Football: NU freshmen crush Rocklin, earn share of SFL title |

Football: NU freshmen crush Rocklin, earn share of SFL title

Nevada Union freshmen football coach Brad Sparks talks with his team during a timeout against Lincoln earlier this season. The NU freshmen team finished 9-1 this season and won a share of the Sierra Foothill League title.
Submitted by TiffanyMarin Graves |

The Nevada Union freshmen football team crushed Rocklin, 47-14, Thursday earning their fifth Sierra Foothill League victory of the season and a share of the league title.

The Miners finished the season 9-1 overall and 5-1 in the SFL. Both Oak Ridge and Folsom also finished with 5-1 league records to share the title with NU.

“The biggest thing about this group is how close they are,” said NU head coach Brad Sparks. “They are really close, they are all good buddies. Good buddies that like to hit each other. They are a very physical group.”

The secret to the Miners success this season was depth, said Sparks.

With a bevy of backs to hand the ball to and a solid line opening gaping holes, the Miners put up big numbers all season.

Carrying much of the load out of the backfield for NU was Tyler Nielson, Niko Vargas and Kyle Felhaber.

Also making big impacts on offense were quarterback Owen Dal Bon, wide receiver/kick returner Hayden Fay and tight end/punt returner Owen Day.

Creating space for those specialty players to excel was an impressive effort in the trenches, said Sparks.

“Our O-line is the group of kids that made the difference,” said Sparks. “We have great backs, but we had the best line in every game. We have five backup (linemen) that could start on any other team in the league. Having them as a scout team was really beneficial.”

On the other side of the ball, defensive lineman Drew Heaps led the charge, said Sparks.

“There wasn’t a single team that could block him,” he said. “He is an amazing talent and does stuff you can’t coach. He’s very balanced, fast and strong.”

Justin Houlihan was also a defensive standout on the freshmen team before being pulled up to varsity three weeks ago.

One of the things Sparks said he takes most pride in is that his team of 40 only lost one player to poor grades, something he attributes to the players work ethic off the field and a study hall before practice.

“They are a unique group in their work ethic and their belief in NU football, and their belief in the program,” said Sparks. “We talked all year about being the pioneer of bringing back NU football to its winning ways.”

Sparks, in his first year as the freshmen head coach and third with the program, said he asked to be the freshmen coach this year because he wants to be on the ground floor of rebuilding NU football.

“I wanted to coach this lower level,” Sparks said. “I went to Dennis (Houlihan) and told him I wanted to be his Gary Sharpe. I want to help build this program. I want seventh and eighth graders drooling to be an NU Miner.”

To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email

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