‘Now the fun begins’: Miners open season on the road Friday at Bella Vista | TheUnion.com

‘Now the fun begins’: Miners open season on the road Friday at Bella Vista

Nevada Union quarterback Gabe Baker watches as his pass approaches his target during Saturday’s scrimmage against the Bear River Bruins.
Photo: Elias Funez

After the final whistle had blown and each team had gathered for their coaches’ thoughts at the conclusion of the Miners vs. Bruins preseason scrimmage, Nevada Union head coach Brad Sparks exclaimed, “now the fun begins.”

Saturday’s annual cross-county scrimmage between NU and Bear River was the final tune up for both football teams as they turn the page on their summer practice sessions and gear up for the highly anticipated 2021 fall season, which kicks off Friday for the Miners.

“I’m very excited for the season,” Nevada Union senior quarterback Gabe Baker said after the scrimmage. “Especially after seeing how we played today.”

It was just two years ago when the Miners snapped a six-season postseason drought and earned a spot in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV playoffs.

A lot has happened since then. The 2020 season was postponed to the spring due to COVID. Then the spring season was hampered with testing and quarantining issues which led to the Miners playing just two of their five scheduled games.

Through it all, the Miners have remained focused and steadfast in their mission to continue building the program back up, said Sparks.

“We follow the history of the school. We’re always conscious of that,” Sparks said. “Our kids now are saying they want to lead the way. Building a legacy isn’t about wins and losses, it’s about the path you set for the people behind you, and our kids are so focused on that. They love every single one of these JV and freshmen guys. You should see them work with them. That’s the legacy.”


Only Brenner Krogh and Baker return from that 2019 playoff team, and Baker is optimistic about this year’s team.

“Everyone works their (butts) off,” said Baker, who is now in his third season at the varsity level. “Everybody works hard. There isn’t a single player on the team that doesn’t work hard. I don’t care what the talent looks like, that’s a championship team, is a team that works their (butts) off.”

Baker is poised to be a leader on both sides of the ball this season. The 6-foot, 3-inch, 240-pound senior is a hard-hitting, ball-hawking linebacker on defense; and on offense is a dual threat quarterback who can beat defenders with his arm and his legs.

He will be at the helm of NU’s Air Raid offense, which boasts a handful of weapons. In the backfield the Miners return speedy senior running back Cameron Cormack, who will be joined by a group of up and comers. At the receiver position they have several players looking to make an impact, including Krogh (senior), Drew Menet (junior), Andrew Webster (junior) and Clay Renner (junior).

“I like that we can rotate guys,” said Baker. “It’s nice that we can rotate everyone through and not miss a beat.”

In the trenches, the Miners dig in with an all-senior offensive line, led by Timber Wilkins and Elliot Tinnel.

A Nevada Union player (No. 9) dodges Bear River defenders while moving the ball for the Miners during Saturday’s scrimmage.
Photo: Elias Funez

On the defensive side of the ball, NU’s strength is with its linebacking corps. In addition to Baker, the Miners also boast a talented linebacker in Jedi Vculek. The 6-foot, 2-inch, 210-pound Vculek has impressed coaches this summer and had a strong showing at the scrimmage.


The Miners open the season at 7 p.m. Friday, on the road against the Bella Vista Broncos, a team NU has a lot of history with — just not in the last two decades.

Bella Vista first appeared on the Miners’ schedule in 1982 and became a common matchup. The Miners and Broncos faced off 16 times over the years with NU winning 14 of the matchups. The two have not faced off in more than 18 years.

In the COVID-shortened spring 2021 season, Bella Vista went 0-3 with losses to Inderkum, River Valley and Roseville.

The Miners will also face Sheldon (Aug. 27), Woodcreek (Sept. 3), Colfax (Sept. 10) and Union Mine (Sept. 17) in non-league play.

“I feel our program is in a position to start stepping up its game,” said Sparks. “What’s great about this group of guys is they aren’t afraid of anybody.”

Nevada Union kicks off the Foothill Valley League season against Rio Linda (Oct. 1). They then face Placer (Oct. 8), Oakmont (Oct. 15), Ponderosa (Oct. 22) and Lincoln (Oct. 29).


Sparks is now in his fourth season at the helm of the varsity team and said he’s starting to see the culture change he hoped to bring when he first took the job.

“We’ve got good kids who work really hard in the classroom and in the community,” said Sparks. “They’re great role models and leaders. And, inside the program as a whole the kids are holding each other accountable.”

When Sparks took over in 2018, he inherited a program that hadn’t made the playoffs since 2012, and had won just eight games in the previous five seasons. Since taking over, Sparks has led NU to nine wins and a playoff berth.

“We want the culture of, if you step on our field, we’re going to sock you in the mouth, and if you open the gate for us, you better prepare to get run over,” said Sparks. “Don’t take our kindness as weakness.”

To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, email wford@theunion.com

Nevada Union varsity football schedule

Aug. 20 – Nevada Union at Bella Vista, 7 p.m. (JV starts at 5 p.m.)

Aug. 27 – Nevada Union vs. Sheldon, 7 p.m. (JV starts at 5 p.m.)

Sept. 3 – Nevada Union at Woodcreek, 7 p.m. (JV starts at 5 p.m.)

Sept. 10 – Nevada Union vs. Colfax, 7 p.m. (JV starts at 5 p.m.)

Sept. 17 – Nevada Union at Union Mine, 7 p.m. (JV starts at 5 p.m.)

Sept. 24 – Bye

*Oct. 1 – Nevada Union vs. Rio Linda, 7 p.m. (JV starts at 5 p.m.)

*Oct. 8 – Nevada Union vs. Placer, 7 p.m. (JV starts at 5 p.m.)

*Oct. 15 – Nevada Union at Oakmont, 7 p.m. (JV starts at 5 p.m.)

*Oct. 22 – Nevada Union vs. Ponderosa, 7 p.m. (JV starts at 5 p.m.)

*Oct. 29 – Nevada Union at Lincoln, 7 p.m. (JV starts at 5 p.m.)

*Denotes Foothill Valley League game

Game times subject to change



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