Get back on the train |

Get back on the train

Nevada Union's Travis Owens breaks a tackle during a game against Pleasant Grove, Sept. 5. Owens is a captain for NU and a major contributer on both sides of the ball.
John Hart/ | The Union

Know & go

What: Nevada Union at Lincoln

When: 7:15 p.m. tonight

Where: Lincoln High School, 790 J St, Lincoln

Nevada Union (1-1)

Mascot: Miners

Last Week: Lost to Pleasant Grove, 49-21

Points per game: 31

Passing yards per game: 141.5

Rushing yards per game: 311.5

Points per game allowed: 34.5

Players to watch

RB Mo Nieves – 329 rush yards, 2 TDs, 9.4 avg. per carry

RB Travis Owens – 282 rush yards, TD

WR Drew Daniels – 9 rec, 187 yards, 3 TDs

LB Josh Belendez – 35 tackles, 5 sacks

Lincoln (0-2)

Mascot: Fighting Zebras

Last Week: Lost to El Dorado, 36-19

Points per game: 21

Passing yards per game: 161.5

Rushing yards per game: 241

Points per game allowed: 34.5

Points per game allowed: 35

Players to watch

RB Dane Stimbert – 431 rush yards, 2 TDs, 11.6 avg. per carry

QB Elijah Garcia – 26-54, 323 yards, 4 TDs, 5 Int

WR Isaiah Garcia – 11 rec, 151 yards

DE Darius Bunger – 2.5 sacks

For the first time, Travis Owens leaned forward as if to make an emphatic point.

It was the topic he disliked the most. Last season … such a tough time, a challenge that continues to haunt. A 0-10 season that never seemed like it would end. It was a humbling experience. However, perhaps more devastating, it was highly painful. It hurt. It was as if no one would ever let him forget.

He commented, “Last season was last season. You sometimes learn more when you lose games. It was a hard year. This year’s seniors learned a lot from the experience. We were losing and just could not get going. It was difficult, but we grew. Our seniors are a part of our transition this season.”

It was an experience that he respects, but desires to leave behind. He wanted it as far in the rearview mirror as possible. Travis spoke of students that approached him prior to the Placer game, asking him if they would win any games this year. As a Christian man, he was able to put it in a different perspective. It was part of life’s path. He didn’t know why these obstacles occurred. He wanted to leave last year’s campaign in the distant past. There were other parts that truly provided an educational experience. He knew that last year prepared the team and him for today.

Travis Owens has a strong pedigree. He played for the Junior Bruins and Junior Miners. His tilts were laden with success. Like today, he ran the ball and was a returner on special teams.

Head Coach Dennis Houlihan once shared with him, “You remind me of when I was little. You run like I ran. You have a great gift from God.”

So far, Houlihan sounds like a prophet. Owens has had two impressive contests. Perhaps his 90 yard kick return for a touchdown against Pleasant Grove is the highlight thus far. His yardage has been impressive and his overall contributions are noteworthy. Owens is seen as a team leader, and one of the players who will do whatever it takes to accomplish the goals of this season.

Owens is also full of optimism. When he speaks of the team’s approach to the games ahead, he speaks of subjects like success, execution, and wins. He even feels like this is one of his most positive learning experiences. He mentions community, and the need to perform. He wants Nevada Union back on the map, especially in Nevada County.

“We’re all together from my junior varsity year,” He commented, “This season is going well. We also have a group of hard-working juniors. We have great heart and desire. We have 36 players, but we also have the football IQ to believe we can beat any team.”

He also believes they will compete well in the Sierra Foothill League. It presents a rough schedule against the likes of Del Oro, Granite Bay, Rocklin and newcomers Oak Ridge and Folsom. It does not concern him that these are perennial powerhouses. Although he notes that they will have to bring their “A” game each week, he sees a squad that is growing and maturing each week.

He speaks of wins and competing well.

A focus, perhaps concern, stemming from last season is community.

“We feel people last year jumped off the train. However, I think we got their attention after our first two games,” Owens said. “This week’s game again Lincoln is pivotal.”

Yes, the early part of the season has indicated great hope. In the Placer game, the Miners caught the Sac Joaquin Section by surprise. In the 41-20 victory, they began to prove a point that this squad can succeed.

“We were ready,” Owens reflected. “There was great concentration. We left it all on the field. There wasn’t any doubt in our minds that we would win.”

Perhaps this is the reason for this year’s team mantra; faith. Nevada Union has taken a new approach. He honestly confessed that he ran scared last season.

As is true in many aspects of this performance in 2014, he was quick to add that he has shed his fears. He even confesses that with each run he approaches it like it may be his last. Thus, a strong focus has emerged from Owens and his comrades.

Perhaps, Pleasant Grove was a different story in many respects.

“I believe that Pleasant Grove scoring with :04 on the clock in the first half changed the game. We needed to go into halftime with the 7 point lead. Yet, we let them tie us in the final minute. After the two turnovers to start the second half, things just did not click. Losing to Pleasant Grove showed us that we need to be more focused.”

Then there is the philosophical side to Owens.

“A game is a series of peaks and valleys,” he remarked. “You need to ride the peaks as long as you can, and get out of the valleys quickly. Many of my teammates are playing for their families this year. This is not unusual. I think it is common. Football is not just a sport. It really is a family and community thing.”

This week’s opponent, Lincoln High, is viewed as an opportunity.

“We will not be phased by the adversity. We will go into Lincoln with more confidence. We won’t be overconfident, but we need to take it more serious. We never want to go through that Pleasant Grove experience again.”

Owens may just be a microcosm of Nevada Union’s team. Yes, the lessons have been painful, even highly adverse. Yet, there is a side of all of this that prepared this team for 2014. There will be more victories along the way. This squad has some great talent and character. They spent too long in that valley of life and desire to remain on the peak a lot longer. Don’t be surprised if there are some upsets along the way. Week one proved that. If the element of surprise is an asset, this squad may very well capitalize on that.

With all the talk of community, isn’t time we all get back on the train of which Owens spoke?

If Travis has any say, this will be an entertaining and fruitful season.

Jim Adams is a regular contributor to The Union. Contact him at

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