‘A gritty group of kids’: Nevada Union seniors excited to get back on the gridiron for possibly the final time
Unpredictable. Stressful. Exotic. Journey.
Those are the words seniors on Nevada Union’s football team used to describe the 2021 season.
Grit is the word head coach Brad Sparks used to describe his seniors.
“Talk about a group of kids that have gone through a ton of adversity,” he said. “They’re close. They stick together. It’s one of the tighter groups of seniors I’ve seen. I think they really do care about each other, love each other and respect each other. Just a gritty group of kids. To go what they’ve gone through this past year and continue to stick it out. We have 10 seniors and they are the backbone of our program.”
Those seniors include Drake Schlachter, Aaron Schafer, Ayrton Swasey, J.T. Conway, Dylan Raley, Devin Sunde, Nickolas McWhinney, Nathaniel Ward, Christopher McFall and Ezra Tout.
“They’re doing a heck of a job and I’m going to truly miss them,” said Sparks.
After the traditional fall season was delayed due to COVID, the Miners (1-1) kicked off a shortened season March 12 with a road win over Bear River followed by a hard fought loss to Placer March 19, but haven’t played since. Their scheduled games against Colfax and Oakmont were canceled due to positive COVID tests, which led to the Miners being quarantined.
“It’s been a long journey,” said Ward, a standout offensive and defensive lineman. “Dealing with COVID and all the restrictions, It’s been kind of hard, but we’ve pushed through it and it’s not going to stop us.”
McFall, a fellow offensive and defensive lineman, said the uncertainty surrounding the season has been difficult, but the love of the game and bond between teammates gives them strength to forge ahead.
“It’s been up and down. Back and forth. We’ve been tugged around here, there and every which way,” said McFall. “Most of us out here are here to have a good time and to have fun. This is what we love to do and we love sharing it with each other.”
It’s been 21 days since their last game, but the Miners are slated to get back at it tonight at NU’s Hooper Stadium against the visiting Fighting Zebras from Lincoln High School.
“I just want to see us come together one last time on Friday night and cherish these final moments on the field,” said Schlachter, who stars for the Miners at receiver and defensive back .
Conway, a fellow receiver and defensive back, added, “I just have love for everybody. I want to see us play together. Win or lose, I just want us to have fun.”
Lincoln comes into the contest with a 3-0 record, including wins over Placer, Ponderosa and Rio Linda.
“I want to see us go all out. Put it all on the line,” said McFall. “Lincoln is a tough team, but I think we can push through and get a win if we all work together and stay strong.”
Despite all the stress and uncertainty that has come with this season, Schlachter said he remains grateful for the opportunity to play.
“I’m glad we at least got to play two games. I’m grateful for that,” he said. “I’m also grateful we stuck together as a team throughout this, because it’s been rough.”
The Miners could possibly schedule a game for April 16, but as of now does not have an opponent for the final Friday of the season. Truckee was originally scheduled to play the Miners to close out the schedule but the governing body in which Truckee plays, the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association, won’t allow any of its member schools to compete in football past April 10.
At the junior varsity level, the Miners will have to wait another week to face off with their Lincoln counterparts. NU’s JV has got on the field just once this season due to a variety of COVID-safety issues, but hopes to get in one more game next Thursday against Lincoln at Hooper Stadium.
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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