Former Nevada Union standouts face off in bowl game |

Former Nevada Union standouts face off in bowl game

Zach Vallejo turns the corner during a 2009 game.
John Hart | The Union

In life one should follow their own path. Sometimes those paths lead us in different directions from those close to us, and sometimes they continue to intertwine with each other.

On Saturday, two former Nevada Union football greats will cross paths once again. This time though, the paths lead to opposite sidelines.

When the Nevada Wolf Pack and the Arizona Wildcats take the field in Albuquerque, N.M., for the Gildan New Mexico Bowl, there will be a Nevada County presence as Zach Vallejo and Dan Pettinato will both represent the Miners for their respective teams.

“I’m really, really proud of both Dan and Zach,” NU coach Dave Humphers said. “They were outstanding players for us, and both have a championship attitude that helped bring home a section championship.”

Pettinato, who plays defensive end for Arizona, played the same position as well as tight end for the 2009 Nevada Union team that went 13-1 and won the Sac-Joaquin Section title.

In that season, Pettinato caught 35 passes for 700 yards and eight touchdowns. On defense, Pettinato was a terror with 94 tackles and six sacks.

Vallejo, who plays linebacker for Nevada, but has redshirted this season, also played an integral part of the 2009 championship team. Vallejo accounted for 106 tackles on defense and added seven touchdowns as a running back.

After graduating in 2010, the two took different paths to their Division-I teams. Pettinato went directly to Arizona where he redshirted his freshman year. Vallejo attended Yuba College where he was a standout linebacker earning him an offer to join the Wolf Pack after his sophomore year.

Pettinato, in his second active year with the Wildcats, played in 10 games and wrapped up 29 tackles.

“I’m excited,” Pettinato said of playing in his first bowl game. “I can’t wait.” Pettinato redshirted in 2010 when Arizona played in the Alamo bowl against Oklahoma State.

“I’ve known Zach forever,” Pettinato said. “I’m really happy we are both doing what we want to do, and I’m excited we both have made it this far.”

Vallejo said, despite not suiting up for the bowl game, that just being part of the whole experience has been amazing, and having Pettinato on the other sideline is icing on the cake.

“It’s real exciting,” Vallejo said. “We’ve been going at it since Pop Warner days and even before that … We talked about how fun it will be to play each other in our senior year’, and how cool it would be to play in a bowl game.”

Arizona and Nevada are set to meet in a non-conference game in 2014.

Humphers said he is not surprised that Vallejo and Pettinato have found their way onto Division I football teams and that he looks forward to watching the game Saturday.

“With a D-I college football player you’re talking about a world-class athlete,” he said. “At that level of competition it’s not enough to be talented. You have to have a great work ethic, love the
weight room and have an incredible passion for the game. I’m not surprised either of them are where they are.”

Even though Vallejo and Pettinato have played side by side on many Nevada Union teams it wasn’t always that way, said Vallejo.

The two used to square off on the basketball court when Vallejo’s Pleasant Valley Vikings would take on Pettinato’s Seven Hills Red Raiders team.

Both Vallejo and Pettinato have younger brothers that have come up through the NU football system and played key roles for the 2012 Miner team. Vallejo’s brother Tanner Vallejo finished his prep football career this past season as the Sierra Foothill League Defensive MVP, and Pettinato’s brother Davi Pettinato played defensive end and offensive tackle as a junior. Tanner Vallejo will join his brother and Dan Pettinato at the Division I level next season when he join the Boise State football program.

No matter what team wins Saturday, Humphers said, both players have his and the communities support.

“They are Miners for life,” he said. “I will love them and be proud of them forever …Their coach and their town are real proud of them both.”

To contact Sports Writer Walter Ford call (530) 477-4232 or email him at

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