Miners face familiar foe in Elk Grove
The Elk Grove Thundering Herd has long been a staple on the Nevada Union football schedule. Whether the Miners and the Herd have squared off as league rivals or nonconference foes, the two teams have typically put forth big-time battles between the two Sacramento-area perennial powerhouse programs.
NU coach Dave Humphers doesn’t expect that to be any different tonight, when his Miners head to the south side for his team’s final tune-up before kicking off its first season of play in the Sierra Foothill League on Oct. 8 against Granite Bay.
Both teams enter with a 3-1 record.
“We’ve played them in league and we’ve played them in nonleague games for years,” Humphers said. “We’ve like to play them because we feel like our communities our so similar in their passion for high school football.
“As usual, they’re very talented. And they’re coming off a really big game against Sheldon (a 20-14 Elk Grove win). So we know we’re playing a real good team.”
Nevada Union is also squaring off against one of their own in Elk Grove coach Chris Nixon, who played for the Miners under his father, Marshall, who led the team to the school’s first league championship in 1978.
“Chris Nixon is an outstanding coach,” Humphers said. “He’s been on their coaching staff for quite awhile now, as an assistant back when they had a couple of great teams in the late ’90s (featuring seven Division I players, including Chicago Bears linebacker Lance Briggs). So, he’s now been a big part of that program.”
Elk Grove’s lone setback this season came in its opener, as the Herd fell to Ponderosa 14-7. One week later, the Miners beat the same Ponderosa team 41-20. But since opening the season on a sour note, the Herd has reeled off three straight wins against Valley (13-6), Vintage (28-21) and Sheldon (20-14).
Sophomore Robert Frazier leads the Elk Grove ground game with 322 rushing yards. Junior Deon Ransom has rushed for 226 yards and senior Chris Edwards has totaled 147. The Herd’s passing attack has been nowhere near as prolific, totaling a mere 107 yards through four games.
Defensively, junior Josh Letuligasenoa leads the team with 25 tackles, while Edwards owns 18 stops and Ransom another 11.
Nevada Union, which rallied back from a 23-20 deficit to Chico at halftime last Friday to pull out a 50-26 homecoming win, has also rolled off three straight victories since losing its season opener to McQueen (12-7).
The Miners ground game has been led by junior fullback Connor Keith, who has churned out 408 yards. And in recent weeks, senior halfback Devyn Grimes has given Humphers and company a speedy second option with 345 rushing yards.
NU quarterback Josiah Paye has thrown for 408 yards, including 151 to Grimes and another 130 to senior Brock Kraus.
Sophomore Tanner Vallejo has been the top tackler, racking up 58 stops for the Miners. Senior Boddi Winegar and junior Gabe Humphers have added 34 and 31 tackles, respectively, to the cause of the NU defense.
Among the points of progress that NU’s coaching staff would like to see is more concern for the ball. Three first-half turnovers helped to dig the Miners in a hole last week.
“I also want to see continued improvement with our defense and tackling, and being more consistent with key reads,” Coach Humphers said. “I want to see defensive execution, being in the right spot and tackling properly. Offensively, I think with three turnovers last week, we’ve got to do a really good job of taking care of the ball.
“(Throughout the nonleague schedule) we’ve had a good game every week and we’ve improved every week. It’s been an exciting nonleague schedule. We’ve matched up with a lot of strong programs every week.”
Contact Sports Editor Brian Hamilton via e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 477-4240.
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