Miners worked hard all season
When Nevada Union’s offense took the field at Grant (Sacramento) in the teams’ regular season finale three Friday’s ago, everybody and their brother in the Pacers’ grandstands thought they had a pretty good idea of what to expect.
Years of gridiron battles with the boys from Grass Valley and their old-as-the-hills offense – the wing-T – have conditioned them to think one thing: stop the run.
The Miner offense took the field at the Grant 38-yard line after its defense stuffed the hosts on three straight plays to force a punt. The huddle broke and NU senior wide receiver Joe Dolan headed for the left sideline with Syd Thompson – Grant’s top cornerback – in tow.
NU quarterback Jon Sheets sold the play action and Thompson bit.
Dolan sprinted up the sideline for 20 yards, then cut toward the post with Thompson in hot pursuit.
As he hit the five-yard line, Dolan turned. The ball was right on target. He hauled it in and fell into the end zone as the rabid Pacer faithful fell silent.
NU went on to squeak out 43-40 win and take the Metro Conference crown. The decision also gave the Miners homefield advantage through the first two rounds of the playoffs.
“I think our passing game is one of the reasons we’re doing so well this year,” Dolan said. “We’ve got (a great running game) and that opens things up for the pass and vice versa.”
NU head coach Dave Humphers said a lot of the credit goes to Sheets.
The two-year starter and 2002 Metro Conference offensive most valuable player has the numbers to prove it. Going into Friday’s Sacramento City Championship with Jesuit, (Carmichael) the senior totaled 1,715 yards on 91-of-155 passing with 19 touchdowns and eight interceptions.
“He’s got a very accurate arm. He can throw with power, but he has (a soft touch) when he needs to,” Humphers said. “One of the great things about Jon is he doesn’t care if we run or throw. He just wants for us to win and for his teammates to do well.”
Dolan, who went into the showdown with Jesuit with 899 yards on 41 catches with 13 touchdowns, agreed.
“The things he does out there are amazing,” Dolan said. “I’ve got the easiest job on the field. (His throws are so accurate) all i’ve got to do is go out there and catch the ball.”
Dolan, a 4.0 GPA Student whose being recruited by several Ivy League schools for football, also has his share of talents.
“He’s got great speed and nice hands,” Humphers said. “He’s also a big receiver at 6-foot-2 and 195 pounds. When he gets the ball he’s like a running back out there.”
Dolan isn’t Sheets’ only target in the passing lanes.
Halfbacks Chris Thibodeau and Joey Bratton, who have combined for over 800 yards through the air this season and 16 touchdowns, as well as tight ends Phil Cosenza and Beau Groo, also work to keep the defense honest.
“Our passing game really opens things up for our running game. The defense has to honor our receivers. They can’t just stack eight guys in the box to stop the run,” NU senior center Mark Ryan said.
Sheets and Dolan both said while all of the glory may just go to the guys who score the touchdowns, none of that would be possible without the play of Ryan, guards Ian Pilcher and Steven Glazier and tackles Shawn Jackson and Shane Curry in the trenches.
“Those guys have worked so hard this season,” Dolan said. “When you think lineman, you think big brutes, but when I get into the huddle, I’m one of the biggest guys in there.”
“They go up against (some really big guys), but they’re tenacious. They’re truly unsung heroes out there,” he added.
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