For NU’s football team, tonight’s game is … Win or go home
All that’s left between Nevada Union’s football team and its eighth-straight playoff berth is Valley, a team that has yet to win in the Delta Valley Conference.
The Vikings started the season 3-0, but their shot at the postseason vanished after losing five in a row. In its four DVC contests, Valley has lost by a combined score of 141-42.
Nevada Union (6-3 overall, 2-2 DVC) needs only to beat Valley at 7:30 tonight at Cosumnes River College in Sacramento to move on to the playoffs, which begin Nov. 17. The top three teams from the league advance.
If Franklin (8-1 overall, 4-0 DVC) beats Elk Grove (8-1 overall, 3-1 DVC), and Laguna Creek (6-3 overall, 2-2 DVC) beats Davis (4-5 overall, 1-3 DVC) on Friday, Elk Grove, NU and Laguna Creek will finish in a three-way tie for second place behind Franklin.
Because the Miners beat Laguna Creek, Laguna Creek beat Elk Grove and Elk Grove beat Nevada Union, the factor deciding which team finishes second, third and fourth is the point differential by which each team beat each other.
The largest total of points awarded or lost is 13. If a team wins or loses by a greater margin, it still only gains or loses 13 points.
Nevada Union beat Laguna Creek 42-28 (+13) and lost 30-15 (-13) to Elk Grove for a total of zero. Elk Grove’s total is three, and Laguna Creek’s is negative three.
The only way NU wouldn’t make the playoffs is by losing tonight.
“In this way, the teams on the field decide it,” said Miners head coach Dave Humphers, who is familiar with finishing in a tie. In 1996, after finishing 9-1 and earning the league championship, a coin flip left the Miners out of the playoffs.
While a coin flip won’t be deciding NU’s fate this season, Humphers hopes the cause of his team’s three losses won’t reappear tonight to take its toll on the Miners’ future.
In the losses to Del Oro, Franklin (Elk Grove) and Elk Grove, NU gave up nine turnovers and forced two.
“In every phase of the game, we need to take care of the ball,” Humphers said. “Championship teams win turnover battles.”
Humphers has led the Miners to three Sac-Joaquin Section Division I championships, including last season’s 46-7 win against Merrill West.
NU didn’t have trouble putting up big numbers, even in its losses. In the 48-30 home loss Oct. 13 to Franklin, Nevada Union senior quarterback Chad Mason threw for a season-high 240 yards along with two touchdowns.
Mason gave the Miners and their fans a scare in Friday’s 27-21 win at Davis. Early in the game, Mason was taken to the hospital with a suspected broken left leg. He returned in the second half, though, after the X-rays came up negative.
Mason finished the game, albeit in pain, and was walking with crutches earlier this week. Humphers said his leg is severely bruised, but still expects Mason to be under center tonight.
“He’s going to go,” Humphers said. “It’s just a matter of how he does with the pain.”
Mason has totaled 929 yards this season, with seven touchdowns and two interceptions.
Senior running back Jesse Ettlin has 826 yards rushing and nine touchdowns. Dave Zealear and Corey Browning, Ettlin’s teammates in the backfield, have combined for 1,227 yards and 11 touchdowns. Zealear has 750 yards and seven touchdowns, and Browning has 477 yards and four scores.
Valley quarterback Joe Pollard has thrown for 515 yards, five touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
The Vikings’ leading running back, Andre Miller, has 656 yards on the season with eight touchdowns.
Humphers didn’t see many problems posed by the shortened week of preparation.
“It cuts out one of our heavier practice days,” Humphers said. “But by this time of year we’re not working on new things. This time if year, it’s a matter of sharpening parts of the game we really need to work on.
“We’ll be fine. We’ll be ready.”
To contact Sports Writer Jeff Miller, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 477-4247.
Rushing – Nevada Union, Jesse Ettlin 113-826 and 9 TDs, Dave Zealear 122-750 and 7 TDs, Corey Browning 73-477 and 4 TDs. Valley, Andre Miller 80-656 and 8 TDs, Deonte’ Williams 84-484 and 2 TDs, Derrick Stephens 25-140 and 1 TD.
Passing – Nevada Union, Chad Mason 66-117-2 for 929 yards and 7 TDs, Steele Jantz 0-1-0, Matt Anderson 0-2-1. Valley, Joe Pollard 50-109-10 for 515 yards and 5 TDs, Deonte’ Williams 1-1-0 for 14 yards, Nick Ritts 0-1-0.
Receiving – Nevada Union, Doug Dolan 17-278 and 3 TDs, Colin Casey 14-187 and 1 TD, Dave Zealear 10-136 and 1 TD. Valley, Josh Dillard 13-187 and 2 TDs, Derrick Stephens 10-98, Ricky Roberts 7-105 and 2 TDs.
Tackles – Nevada Union, Brian Milhous 77 (38 solo), Tucker Colomb 67 (35 solo), Steele Jantz 45 (25 solo). Valley, Vincent Reynaga 74 (40 solo), Jalen Hamilton-Haywood 56 (30 solo), Makeem Smith 49 (32 solo).
Sacks – Nevada Union, Brian Stockton 12, Dave Zealear 4, Zach Masch 3. Valley, Terrance Stewart 2, Marlon Jones 2, Thomas Mafuahingano 1.
Interceptions – Nevada Union, Matt Anderson 4, Kemp Stanford 1, Brian Milhous 1, Tucker Colomb 1. Valley, Ricky Roberts 1, Trevor McFall 1, Makeem Smith 1.
Directions – Take I-80 West to Sacramento. Take the Capitol City Freeway south and exit at Cosumnes River College Blvd and go right. Take your first left (Bruceville Rd.) and the stadium will be on your right.
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EL DORADO — Nevada Union’s up and down season continued Friday night as the Miners struggled mightily in a 41-7 loss to the Union Mine Diamondbacks.