Miners hold off Zebras for road win | TheUnion.com

Miners hold off Zebras for road win

Nevada Union's Mo Nieves scores one of his three touchdowns on the night in a game against Lincoln. The Miners won 26-20.
John Hart/jhart@theunion.com | The Union

FINAL: Miners 26, Zebras 20

First quarter

NU: Mo Nieves 4-yard run (7:36) kick good

NU: Travis Owens 97-yard run (4:57) kick good

Second quarter

L: Dane Stimbert 40-yard reception from Elijah Garcia (8:27) kick good

NU: Nieves 14-yard run (7:19) kick no good

NU: Nieves 5-yard run (3:21) 2-point try no good

L: P.J. Manley 22-yard reception from Garcia (:19) kick good

Fourth quarter

L: Manley 2-yard reception from Garcia (3:22) kick no good

A win is a win — even if it’s ugly.

And that’s what the Nevada Union football team got Friday night at Lincoln — an ugly win.

The Miners came out firing on all cylinders in the first half, hitting for big plays through the air and dominating on the ground. But, in the second half they left little to be desired with their play and needed a late defensive stand to eke out a 26-20 victory over the Lincoln Fighting Zebras.

“There is a lot of things you need to experience before you get into the (Sierra Foothill League),” said NU head coach Dennis Houlihan. “One of them is playing in a tight game that could go either way. So good, we got an experience, but we got to clean up our game or we are going to struggle.”

The Miners raced out to an early lead, getting a 4-yard touchdown run from Mo Nieves less than five minutes into the game. The touchdown run was set up by a pretty pass play from Justus Spillner to Drew Daniels on an out-and-up route.

“I feel like the offense was firing on all pistons in the first half,” said Nieves. “But, in the second half Lincoln’s defense started to read us and capitalize on our weaknesses which was our inability to hold on to the football, and used that to make it a close game.”

Later in the first quarter, Lincoln pinned NU to their own 3-yard line with some help from penalties, but Travis Owens dug the Miners out of that hole with a 97-yard touchdown scamper. The speedy back took a pitch in his own end zone, got around the edge, broke a tackle and cut against the grain, leaving all the Zebras in his wake.

Owens led NU on the ground with 218 yards on 13 carries and the one touchdown.

Nieves topped the century mark for the third straight game with 102 yards on 14 carries and three ground scores.

“Our backs are good. Our line is good,” said Houlihan. “They are going to get their yards. We just need to learn to secure the ball. We secure the ball, I think we win by four touchdowns.”

Trailing 14-0, Lincoln answered NU through the air with a 40-yard pass from Elijah Garcia to Dane Stimbert.

Up by seven, Nieves scored his second touchdown of the game on a bruising 14-yard run, breaking multiple tackles along the way and carrying several Zebras over the goal line with him.

Nieves would put NU up 26-7 on a 5-yard touchdown run with a little more than 3 minutes left in the half.

That’s when things started going awry for NU.

Lincoln marched down the field and scored on a 22-yard pass play from Garcia to P.J. Manley with just 19 seconds left In the half. It’s the second time in as many weeks the Miners allowed a touchdown just seconds before the break.

In the second half, the Miners continued to move the ball on the ground, but were unable to punch it in. NU fumbled the ball away three times in the second half, allowing the Zebras a chance to steal the game.

“The running game in the first half and second half chewed up yards,” Houlihan said. “But turnovers stopped us again, it wasn’t them.”

Trailing 26-14 in the fourth quarter, the Zebras scored on fourth and goal from the 2-yard line on a play-action pass from Garcia to Manley to make it 26-20.

The Zebra’s attempted their fourth onside kick of the day, but it rolled out of bounds, giving NU the possession.

The Miners wasted little time giving the ball back to Lincoln as they fumbled the first snap and the Zebras recovered.

With less than 3 minutes on the clock, the Zebras marched inside the 30, but on fourth-and-two the Miners defense stood tall. NU swarmed Tanner Keeler, who was sweeping around the corner and stopped him a yard short of the first down to clinch the victory.

“(Lincoln) had a lot of things go right for them and our defense was tired,” Houlihan said. “We allowed them to stay in it, but our guys made plays when they needed to and I’m proud of them for that.”

NU’s defense was impressive against the run, holding Lincoln’s stud running back Dane Stimbert to just 72 yards on the ground. Stimbert rushed for 1,444 yards last season and was averaging 215 yards per game coming into the contest.

NU senior linebacker Josh Belendez led the team in tackles with 17. Kase Scott and Tim Rubino each wrapped up 10 tackles, and Enzo Arata made seven tackles, including a sack.

“Our defense really stuck it to them and managed to hold them off,” said Nieves. “That’s how we got this win today.”

While NU handled the run well, they struggled against the pass at times. Lincoln’s Garcia went 22-for-30 for 175 yards and three touchdowns.

NU’s pass game was efficient as Spillner went 8-for-11 for 111 yards. Spillner’s favorite target on the night was Daniels, who caught four passes for 64 yards.

The Miners are now 2-1 in non-league action with Pioneer on the horizon before the SFL opens up in two weeks. The loss drops Lincoln to 0-3.

JV: Lincoln 24, Nevada Union 6

The Miners led 6-3 in the third quarter, but a couple quick scores by Lincoln did them in.

The Zebras scored 21 unanswered points in the second half to hand NU its third loss of the season.

The Miners were led on the ground by Forrest Moore with 28 yards rushing, and Nick Whittlesey with 27 yards. Whittlesey also caught NU’s only touchdown, a 9-yard pass from Gary Menary.

Defensively Jordan O’Hara led the team with 14 tackles, including a sack. Cade Cassel also had a sack and wrapped up four tackles.

Frosh: Nevada Union 62, Lincoln 0

The Miners improved to 2-0 Thursday with a wildly lopsided victory over Lincoln.

NU quarterback Owen Dal Bon was an efficient 2-for-2 for two touchdowns and 80 yards.

Owen Day caught one of those passes for a 45-yard score. Hayden Fay caught the other, scoring from 35-yards out. On the ground NU got touchdown runs from Tyler Nielson, Niko Vargas, Justin Houlihan, Cody Jianino, Robert Jeanson and Kyle Felhaber.

Nielson finished the day with 87 yards and two touchdowns. Felhaber was also impressive, eating up 85 yards on two carries, including a 60-yard touchdown run.

To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email wford@theunion.com.

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