Nevada Union strikes first but unable to hold early lead over Del Oro
LOOMIS – So much for 2010 being a “down year” at Del Oro.
The Golden Eagles entered Friday night’s Sierra Foothill League showdown against Nevada Union with a less-than-stellar 2-4 record and sitting in the league’s cellar at 0-1.
But what a difference a full 48 minutes can make, as Del Oro rallied back from a 10-0 halftime deficit to top the Miners 14-10 and move up into second place in the SFL with a 1-1 mark. “Obviously, it’s been tough,” Del Oro coach Casey Taylor said. “We needed this kind of win. We really needed it.
“We’ve got the best league around. You’ve really got to play 48 minutes and try to stick around and have a good chance in the fourth quarter.”
That was exactly the Golden Eagles path to victory Friday night, as they kept banging away with Nick O’Sullivan and the ground game after Del Oro’s aerial attack produced yards, but not points in the first 24 minutes. O’Sullivan had 41 yards at halftime, but finished with 122 along with both of his team’s touchdowns.
“I thought in the first half we moved the ball pretty well, but not inside the 20,” Taylor said. “We made a lot of mistakes inside the red zone, fumbling an exchange and some dumb penalties. But in the second half, our offensive line took control of the line of scrimmage.
“Our defense played great … We watched those guys and that’s an offensive machine, but our kids kept us in it.”
Del Oro took 14-10 lead with 5:19 remaining in the game, when O’Sullivan scored from five yards out. The touchdown capped a 11-play, 80-yard drive that saw the Golden Eagles convert three times on third-and-short.
Two of those first downs came by way of penalty, including a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct call the officials threw at the Miners for simulating the Del Oro snap. That flag moved Del Oro from the NU 30 on third-and-3 to first-and-10 at the NU 15. An offsides penalty on third-and-3 at the NU 8 later gave the Golden Eagles first-and-goal at the NU four.
“It was a great, hard-fought battle,” NU coach Dave Humphers said, when pressed about the penalties. “We certainly had our chances.
“We were in the red zone with a first down inside the 10 twice. We need to take advantage of those opportunities to put it in.
“But you’ve got to give credit to Del Oro. They made the plays in the second half.”
One of those red-zone opportunities came right after Del Oro took its first lead of the night. Gabe Humphers returned the ensuing kickoff 56 yards to the Del Oro 40-yard line. A second-down, pass-interference call moved the Miners to the 24, where Connor Keith broke off a 16-yard gain to the Del Oro 8-yard line.
But after a false start penalty pushed the Miners into a third-and-goal at the 13, quarterback Josiah Paye’s pass over the middle was intercepted by Del Oro linebacker Shoichi Martinson to end the threat, and essentially the game.
“Their defender made the play,” Humphers said. “Josiah knows on third-and-long you’ve got to get the ball in there. You can’t hold onto it. They blitzed on the play and our offensive line picked up the blitz, but their kid made a great play.
“But I do feel like we had other chances.”
The Miners (4-3 overall, 0-2 SFL) ran for 176 yards on the night, led by Devyn Grimes’ 66 yards. Quarterback Josiah Paye rushed for 41 yards, as did fullback Connor Keith. Jake Tilly added 28 more on the ground.
NU put six on the scoreboard on its opening possession, as Grimes sped down the right sideline for a 56-yard touchdown on the Miners’ third play of the game. Josh Cena added the PAT for a 7-0 lead with 3:42 to go in the first quarter. Cena, who also knocked down a fourth-down pass and intercepted another in the first half, moved the Miners ahead 10-0 with a 38-yard field goal as time expired on the first half.
But the Miners couldn’t find the scoreboard in the final 24 minutes of action and now must find the win column soon to keep their postseason hopes alive.
“Our future rests on us needing two league wins to make the playoffs,” Humphers said. “And once we start the playoffs, everyone starts over.”
NU’s junior varsity led 27-18 late in the game, but had to hold off a last-ditch comeback by Del Oro for the win.
Nate Dickinson’s touchdown run put the Miners up by what appeared to be a comfortable margin with 8:20 to go, but back came the Golden Eagles with a drive down the field kept alive by a bit of luck and capped by a touchdown grab in the corner of the end zone.
A deflected pass landed in the hands of a second receiver on fourth-and-12 deep in NU territory, keeping the game alive for Del Oro, which capitalized first with a touchdown pass and then with a recovery of an onside kick.
But a fumble recovery by Tim Dudley sealed the win for the Miners.
“It seemed like the last two weeks, if there was going to be bad breaks, they were going to go against us,” said NU coach Chris Cota. “Our kids all year long have faced adversity after adversity, but they stepped up and we won it.”
Quarterback Kyle Cota threw for 204 yards and two touchdowns, one to Michael Buonarati and another to Sean Zuccaro. Ian Davis rushed for a touchdown and also returned an interception 43 yards.
Freshman Jason Murray led the team with 13 tackles, including 11 solo, while Austin Marks added another 11 tackles on the night.
Nevada Union’s JV team improved to 5-1-1 overall and 1-0-1 in the SFL.
Contact Sports Editor Brian Hamilton via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 477-4240.
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