school football can be. The JV game, which was scheduled to play directly ahead of the varsity game, was canceled on Wednesday after the Nevada Union JV team had a positive COVID test. Football coaches and players are tested the week leading up to games, and one positive test causes the entire team to be quarantined and the game canceled.

Another issue that arose ahead of Friday night’s contest was online tickets were over sold, so much so that county health officials stepped in. In the end, those who bought tickets online were refunded their money, and only immediate household members of those participating in the game were allowed in the stands.

Bear River ball carrier Justin McKim (21) is brought down by Nevada Union’s Drake Schlachter (10) on the Bear River sideline.


Through all the ups, downs and uncertainty along the way, a varsity game was played and it was an entertaining one.

The game was tied 6-6 through three quarters, before the Miners pulled away down the stretch.

It was Baker who put NU ahead for good in the fourth quarter. With the Miners trailing 9-6, the 6-foot, 2-inch, 230-pound quarterback took the ball up the middle, busted through a handful of Bruins and bolted 63-yards for a touchdown.

“I’m gassed now, I was gassed then. But, I knew we needed something,” he said. “It was really the O-line opening up a hole and getting me to the second level.”

Baker finished with a team-high 112 rushing yards on 11 carries to go with 57 passing yards. Baker was also a standout on defense from his linebacker position.

Nevada Union’s Drake Schlachter showed his versatility throughout the game. The speedy senior tallied 52 yards receiving, threw a touchdown pass and made a clutch interception in the end zone to halt a deep Bear River drive late in the first half.

The Miners also got a strong showing from junior running back Cameron Cormack, who darted through the defense for 42 yards, including a 1-yard touchdown scamper in the first quarter.

Leading the Bear River offensive attack was junior fullback Ryder Kiggins, who bulldozed his way to a game-high 128 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries. The Bruins also got solid games out of the backfield from Jacob Ayestaran and Anders Torgerson.

Defensively, the Miners forced three turnovers. In addition to Schlachter’s pick, senior linebacker Devin Sunde recovered a first half fumble, and safety J.T. Conway nabbed an interception on the game’s final play.

Bear River’s Tyler Dzioba (52) fires a pass during Friday night’s matchup against the Nevada Union Miners. Dzioba was one of three Bruins to play quarterback for the team.

Outside a few big plays by NU, the Bruins were stingy on defense for much of the game. Led by senior linebacker Tyler Dzioba, Bear River forced the Miners to turn the ball over on downs on three occasions.

“That was all heart in my opinion,” Bear River co-head coach Scott Savoie said of his team’s effort. “Year in and year out we have guys that do a lot of things. This year, this is the smallest crew we’ve ever had (19 players). We’re so proud of them. They are truly the survivors. There were a lot of kids that weren’t able to handle the ups and downs.”



NU: Cameron Cormack 1-yard run (1:19). Extra point blocked.


BR: Ryder Kiggins 1-yard run (6:41). Extra point missed.


BR: Anders Torgerson 34-yard field goal (11:48)

NU: Gabe Baker 63-yard run (11:30). Two-point conversion good.

NU: Aaron Schafer 4-yard pass from Drake Schlachter (7:58). Extra point no good


Coming up for the Bruins (0-1) is an away game against the Foresthill Wildfires (0-1), at 7 p.m. Friday. The Wildfires lost their opener, 28-6, to West Park, of Roseville.

The Miners (1-0) are also on the road this week, facing the rival Hillmen at Placer High School. Placer (0-1) dropped its opener, 54-41, to the Lincoln Fighting Zebras.

To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, email wford@theunion.com.

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