Miners rise above Falcons in return to Hooper Stadium (VIDEO/PHOTO GALLERY)
It was a wild one at Hooper Stadium Friday night.
In the first official home game at Nevada Union in nearly two years, the Miners and the Colfax Falcons put on a thrilling show, combining for 98 points and more than a 1,000 yards of offense in a back-and-forth battle that kept the limited crowd at Hooper on the edge of their seats.
The two foothills schools, located just 16 miles apart, traded big plays and the lead for much of the game until the Miners pulled away in the fourth quarter and earned the, 56-42, victory.
“I’m proud of our kids, and I’m even more proud of our community,” said Nevada Union head coach Brad Sparks. “For them to show up and cheer us on and do what they did tonight, and do it within the mandate from the county, I couldn’t be happier.”
Leading the charge for the Miners (2-1) was quarterback Gabe Baker, who threw for 311 yards and five touchdowns. The 6-foot, 3-inch, 240-pound senior also ran the ball 27 times for 248 yards and two touchdowns, including a 1-yard scoring plunge that put the Miners up 48-42 with just over five minutes left in the fourth quarter. He then plowed into the end zone for the two-point conversion to push the lead to 50-42. Baker scored four two-point conversions in the game.
Baker was quick to credit his offensive line for the team’s success.
“It was mainly up front,” Baker said of what made the difference in the game. “I’ve never seen our offensive line block like that before. Timber (Wilkins), I’ve never seen that many pancake (blocks) in a game before. Every play I would look over, and he was laying on top of some poor kid. He did great and so did the rest of the guys on the line.”
The Miners’ push up front was led by Wilkins, Elliot Tinnell, Roland Betito, Ryder Querequincia and Tim Steffenson.
Also benefiting from NU’s strong offensive line play was senior running back Cameron Cormack. The skilled back rushed for 132 yards, including an 11-yard touchdown scamper that put the Miners up 14 points late in the fourth quarter.
“It feels great,” Cormack said of getting the win. “I remember last year when coronavirus hit and it was my first year on varsity, and I remember being totally sad that we didn’t get a home game. But, we did this year, here at Hooper Stadium, at home, we stepped it up and played a hard game. I can’t give more of a thanks to our linemen.”
Before Friday night, the last time the Miners played an official game at home was Oct. 18, 2019, when they knocked off Foothill Valley League foe Ponderosa.
Cormack also shined in the passing game Friday night, catching four balls for 92 yards and three first half touchdowns.
The Miners got big games from junior receivers Drew Menet and Clay Renner as well. Menet hauled in four passes for 112 yards and scored two second half touchdowns (50-yards, 6). Renner tallied five catches for 103 yards, including a 54-yard catch and run in the fourth quarter that set the Miners up inside the five-yard line and led to Baker’s go-ahead touchdown.
“What can I say about Gabe Baker?” said Sparks. “I’m not sure how much he passed for and how much he rushed for, but I’m sure it’s a whole lot of everything. But, there were so many guys who made plays tonight.”
While the Miners were able to pull out the win, the Falcons (1-2) played valiantly all night. Leading Colfax was the talented quarterback-receiver duo of Noah Souza and Luke Green. Souza threw for 300 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions. Green was a force all game, grabbing nine balls for 218 yards and three touchdowns (43, 44, 67). The versatile playmaker also returned a kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown.
Colfax also got strong play from senior running back Connor Vaughan, who caught a touchdown pass and ran in another score.
“That is a great football team who’s going to win games,” Sparks said of Colfax.
Nevada Union’s defense gave up a lot of points, but forced five turnovers and came through when the game was on the line.
Leading the defensive charge was junior defensive back James Kinney, who finished with 13 tackles. Fellow junior defensive back Andrew Webster nabbed a pair of interceptions, including one that thwarted a deep Colfax drive. Sophomore Dustin Philpott also grabbed an interception. Senior linebacker Jedi Vculek wrapped up eight tackles. Baker followed with seven tackles, four of which were for a loss. And, Bodey Eelkema recovered a fumble to help seal the victory.
During the days leading into Friday night’s game at Hooper Stadium there was some uncertainty surrounding where the game would be played. Due to a Aug. 25 Nevada County Public Health Department COVID-19 mandate — which states if a gathering has more than 500 people, there must be a process to verify proof of vaccine or proof of a negative test for those in attendance — the game was moved from Hooper Stadium to Colfax’s Marson Stadium on Wednesday night. By Thursday afternoon, the game was moved back to its regularly scheduled venue at NU’s Hooper Stadium, but with limited attendance.
JV MINERS EDGE FALCONS
Nevada Union’s junior varsity squad also pulled out the win Friday, topping their Colfax counterparts 8-6.
NU quarterback Nolan Chappell threw for 109 yards and one touchdown. Trevor Buti led the ground attack with 47 yards, and also got involved in the passing game with a touchdown catch.
The Falcons had a chance to steal the win late, but a field goal attempt with less than a minute left hit the cross bar.
The victory for the Miners improves them to 2-1 on the season.
Nevada Union gets back on the road this upcoming Friday for a game in El Dorado against Union Mine. The Diamondbacks are off to a hot start this season, going 3-0, including a 42-8 victory over Amador Friday night.
NU: Gabe Baker – 12/32, 311 yards, 5 TDs
C: Noah Souza – 13/25, 300 yards, 4 TDs, 3 INTs
NU: Gabe Baker – 27 carries, 248 yards, 2 TDS
NU: Cameron Cormack – 22 carries, 132 yards, TD
C: Nicholas Sinel – 14 carries, 71 yards
NU: Drew Menet – 4 catches, 111 yards, 2 TDs
NU: Cameron Cormack – 4 catches, 92 yards, 3 TDS
NU: Clay Renner – 5 catches, 103 yards
C: Luke Green – 9 catches, 218 yards, 3 TDs
NU: Cameron Cormack 23-yard pass from Gabe Baker. Kick no good. (5:44)
C: Luke Green 43-yard pass from Noah Souza. Souza kick. (1:16)
NU: Cormack 39-yard pass from Baker. Two-point try no good. (8:10)
C: Connor Vaughan 9-yard pass from Souza. Souza kick. (4:45)
NU: Cormack 29-yard pass from Baker. Two-point try good. (2:14)
C: Green 44-yard pass from Souza. Souza kick. (:46)
NU: Baker 23-yard run. Two-point try no good. (10:33)
C: Green 85-yard kickoff return. Souza kick. (10:18)
NU: Drew Menet 50-yard pass from Baker. Two-point try good. (9:24)
C: Green 67-yard pass from Souza. Kick no good. (8:33)
NU: Menet 6-yard pass from Baker. Two-point try good. (11:10)
C: Vaughan 5-yard run. Two-point try good. (7:18)
NU: Baker 1-yard run. Two-point try good. (5:14)
NU: Cormack 11-yard run. Two-point try no good. (3:59)
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, email firstname.lastname@example.org
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