Adams: As numbers dwindle, so do wins
In the SFL
Nevada Union football
Joined SFL in 2010
League record since joining SFL: 5-17
Best league season: 3-2 (2011)
Best finish: 3rd (2011)
League titles: 0
Current SFL losing streak: 11
SFL record under Houlihan: 0-9
No one said it would be easy. In fact most, even in their most reflective moments of solitude, knew it would be a daunting task.
The Sierra Foothill League, ranked among the best in California, is presenting another incredibly challenging season. The majority of the teams are in the top-20 in the section. Some are ranked within the top-10 in the state.
The dilemma of competing in the SFL certainly poses the most difficult task with which Nevada Union must contend.
In spite of this, head coach Dennis Houlihan described his squad as “Positive. Upbeat. They are no different than the first week. They know we are in a tough league. They give everything they have each week and in each practice.”
Walking through the weight room in the hollows of the Nevada Union gymnasium, this is apparent. This is not a team that gets down. Although they are stretched, there is no give-up in the players. They are, indeed, looking forward to the last two contests of the season.
“We lightened up the pre-season a little,” commented Houlihan. “We prepared ourselves for the SFL. We knew that it would be tougher than usual. We have been able to compete for quarters or halves, but the teams have much larger squads.”
This is the rub. Nevada Union has about 1,700 students. The CIF believes the number is closer to 2,200 when you add in some other district schools. However, as the competition boasts a larger number of players, they also only go one way. That is, instead of playing both offense and defense as is the case with the Miners, they specialize in one side of the ball. It tells in the second half. This is when opposition players are still fresh and Nevada Union is starting to tire.
So it goes. Quarters and halves in which it is competitive and then it all begins to slip away. It can happen in a matter of moments.
Houlihan offers, “The safety of our kids is at issue. In the third and fourth quarters they are fresh and we are tired. This is when we suffer most of our injuries. We are not the NU of 10 years ago. The numbers are down. The make-up has changed.”
Perhaps there is some relief in sight. Nevada Union is putting together a presentation that they hope will allow them to move to a different league other that the Sierra Foothill League. Roseville High School has already taken that route. The Miners would like to be next.
The reasons are very simple. As Houlihan mentioned, safety is a major issue. The other is competition. There is little room for the Miners in the SFL. They have emerged as a team where the likes of Folsom, Granite Bay, and Oakridge have a much easier time.
Since their inclusion in the SFL, Nevada Union has struggled. Wins have been few. As the student numbers have dwindled, so have the results.
There is a new man at the helm of the CIF. So, there is hope for the Miners. There may be some room for negotiation.
Athletic Director Jeff Dellis is preparing for a presentation. This might be the exit that would allow Nevada Union to compete in a more appropriate manner.
Houlihan explained, “I want to go against a team with the same problems and challenges. If we were in another league, we would probably win it. We must convince them that we are not 2,200 students. We are 1,700. The CIF does not look at the success rate. They look at numbers. Our numbers are down.”
If the Miners cannot leave the SFL for a more competitive league, they will have to wait for readjustment in 2018. The league landscape will most likely not radically change. The leaders with larger squads and players who do not play on both offense and defense will continue to dominate. Nevada Union would have two more seasons in the Sierra Foothill League if not allowed to readjust earlier.
Safety and competition are the two big issues. For the Miners, it may be the dawn of a new era. Perhaps throwback days to the old Metro League. Yet, it would level the playing field and limit the injuries.
Some excellent athletes will be returning next season. There is a lot in the balance. The coming months may offer some positive winds of change. On the other hand, it may be two more seasons of Sierra Foothill League ball. As we approach the end of this campaign, it promises to be an interesting offseason.
Jim Adams is a regular contributor to The Union and a broadcaster for TouchDown Productions.
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