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Miners return home to face Colfax

Nevada Union wide receiver Andrew Webster squares up with a Bella Vista defender during the Miners season opener in Fair Oaks on Aug. 20. The Miners are set to host the Colfax Falcons Friday night.

It’s been nearly two years since the varsity Miners played an official football game at Hooper Stadium. To say they are excited for their home game against Colfax Friday night would be an understatement.

“I think the word excited doesn’t give it enough strength,” said Nevada Union head coach Brad Sparks. “I would say ‘elated.’ Its like Christmas morning.”

The last time the Miners played an official game at home was Oct. 18, 2019, when they knocked off Foothill Valley League foe Ponderosa, 20-7. It has been seven straight road games for the Miners since, spanning the conclusion of the 2019 season, the two-game 2021 spring season and the first three games of the 2021 fall season. NU was originally scheduled to have their fall home opener Aug. 27 against Sheldon, but the game was canceled due to COVID-19 concerns.



“These guys have really been road warriors for two years,” said Sparks.

FALCONS AT A GLANCE

Nevada Union and Colfax, two highly-respected programs located just 16 miles apart, are set to face each other for the first time ever in football and both teams come into the matchup with a 1-1 overall mark on the season.



The Falcons opened the season with a 20-10 loss to Woodland, but rebounded well with a 34-6 drubbing of Galt last week.

“We haven’t found our stride yet,” said Colfax head coach Tony Martello. “We’re a work in progress. We’re a very young and inexperienced team that will continue to get better as the season progresses, in a lot of different ways. … I think we are improving every single week. I don’t know when we will hit our stride, but we will at some point.”

Offensively, the Falcons are led by seniors Luke Green (WR/DB), Noah Souza (QB), Drew Garcia (LB), Matthew Holm (SS), Ryan Greenspan (OL/DL) and Peter Molino (OL/DL).

“Friday night is going to be another step for us,” said Martello. “Hopefully we will show up and compete hard, make our community proud, make our school proud and do something everybody can rally around.”

Sparks spoke highly of Martello and Colfax, noting the Miners will have to play at a very high level in order to get the win.

“They are so well coached and very disciplined,” Sparks said. “Tony (Martello) is a heck of a coach, a half of famer. He’s got a great staff, his kids play hard, they don’t give up and they don’t make very many mistakes. So, in some ways, we almost have to play a perfect ball game.”

Nevada Union's Gabe Baker has thrown for 333 yards, rushed for 108 and scored six touchdowns (five passing, one rushing) through the team’s first two games.

MINERS AT A GLANCE

The Miners won their opener over Bella Vista, 44-34, but come into Friday’s contest on the heels of a 43-0 loss to Woodcreek last week. Sparks said his team dove right into film study after the blowout loss.

“These guys are great students,” Sparks said. “What was really interesting was we shared film with them Saturday and I was bombarded by players on the team. … Literally the kids were breaking the team and themselves down, and that’s really what this team is. And, that comes from the leadership of Gabe (Baker) and Jedi (Vculek), but that’s also just the mentality of this team. Since I have been here, I haven’t seen this strong of focus.”

Nevada Union is led by Baker, their senior quarterback and middle linebacker. The 6-foot, 3-inch, 240-pound Baker has thrown for 333 yards, rushed for 108 and scored six touchdowns (five passing, one rushing) through the first two games.

The Miners spread the ball around in their “Air-Raid” offense. Through two games, 10 different players have notched at least one catch. NU’s leading receiver has been junior Clay Renner, who has pulled down eight balls for 126 yards and two touchdowns.

Defensively, Baker leads the charge with a team-high 25 tackles to go with two interceptions, a forced fumble and a sack. Senior linebacker Jedi Vceluk (20 tackles), sophomore defensive end Bodey Eelkema (21 tackles, sack) and Renner (13 tackles, 1 1/2 sacks) have also shined on defense this season.

“After last week we definitely saw some things we need to clean up, so we’ve been really focused on ourselves this week,” said Sparks. “We’re going to have to play a really high level football game in order to beat (Colfax).”

KICKOFF AND LIMITED ATTENDANCE

The Miners and Falcons junior varsity bout gets started at 5 p.m. and the varsity game kicks off at 7 p.m.

Due to Nevada County Public Health Department COVID mandates, the event will be limited to less than 500 people in attendance. The event is only open to family members of those participating. The event is not open to the public.

BRUINS SET TO START SEASON

After several cancellations, Bear River’s varsity football team is set to finally open their season.

The Bruins head to Galt to face Liberty Ranch Friday night in what will be their season opener after games were nixed in each of the first three weeks of the season.

“In theory, we will show up to Liberty Ranch really well rested,” said Bear River co-head coach Tanner Mathias. “Really hungry and well rested.”

The Bruins first two games were canceled due to poor air quality and last week’s game was called off due to COVID-19 concerns.

Like Bear River, Liberty Ranch has also had multiple games canceled to start the season, but the Hawks were able to get on the field last week, a 24-21 loss to Linden.

Bear River and Liberty Ranch have faced off twice in non-league action in recent years (2018, 2019) with the Bruins winning both contests by large margins.

Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Friday at Liberty Ranch High School.

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


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