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Five reasons to remember … Nevada Union Miners

Nevada Union's Emma Peterson and Del Oro's Brianna Ruiz.
John Hart | The Union

Humphers steps away from Miners football team

Originally published May 2, 2013

Though first coined when his predecessor roamed the sidelines, it was over the 22-year head-coaching career of Dave Humphers that the phrase “Miner Magic” became synonymous with Nevada Union High School.



On Thursday, that football career came to an end when Humphers announced he was hanging up his whistle and ever-present fishing hat.

“It really is kind of unprecedented in a way, around here, with the tenure he’s had,” said Nevada Union Principal Mike Blake. “He’s been such a figure with not just Nevada Union football but Nevada Union in general.”




Humphers leaves the helm as Nevada Union’s leader in all-time victories with 195 wins, along with 10 league titles and four Sac-Joaquin Section Division I championships.

His resignation marks an end to the most successful run in school history, as Nevada Union football had not won a single section banner prior to Humphers taking over the program.

“Simply put, I’m ready for change. My family’s ready,” Humphers said Thursday. “I’ve been wrestling with this for awhile. I just think it feels like the right time for a change.”

In all, Humphers had coached high school football for 38 consecutive seasons, beginning with a nine-year stint as an assistant under Randy Blankenship at his high school alma mater Mira Loma, where he first learned the wing-T offense that powered Nevada Union past so many opponents. He followed Blankenship to Nevada Union, where he spent seven seasons as an assistant prior to taking the reins of the program in 1991.

Over the final three seasons of his career, Humphers had the opportunity to coach his sons, Gabe and Hank. He said he now looks forward to watching the boys play college football Saturdays, as well as having more time to catch his daughter, Sophie, in action on the basketball court and in dance performances.

“I’m looking forward to seeing my kids in the next phase of their lives,” he said. “Of course, Sophie will be here, and the boys will be away. I just don’t want to miss it. I’ve missed a lot of things, and I don’t want to miss it.

“The sacrifices our family made, with a huge amount of appreciation to my wife (Doreen), it was a lot,” Humphers continued. “But we also made the choice to raise our kids on the fields. There were those years where little Gabe and little Hank were out there climbing on the blocking dummies, while our team was out there practicing. … We kind of built our life around Nevada Union High School and being part of the school culture.”

Humphers said he plans to continue to be a part of that culture as a physical education teacher.

“I’ve got about a thousand favorite memories,” he said. “A lot of those are snapshots of moments, after a great play and a kid is feeling good about himself; a thank-you after a game for trusting a player by giving him the ball on a play, or an email from a kid who’s gone on to college and appreciated something that had happened years before.

“I’ve got lots and lots of those memories that made this such a rewarding career.”

Some of those memories were made during a 45-game home win streak that stretched between both the sideline stints of Blankenship and Humphers at Nevada Union.

It was during that time that teacher Chris Owens was credited for coining the phrase “Miner Magic.”

“There were a couple of times we should have lost at home, but we’d either block a field goal or it would barely miss wide right or we’d come up with a miracle play,” Blankenship told The Union in 2004. “And Chris started that phrase ‘Miner Magic.’”

The words are now often chanted throughout Nevada Union sporting events but most often under the lights Friday nights at Hooper Stadium.

“I told him (Thursday) morning, ‘Dave, you are Miner Magic,’” Blake said. “He’s really the guy who made that meaningful. That’s who he is … and not just in terms of his success and wins but in his influence on young men’s lives.

“He leaves quite a legacy at Nevada Union, and we are so very appreciative of his contributions.”

And Humphers shared his appreciation for the school and community he has served in the letter of resignation he released Thursday.

“I am the most fortunate man on Earth for the family I have raised and love,” he wrote. “ It is time to focus more on family, to watch my sons play college football, to watch dance performances and girls’ basketball and to support my wife in her dreams and goals the way she has supported mine for the last 23 years.

“She has given the best years of her life to me, to raising our family and to supporting my passion for NU football.”

— Brian Hamilton

New team on top

Originally published February 8, 2013

In front of a packed Albert Ali Gymnasium, Nevada Union did something that no other girls basketball team has done in the last seven years — dethrone Del Oro.

The Lady Miners clinched the 2013 Sierra Foothill League title Thursday night, beating the seven-time reigning champ, 70-67.

