PREP FOOTBALL: Nevada Union returns solid group of playmakers on defense |

PREP FOOTBALL: Nevada Union returns solid group of playmakers on defense

The Miners returned to work earlier this week and a couple things are clear to head coach Brad Sparks — his players are focused and hungry.

“I don’t think we had three great days in a row last year, and we’ve already had three great practices in a row,” said Sparks, now in his second season at the helm of the Nevada Union football program. “It kind of tells you how focused the kids are, how great my staff is, and I’ll tell you what, they’re hungry. They want to win, and they want to start the tradition of winning at Nevada Union again.”

If the Miners hope to sate their hunger for victory they need to see an improved effort on the defensive side of the ball. A season ago, they allowed 37.1 points per game overall and 46 points per game against Foothill Valley League foes.

The Miners expect to be better this season. It’ll be the second year in defensive coordinator Jim Rubiales’ system, and the squad is buoyed by several returning starters, including three all-leaguers.

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With just 21 days left until the Miners kickoff the 2019 season against the Yuba City Honkers at Hooper Stadium, we take a look at some of the Nevada Union playmakers poised to make an impact on defense.

Matt Dal Bon, SR., DE

Dal Bon is a 6-foot, 2-inch, 250-pound force to be reckoned with coming off the edge. An All-FVL Second Team selection a season ago, Dal Bon tallied 30 tackles, 10.5 tackles for a loss, two forced fumbles and a team-high four sacks.

“He’s a stud, plain and simple,” said Sparks. “The kid works hard. Gets in the weight room, gets after it. By far one of the strongest guys we have on the team.”

Dal Bon is the son of former NU coach Brad Dal Bon, and the younger brother of former NU quarterback Owen Dal Bon.

Duke Morales, SR., MLB

Morales is not one to shy away from contact. The 5–9, 190-pound middle linebacker led the Miners in tackles (124) and tackles for a loss (19.5) a season ago. His 124 tackles was second in the FVL a season ago and help land him a spot on the All-FVL First Team.

“He has a nose for the football,” said Sparks. “He’s always around the ball. He’s a happy-go-lucky kid, always has a smile on his face, but I’ll tell you what, when he puts that helmet and shoulder pads on, he’s getting after people.”

Jaxon Horne, JR., DB

Horne is a playmaking safety, and NU’s top returning member of the secondary. As a sophomore playing varsity, the 6–0, 190 pound Horne shined with a team-high three interceptions and four passes defensed to go with 41 tackles. He was named to the All-FVL Second Team a season ago.

Horne has been playing at the varsity level since the end of his freshman season, and figures to be an impact player on both sides of the ball this season.


The Miners have several talented players stepping into big roles this season, including Gabe Baker, Tino Sanchez-Lane, Landon Low, Drake Schlachter and Zach Ehrlich.

Baker is a 6–3, 200-pound sophomore linebacker who boasts a high football IQ and impressive athleticism. Baker figures to be an important piece for the Miners defense this season.

Sanchez-Lane is a 6–0, 200-pound senior safety who missed last season with an injury. He’s healthy this season and Sparks is expecting big things from him.

Low, a 6–0, 280-pound defensive tackle will be counted on to be a force in the trenches.

Schlachter and Zach Ehrlich are a pair of cornerbacks gearing up for their first season of varsity action.

Ehrlich’s speed and athleticism has impressed coaches this summer and led to the senior seeing lots of first team reps. Schlachter was a standout on the junior varsity team last season.

“We’re young at corner, but we’re talented,” said Sparks.

The Miners have several upcoming events ahead of the season’s kickoff, including the annual Blue and Gold Inter-squad game at Hooper Stadium Aug. 9 and a scrimmage against Bear River at J. David Ramsey Stadium Aug. 17.

To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email

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