Unlike the win that was awarded to them earlier in the week, Nevada Union’s Miners earned a victory the old fashioned way Friday night by gutting out a 21-20 comeback over Laguna Creek in Delta Valley Conference play.
Heading into half-time, the Miners had little going their way and faced a 20-7 deficit with 24 minutes to play. But back Nevada Union came, powered by a front line that led a pair of backs to a big second half and a suddenly stingy defense that kept the visiting Cardinals in check.
Senior fullback Corey Browning rushed for 130 yards and a touchdown, while junior halfback Cameron Ryan ran for 112 yards and two scores, as the Miners battled their way back into the win column.
“We got our team back tonight,” declared NU coach Dave Humphers, whose Miners had lost five straight on the field entering Friday night’s action. Earlier in the week Nevada Union was awarded another victory, when the Sac-Joaquin Section announced that Franklin of Stockton would forfeit its 45-21 victory over the Miners due to recruiting violations.
All of the sudden, Nevada Union – which began the week with a 1-5 record – is 3-4 on the season and, more importantly, 1-1 in the DVC.
Ryan’s second touchdown of the night – his 47-yard run down the left sideline gave NU a 7-6 lead in the first quarter – came from 14 yards away on the final play of the third quarter. Ryan took the handoff and sprinted toward the right sideline, where he turned the corner untouched for a 20-14 score.
“We just kept battling,” Humphers said. “This is huge.”
“Huge” also described the hole Browning found on the right side of the line with just under 10 minutes remaining in the game.
On second-and-five from the NU 48-yard line, Browning took the ball and bounced out to his right before cutting back inside and into the open for a 52-yard touchdown. The third of Kyle Bielen’s three point-after kicks split the uprights to put Nevada Union in command at 21-20 with 9:05 to go in the game.
“I really don’t know what was going through my mind,” Browning said of the game-breaking play. “I just know I went in there and got the points. The offensive line did a great job and we just hoped the defense would step up to stop them. And they did.”
Not just once, but three times.
Immediately after the go-ahead score, NU sent Laguna Creek’s offense off the field after three-plays and a punt. The key stop in the series came on third-and-four at the Laguna Creek 35-yard line, where Nevada Union senior linebacker Tucker Colomb threw Cardinals quarterback Wyatt Jiru for a five-yard loss.
After Nevada Union punted the ball away on its next possession, though, the Cardinals were back in business with four minutes remaining.
On fourth-and-four at Cardinals’ 36-yard line, NU appeared to have stopped Laguna Creek short of a first down, but a blocking-below-the-waist penalty on Nevada Union’s defense gave the Cardinals another life.
On fourth-and-six from the Nevada Union 44, Jiru dropped back and threw a bomb in the direction of his junior tight end, Zach Kouba.
But before Kouba could get his hands on the ball, NU senior defensive back Kemp Stanford swooped in and batted the ball away to end the threat.
“I knew it was fourth down, so I didn’t want to catch it,” Stanford said. “But didn’t want to let anything happen either so I just knocked it down.
“This is a big win. This can turn things around. We’ve just got to keep it going.”
To contact Sports Editor Brian Hamilton, e-mail email@example.com or call 477-4240.
Nevada Union 21, Laguna Creek 20
LC (3-4) 6 14 0 0 – 20
NU (3-4) 7 0 7 7 – 21
LC – Wyatt Jiru 1 run (Run failed), 6:14.
NU – Cameron Ryan 47 run (Kyle Bielen kick), 5:53.
LC – K.J. Daniels 47 pass from Jiru (Run failed), 6:25.
LC – Keenan Williams 1 run (Williams run), :17.
NU – Ryan 14 run (Bielen kick), :00.
NU – Corey Browning 52 run (Bielen kick), 9:05.
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