“It feels amazing,” NU head coach John McDaniel said. “To win the first SFL title since we’ve come into the league, it’s just so much fun. We knew it was going to be a great game. We didn’t know how it would end up. We knew it was going to be huge and I’m just happy it ended this way.”

The road to the title wasn’t easy as the game came down to the final seconds.

Del Oro, which trailed by as many as 13 in the first half, snagged its first lead of the game with 5 minutes and 20 seconds left in the fourth quarter.

Nevada Union (20-4, 8-1 SFL) responded with a Nicole Lierly bucket followed by a Sydney Porter take to the hoop.

Kaylin Martin then hit a pair of free throws and sank a 3-pointer off an Erin Selleck assist to put NU up 66-58.

Lierly led all Lady Miners with 20 points, Porter added 17 points and Martin closed the night 11 points, six of which came in the final quarter.

Del Oro (16-10, 5-3 SFL) wasn’t about to roll over as it responded with a pair of Stephanie Geyer baskets and a Brianna Ruiz jumper to pull within three at 66-63.

Geyer was a force in the post all night, finishing with 20 points and nine rebounds. Ruiz, coming off a knee injury and playing in her first league game of the season, scored 19 points, including five 3-pointers.

With just 1:13 left in the game, NU turned the ball over and Geyer put in a low post bucket to creep within one point at 66-65.

NU failed to score on their next possesion and Del Oro got to the free throw line on theirs. But a pair of free throws clanked off the rim and sophomore Sammy DeHart pulled down the rebound with just 19.3 seconds left on the clock. The sophomore post player was immediate fouled, but was cold as ice, sinking a pair of free throws to put the Lady Miners up three at 68-65.

With 7.9 left on the clock, Del Oro got the ball into Ruiz’s hands. The Lady Miner defense was swarming, but Ruiz got off a 3-point shot and was fouled. The shot missed, but Ruiz went to the line with a chance to tie.

The first free throw missed much to the delight of the home crowd, but last season’s SFL MVP sank the next two to pull within one at 68-67.

NU got the ball into Lierly who was fouled from behind, drawing a intentional foul call from the referee, which gave NU two shots and the ball. Lierly sank 1-of-2. The Lady Miners next inbound went to senior point guard, Martin who ran a few seconds off the clock before getting fouled. Martin sank the first to put NU up 70-67. The next free throw caromed off the rim and into the hands of a Lady Golden Eagle. Del Oro took a half court heave to try and tie it a the buzzer but the shot fell just a bit short and the Lady Miners and Lady Miner fans stormed the court in celebration.

“We’ve been dreaming about this since we were in fourth grade,” Martin said. “It’s a big win and we’re ready to go far in the playoffs.”

The Lady Miners got key contributions from Emma Peterson with 14 points, including three 3-pointers, and post players Sarina Orellana, DeHart and Melanie O’Brien, who were tasked with guarding the much bigger Geyer.

“Its definitely a tough matchup,” DeHart said. They’re very very physical, they’re big, but we worked really hard and it made a big difference.”

When the game was over McDaniel said with a smile that he was proud of his team for persevering and that he was especially proud of his seniors.

“We had our seniors in there most the time,” he said. “They’re steady, they don’t lose their heads. We wanted our seniors on the floor, they’ve been here before, they’ve been a league title game and they came out on the wrong end.

McDaniel said it was team effort and this win will be one that the whole team can cherish.

“Im just going to say congratulations,” McDaniel said of what his locker room speech will be. “You girls have worked for this and you deserve it, and you know what this is special and I hope you remember it.”

The Lady Miners have one SFL game left, coming on Tuesday at home against Roseville.

— Walter Ford

Lujan wins section diving title

Originally published May 7, 2013

The NU diving team had its most successful season in recent years, setting three school records, going undefeated in the dual meet season in both boys and girls events and qualifying two boys and one girl for All-American review.

Mikaela Lujan is only a sophomore, but she has gone as far as any diver in California can go in high school competition, winning the Sac-Joaquin Section Championships. And she did it in style.

She needed 8.5s on her last dive, a forward 2 1/2 somersault to win, and she did it, beating the senior that just two years ago, when Mikaela was a beginning diver, represented the model of perfection.

Two years ago, Lujan used videos of 2012 section champion Amy Crayne to fine-tune her hurdle and board work. Then she got the 2011 section champion Shelbie Holden to teach her a new style of hurdle that allows for more height. This year Lujan outdid them both in dive height and in dive difficulty, outscoring them both in total points first in the section trials and then again in the finals.

