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Miners run past Mustangs, again

ELK GROVE – Connor Keith and his Nevada Union teammates had heard the talk, but they knew better.

Had last season’s Sac-Joaquin Section, Division I championship game at University of the Pacific not turned into a torrential downpour, Monterey Trail might have very well beaten the Miners for the 2009 crown.

Or so the naysayers said.



On Friday night, on the Mustangs’ home field, Keith and the Miners had the last word.

Nevada Union emerged from a back-and-forth battle with Monterey Trail for a 31-21 win in the rematch.




“We knew they were going to be pretty tough,” said Keith, a junior fullback who rushed for 102 yards and two touchdowns. “We heard the whole hype how if it hadn’t rained last year, they could have beaten us. But we just did what we do.”

The Miners (2-1) made their living on the ground, grinding out 260 rushing yards against the Mustangs. Senior halfback Devyn Grimes also surpassed the century mark with 108 yards, including a 34-yard touchdown that gave Nevada Union a 10-7 halftime lead.

It was the second-straight week Nevada Union’s ground game came through, after pounding Ponderosa for big chunks of yardage – led by Keith’s 126 yards and three touchdowns – in a 41-20 win on the road.

“Our offensive was good even in the first week (in a 12-7 loss to McQueen of Reno),” Keith said. “But they’ve really picked it up and our coaches had them going. They’re the strength of our offense. Our backs only have to follow them.”

Monterey Trail (1-2) took a 14-10 lead early in the third quarter, after an NU fumble set the Mustangs up for business at the Miner 35 -yard line. Two snaps later, quarterback Mike Calvan scored on a 26-yard keeper.

Calvan caused all kinds of trouble for the Miners early, scoring on an 80-yard run in the first half and totaling 135 yards on the ground to go with his 65 yards through the air.

NU answered with the first of Keith’s two TD runs for a 17-14 lead after Gabe Humphers had returned a punt 53 yards to Monterey Trail’s 8-yard line. Humphers also had a 43-yard punt return on the previous possession.

But back came the Mustangs, scoring on a seven-yard Derek Bellamy run for a 21-17 lead with 2:40 remaining in the third quarter.

“Our guys wanted to win real bad,” NU coach Dave Humphers said. “You could tell with the way the lead changed back and forth in the second half.

“I think we actually played better as the game went on. It was great to see a young team play well and not panic in the clutch.”

That was clearly the case on NU’s next possession, as the Miners marched 88 yards in 12 plays, thanks largely to Keith’s 44 yards on six totes and quarterback Josiah Paye’s 13 rushing yards and 12-yard pass to Grimes on the drive.

Once Keith spilled into the end zone from three yards out, the Miners took the lead for good at 24-21 with 9:50 remaining in the game.

After forcing a final Mustangs punt four minutes later, the Miners ran out the clock before Paye broke free for an 11-yard touchdown run to cap the night with a 31-21 score, after Josh Cena’s fourth PAT kick.

The Miners return home next week to host the Chico Panthers at Hooper Stadium.

It was over when …

Nevada Union picked up a first down on Conner Keith’s three-yard run on fourth-and-inches with just more than two minutes remaining. The Mustangs, who had burned through their three timeouts, could do nothing to stop the clock – nor the Miners, as it turned out, as quarterback Josiah Paye broke free four plays later for an 11-yard score to close out the game at 31-21.

Game ball

Keith racked up 102 yards on the ground, eclipsing the century mark for the second-straight week. But the standout on this night was senior Devyn Grimes, whose big-play ability helped break the game open for the Miners. Grimes rushed for 108 yards on seven carries, including two second-quarter runs that covered 73 yards. Grimes also caught three passes for 34 yards on the night.

Key stat

The Mustangs ran wild in the first half, racking up 145 yards on the ground. But Nevada Union’s defensive adjustments worked well, as Monterey Trail managed just 40 more yards on the ground after the halftime break.

Noteworthy

Josh Cena, who starred on defense with two interceptions in last week’s win over Ponderosa, put seven points on the scoreboard via his left foot. Cena split the uprights to open the night’s scoring with a 38-yard field goal in the second quarter and then went 4-for-4 on PAT kicks … Tyler Houlihan came up with a key interception late in the first half as Monterey Trail’s Drake Tofi attempted a halfback pass to Michael Worthen. Houlihan stayed with Worthen deep into the end zone, leapt into the air and brought the ball down to end a Mustang threat deep in NU territory … Gabe Humphers totaled 96 yards on consecutive punt returns to provide the Miners with a spark early in the third quarter … Though they didn’t play error-free ball, NU did tighten the ship in terms of penalties. The Miners were called for six penalties, but the mistakes totaled only 40 yards.

NU (2-1) 0 10 7 14 – 31

MT (1-2) 0 7 14 0 – 21

Second quarter

NU – Josh Cena 38 field goal, 6:19.

MT – Mike Calvan 80 run (Juan Albarran kick), 6:07.

NU – Devyn Grimes 24 run (Cena kick), 2:14.

Third quarter

MT – Calvan 26 run (Albarran kick), 10:30.

NU – Conner Keith 8 run (Cena kick), 5:33.

MT – Derek Bellamy 7 run (Albarran kick, 2:40.

Fourth quarter

NU – Keith 3 run (Cena kick), 9:50.

NU – Josiah Paye 11 run (Cena kick), :36.

Kyle Cota threw for 136 yards and three touchdowns, as NU’s junior varsity dominated Monterey Trail Friday night.

Cota hit sophomore classmate Ian Davis for two of his touchdown passes and then found MIguel Espinosa for the third score.

Michael Buonarati had three carries for 67 yards and two touchdowns, while Stone Sander rushed seven times for 36 yards and a touchdown.

Cameron Townsend, JImmy Klauer and Bobby Curtis each had eight tackles for the Miners. Espinosa had five solo tackles for NU.

Nevada Union’s defense limited Monterey Trail to a mere 46 total yards of offense.

“Our kids really played well,” said NU coach Chris Cota. “Defensively, they only had four first downs and two of those were by penalty. Other than that, that’s all our defense gave up.

“Overall, we played well and executed real well. It was a good game for us.”

NU’s junior varsity improved to 2-1 with the win.

NU’s Brandon Lopez opened the game with a 65 yard run and went in from two yards out on the next play to make the score 6-0.

NU stuffed Lincoln and on their second possession and scored again, when Jason Murray pounded it in from four yards out. Jack Freele hit Nick Hastert for the two-point conversion to make the score 14-0 in the first quarter. 

Lincoln came back with a long drive to make the score 14-6 at the half. NU held Lincoln at the goal line to end the half.

Lopez carried the ball 12 times in the first half for 179 yards, but was unable to play in the second half due to a neck injury. 

NU played tough through the third and the fourth quarter started with NU up 14-12. But with 6:03 left in the fourth the score was 33-14.  A fumbled kickoff and a punt return doomed the frosh. 

Murray led the defense with eight solo tackles, followed by Taylor Hart and Dylan McClure with six each. 

Contact Sports Editor Brian Hamilton via e-mail at bhamilton@theunion.com or by phone at 477-4240.


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