In the huddle: 3 senior Miners reflect on football, life lessons
This is nothing new for Ernie Flores. He has been a fixture of the Nevada Union turf wars for many years now. He has seen sectional championships and league conquests. He has also tasted the bitterness of disappointment and defeat.
Seniors are special to Flores. His thoughts run the gamut. He ponders the moments of “lasts.” The last time to wear a Nevada Union jersey, the last time to play a game at Hooper Stadium, the last time to carry or receive a ball.
So it is that the likes of Devyn Grimes, Jake Tilly, and Brock Kraus are much, much more than players in their last year of Miners competition. These seniors remind him of the squad of 2005, the one that was seeded low and over-achieved, the one that took down all the top-rated teams in playoff road games, the one that came up just short of beating St. Mary’s for the sectional title.
“That team did not want to hand their gear in,” Flores says. “They played with a sense of desperation. These guys play out of what our minds think.”
Grimes, Tilly and Kraus are competitors. They lay it out on the field each week. As different as they might be, they truly share one thing in common. They are a part of a family known as Nevada Union football. They pride themselves on positive individual contributions, but focus on the real prize- team accomplishment. It is all about the win. It is the focus on playoffs. It is the desire to accomplish the admirable, especially in their senior years.
For the record, it is Devyn Grimes that leads the team in yardage with 684. He is averaging close to 100 yards per game. His six touchdowns are complemented by 9.37 yards per carry.
Jake Tilly is not far behind. He averages 7.19 yards each time he touches the ball. He has 26 carries for 187 yards. He missed all of one game and part of another with injury.
Brock Kraus is the pass receiver. His 17 receptions have resulted in 260 yards and three touchdowns. He is the “go to” guy … the one who attracts double coverage.
However, there is much more to this trio than offense, touchdowns, and wins. They are the definition of team, three men on a mission, willing to do whatever it takes to represent Miner football, postseason play, and a team reputation for greatness.
Tilly reflects, “We were senior heavy last year. A lot of the juniors are really learning. You look at Josiah Paye, Alec Sarner, and Connor Keith. They are team leaders.” He continued, “Let’s face it, I am not the fastest or most athletic on this team, but I love the initial punch and the execution of the details. I have to do the extras. I am not as talented as Devyn.”
However, it was Grimes who spoke to Tilly’s pinpoint blocking. “His blocks are huge. He is a maniac,” he said. “A lot of my touchdowns have been scored because of Jake.”
Grimes is a team leader. He speaks of execution, inspiration, and perfection. As he reflected on last week’s game at Del Oro, he unselfishly pointed out, “We didn’t execute. We didn’t do what we did in practice.”
Yet, in examining the big picture, he said, “We have come together as a family. We have grown and learned a lot from each game. This is not all about winning. The lessons we learn carry us to adulthood … as fathers. These coaches have instilled life’s lessons. We have grown.”
After two sub-par weeks to start the season, Grimes credits Fox Jantz with helping him turn it around. “Fox took me in as another son. He told me to believe in my talents. Week 3 it clicked against Chico. I thought about Fox and it just happened.”
Brock Kraus runs the offense via the air. “This is my 10th season and I have a new position as wide receiver. We haven’t won as much as I like. These next three games are huge. We take each team one at a time and find a way to get in the playoffs. We need to put a full game together.”
He continued, “I can’t imagine the last time to walk out on the field. The memories of the teammates who have played next to me. We cannot let this stop.”
For the moment, it is Roseville on the road. All three agree it is a must-win game. Their goal is to minimize mistakes. There is a sense that the next three games will define this campaign. If they can wiggle into the playoffs, anything can happen. They just want to make it to the dance. From there comes the real opportunity.
Is this team beginning to peak? Can the offense steady the ship and win the battles at the line and on the scoreboard? Tilly, Grimes, and Kraus agree that there is a lot of football yet to play. With tonight’s mammoth confrontation, the postseason hopes of the Miners hang in the balance.
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