Lujan beat the divers from the central section at the Clovis invitational and beat everyone in the Sac-Joaquin Section by winning Saturday.

She was undefeated in official meets this year. Unfortunately, California is one of the few states that does not offer a state championship, but as a club diver, Lujan will go to Western Regions and compete in 1-meter, 3-meter and 10-meter competition and hopefully qualify for the National Championships for the 16-18 age group this summer.

In the boys section competition, Austin Foote, a junior, placed eighth with another All-American qualifying score. Jorden Gotro from Oak Ridge High School set a new Sac-Joaquin Section record in the boys competition with 612 points.

Josh Hartman, a freshman at NU, placed eighth in the junior varsity boys competition. This is Hartman’s first year, and his finish indicates a bright future.

Adam Seifert, captain of the team and a senior at NU qualified at the section trials but was unable to attend finals. Seifert will be attending USC next year, seeking a degree in biomedical engineering.

Lujan, Foote, Jenny Jones and Hartman will all be returning next year representing the core of a strong NU team.

—The Union Staff

Miners fall to Grizzlies in section championship

Originally published May 17, 2013

ELK GROVE — For the fourth time in five years, Granite Bay will hoist the Sac-Joaquin Section boys volleyball championship banner. The Grizzlies defeated Nevada Union in four sets, 25-17, 25-21, 22-25, 25-23, Thursday night at Monterey Trail High School to solidify their volleyball dynasty.

It was the second time in two years that the Grizzlies have dashed the Miners’ section championship hopes, beating them last season in the semifinals. Thursday’s victory was also the second time Granite Bay has won a title match when facing NU, having beat them in five sets in the 2009 section championship.

“There’s still that monkey on our back,” NU head coach Marco Salcedo said. “We are both elite volleyball programs, so it’s a rivalry that has been going on since we started volleyball, and every game, we have with them has been an ultra-match.”

The Grizzlies opened Thursday’s ultra-match hitting on all cylinders. Granite Bay broke a 9-9 tie with Nevada Union by going on a 10-0 run behind kills from John Hayes and Brandon Freitas as well as several aces from Vaughn Peterson.

Trailing 19-9, NU scrambled to recover with kills from Austin Marks and Greg Paul, but NU would eventually yield Game 1, 25-17.

In Game 2, Granite Bay continued to ride the momentum, jumping out to a 10-5 lead. NU would respond with kills from Paul, Bobby Curtis and Lucas Vojak to pull within two at 17-15.

Curtis finished the night with a team-high 11 kills, Vojak added nine kills, and Paul had four.

Some strong defensive play from Marks and Paul along with some Granite Bay errors saw the game knot at 20.

Marks played strong all night, tallying 10 kills, and was a major force at the net, blocking several Grizzly kill attempts.

NU would take the lead at 21-20 on the heels of a Trevor Bryant block, but that would be it for the Miners, as Granite Bay reeled off five straight points coming on three NU errors and a pair of kills from Granite Bay’s Hayes and Austin Downs.

“I kept trying to get the boys to settle down,” Salcedo said. “I could see they were scared and nervous. It’s just one of those things. We settle them down, and we got the score closer, then in Game, 3 it was like, ‘Guys, we already improved from game one. Let’s do this,’ and they did. They bought into it and made a lot of plays. We were rolling in that last game, and a couple calls here or there, and it might be different, but in reality, that’s volleyball.”

In Game 3, the Miners looked like the Sierra Foothill League champs and the No. 1 seed they are. NU grabbed a 5-1 edge with an emphatic kill from Vojak set up nicely by Evan Kittle. Kittle closed the night with an impressive 32 assists.

Granite Bay would rally and tie the game at 10, to which NU responded with a 10-6 run behind kills from Marks and Bryant as well as a block by Curtis.

NU pulled ahead 23-22 and closed the game with a kill from Curtis followed by a kill from Bryant.

The fourth and final game was neck and neck as neither team could grab an advantage of more than three. Back and forth the two volleyball juggernauts went until the set was locked at 23-23. Granite Bay would pull ahead with a kill by Zach Wilson and then an NU error ended the game, and Granite Bay celebrated their latest section championship.

“We had so much confidence all season, and then we come in here, and there’s all that pressure to be that first team to (beat Granite Bay), and you have to remember these are just young kids,” Salcedo said. “This builds character, and I hate to say it, but the losses sometimes last longer than the wins.”

