Miners trample Herd | TheUnion.com

Miners trample Herd

By Brian Hamilton

Sports Editor

ELK GROVE – Considering the question marks that surrounded Nevada Union’s young team when it kicked off the 2010 season, Dave Humphers and his coaching staff has to be pleased with the growth they’ve seen through the first five weeks of the campaign.

And, of course, that 4-1 record looks pretty darn good, too.

Nevada Union dominated Elk Grove in convincing fashion Friday night, rolling through the Thundering Herd for a 28-0 win in the final nonleague game of the season for the Miners’ fourth-straight victory.

“For our team to be so young, with only three returning starters, and half of the kids we start out there are juniors with one sophomore … I’m just thrilled,” Humphers said. “We’ve got to be happy to be 4-1 and continuing to improve.”

NU’s offensive line blew Elk Grove off the ball to the tune of 428 rushing yards, led by juniors Connor Keith and Gabe Humphers, who racked up 111 and 101 yards, respectively. Junior quarterback Josiah Paye added 83 yards on the ground, while senior Devyn Grimes churned out 66 more.

The Miners got things going their direction on the opening kickoff, a squib kick by Josh Cena that hit an Elk Grove player and was recovered by NU sophomore Tanner Vallejo. The Miners wasted no time taking advantage of the turnover, marching 49 yards in six plays for a 7-0 score. Keith ran it in for a four-yard touchdown with 9:40 to go in the first quarter, the first of his three touchdowns on the night. Paye had the big play in the drive, a 27-yard scamper that criss-crossed through the Herd secondary to set up the score from the four.

“We call that ‘Dodgeball,'” Humphers said of the opening kick. “Josh nailed him, we got the ball and drove right down the field. To start with the ball on the 50 like that on the opening possession was huge.

“Josh keeps coming up big for us. He’s a good defensive back who can play any position on the field. He went 4-for-4 again on PATs and on that (opening) kick, that’s something he works hard at to be accurate with.”

Elk Grove (3-2) picked up one first down before booting the first of seven punts on the night. The Herd had trouble moving the ball against a suddenly stingy Miner “D.” Elk Grove managed merely two first downs in the first half, finishing the first 24 minutes of action with 17 total yards.

In addition to the three-plays-and-punt theme of the night, NU’s defense also forced a pair of turnovers, both of which ended up in the hands of junior defensive back Brandon Loper, who recovered a fumble and also came up with a fourth-quarter interception.

“We shut ’em out,” Loper said after the win. “We’ve been working on defense, trying to get better and trying to improve each week. We hadn’t done this yet (pitch a shutout), so this is a good confidence builder.”

Elk Grove finished with 75 yards on the ground and another 67 through the air. Elk Grove gained 83 of its total offensive yards on the final drive of the game, marching from its own 16 to the NU 1-yard line, where the Miners stopped Josh Letuligasenoa on a 9-yard pass play on fourth-and-goal to preserve the shutout.

“Our defense was outstanding,” Humphers said. “Brad DalBon and the entire defensive staff – Coach Geno, Coach Smith, Coach Houlihan and Coach VanMatre – they’ve all done a tremendous job.

“And Adrian Harding, who had that (quarterback) sack, was so quick on the defensive line tonight, I thought he was lining up in their backfield before the snap.”

With next week’s bye, the Miners have an extra week to get ready for its Sierra Foothill League opener on Oct. 8, when the Granite Bay Grizzlies come to Grass Valley.

Nevada Union’s JV team was just as dominant on the defensive side of the ball as the varsity squad, pitching a shutout and holding the Herd to 103 yards of total offense to move to 4-1 on the season.

“We were looking at their running game on film and were really concerned about stopping them,” said NU coach Kyle Cota. “But we really shut down the run. Our defense basically won the game for us.

“Both our offensive and defensive lines stepped up for us to win the game.”

Cota tipped his cap to the play of Cameron Townsend up front.

Quarterback Kyle Cota threw for 126 yards, including a 65-yard touchdown to Jared Cook. Stone Sander led the rushing attack with 69 yards and a score.

Ian Davis and Austin Marks each had seven tackles for NU, while Terry Graham had six stops. The Miners racked up six quarterback sacks in the win, including one for a safety by Bobby Curtis.

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

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