The Miners handled themselves with class at the end accepting their runner up patches and shaking hands with the Grizzly players.

But that doesn’t mean the loss doesn’t sting, said Salcedo.

“For me, this one will last every bit as long as the last one,” he said. “I really thought tonight, the way the tables were turning, this could be the biggest payback of all paybacks to come back in five.”

Thursday’s loss does not mark the end of NU’s season though, as for the first time in CIF history, there will be a NorCal volleyball tournament.

“Most of the time we would be done,” Salcedo said. “But tomorrow we got practice. This season is done, and tomorrow we got whole other road in front of us.”

The Miners will indeed likely be on the road Tuesday in the first round of the CIF NorCal Tournament.

— Walter Ford

NU demolishes Grant in revival of classic rivalry

Originally published September 1, 2012

SACRAMENTO — In the much anticipated revival of the Nevada Union vs. Grant rivalry, the Miners rolled past the Pacers with ease.

Behind the hot hand of quarterback Kyle Cota and an opportunistic defense, the Miners overwhelmed the Pacers Friday night at William Rutherford Memorial Stadium, topping them 37-7.

“Kyle Cota had a great game, and so did Ian Davis,” NU head coach Dave Humphers said. “Austin Marks made some key catches and so did my son Hank. The ball really got spread around in the pass game, and that will really make us tough to defend.”

Cota showed he was a quarterback to be respected in the section with four first-half touchdowns on 8-of -14 passing for 176 yards. Cota got going early, finding his top target Davis on the Miners second offensive play. Cota hit the lanky receiver in stride after Davis beat his defender deep for a 58-yard touchdown.

“With Kyle Cota and our line stepping up big time tonight, I hope we can keep this up,” said Davis. “We knew Grant was going to be a big game for us, we knew it was going to be a hostile environment, we knew their cornerbacks were going to be fast, and I was just trying to get open.”

Davis finished with five catches 113 yards and two touchdowns, all coming in the first half. The Cota-to-Davis connection has amassed 278 yards and three touchdowns in the first two weeks of the season.

Two drives later, Cota had the Miner offense knocking on the door again, this time hitting tight end Marks on a crossing route for a 10-yard score.

Up 13-0 in the second quarter, the Miners forced Grant into its third turnover of the half when Hank Humphers sacked Isaiah Rios and, in the process, forced a fumble that he recovered. Hank Humphers finished with seven tackles, a sack, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.

The Miners forced three first-half turnovers, including a fumble recovery by Cameron Townsend and an interception by Gareth Noxon. Nevada Union forced five total on the night without turning one over itself.

After Hank Humphers’ sack and fumble recovery, the Miners drove the short field, scoring on an 8-yard touchdown strike from Cota to Davis.

Nevada Union took any wind the Pacers may have had left in their sails when, with just over a minute left in the half, Cota found Hank Humphers over the middle. Hank Humphers made a couple defenders miss and was off for a 38-yard score, giving the Miners a 27-0 halftime lead.

“This week we wanted to get started quick,” middle linebacker and senior captain Tanner Vallejo said. “Turnovers definitely helped. We were saying the whole time that we wanted to come out and pop them. So we just had to come through with our word, and that’s what we did.”

NU’s Jake Berger opened the second half with a 62-yard kickoff return that eventually led to a Braaten Sill 38-yard field goal. Berger returned two kicks for a total of 99 yards.

Grant scratched back with a 40-yard touchdown scamper by Marquise Carter, but didn’t sniff the end zone after that.

The Miners’ Nate Dickinson put the game away in the fourth with a 2-yard touchdown plunge to put NU up 37-7.

Dickinson finished the game with 27 yards and the Miners’ lone rushing touchdown. The Miners ate up 155 yards on the ground as a team and 176 through the air. Hank Humphers led all NU rushers with 48 yards.

The Miner defense was especially stout in the first half, allowing fewer than 100 total yards. Making major contributions on the defensive side were Marks with eight tackles, Vallejo with 10 tackles and a fumble recovery and Miguel Espinosa with four tackles, a sack and a fumble recovery. Jared Cook added a forced fumble as well.

With the win, the Miners are 2-0 heading into Friday’s road matchup with Pleasant Grove.

“We’ll take tonight, but we know Pleasant Grove is a good team,” Vallejo said. “We know they will be a better team, so we need to prepare ourselves and go at it hard next week.”

— Walter Ford


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