PREP FOOTBALL: Digging into the Miners’ 2017 schedule
The same 10 teams the Miners faced last season are back on the schedule in 2017.
The Miners went 2-8 against this schedule a year ago, but it’s a brand new season and Nevada Union head coach Dennis Houlihan is confident his team will fare better this time around.
“If you look at our games (from last season) and look at the progress we made in them, we were in every one of them up until about the third quarter,” he said. “… Our kids as juniors were making those plays. This year as seniors I do believe they are going to make the difference. They will make those plays that will give us the opportunity to be in it at the end and win the game.
“We very easily could have been 6-4, 7-3 last year, where we were up at half and couldn’t hang on to it. I think with this big group of seniors, who have been together for a long time and they are very confident they can do it, I think you’re going to see the change.”
The 10-game schedule boasts eight playoff teams from a season ago, including Sac-Joaquin Section D-II champs Del Oro and Sac-Joaquin Section D-I runner up Folsom.
With less than a week before the season kicks off for the Miners, here’s a breakdown of their schedule:
at Antelope – Aug. 25
Nevada Union opens the season on the road at the Antelope Titans, who are 24-2 overall in the past two seasons. The Titans edged the Miners 28-21 with a fourth quarter touchdown at Hooper Stadium to open the 2016 season. The Titans will look a lot different this year as they graduated their quarterback, top three running backs, top four receivers and leading tackler from last season. The Miners return their quarterback (Owen Dal Bon), top two rushers (Tyler Nielson, Dawson Fay), best receiver (Hayden Fay) and top tackler (Justin Houlihan) from last season.
vs. Placer — Sept. 1
The Miners will face the Hillmen for the fourth straight season, after reigniting the rivalry in 2014. The first two matchups were blowouts, with NU knocking off Placer in Auburn in 2014 and the Hillmen returning the favor in 2015 on NU’s home turf. Last year’s contest was a thriller, with the Miners rallying from a 12-0 fourth quarter deficit to win 16-12 after a pair of passing touchdowns from Dal Bon to Hayden Fay. This year’s bout will be at Nevada Union’s Hooper Stadium. Of note, since the rivalry returned in 2014, the away team has won each time. Placer won a share of the Pioneer Valley League and was a playoff team last year.
vs. Lincoln — Sept. 8
Like Placer, the Miners will take on the Fighting Zebras from Lincoln for the fourth year in a row. If this year’s game is like the last three, it will come down to the very end.
Nevada Union holds a 2-1 advantage over Lincoln after topping the Zebras, 21-14, with a goal line stand in overtime last season.
The Zebras were the PVL co-champs a season ago and made the playoffs.
Since 2014, when the two teams began facing each other on a yearly basis, neither team has won by more than seven points over the other.
at Napa — Sept. 15
The Miners longest road trip of the season will be to Napa to face the Indians, who pulled out a double overtime win, 35-34, after NU failed to convert on a two-point try. Napa went 7-4 last season and made the playoffs, but graduated their starting quarterback and top two rushers from a season ago.
SIERRA FOOTHILL LEAGUE PLAY
at Rocklin — Sept. 22
When these two teams met up a season ago, it was an offensive explosion from start to finish. The Miners led 28-21 at halftime, but in the end it was the Thunder grabbing the win, 48-35. The teams combined for nearly 1,000 yards of offense in a game that featured multiple big plays and wild momentum shifts. This year, the contest will take place in Rocklin.
“I’m looking forward to the Rocklin game,” said Dawson Fay. “We should have had them last year.”
The Thunder are coming off a 2016 season in which they went 4-6 and missed the playoffs.
at Del Oro – Sept. 29
The NU/DO matchup has been a bit one sided the past few years with the Golden Eagles beating the Miners 58-21 last season, 52-10 in 2015, 50-14 in 2014 and 70-21 in 2013.
Del Oro did lose long time head coach Casy Taylor and graduate its duel-threat quarterback, leading rusher and best defender from a season ago.
vs. Woodcreek — Oct. 6
It looked like the Miners were on their way to their first Sierra Foothill League victory under head coach Dennis Houlihan last season, but a myriad of mistakes cost NU the game vs. Woodcreek, 34-32. The Miners get the Timberwolves at Hooper Stadium this season and will be looking to avenge that loss. In last season’s game, the Miners tallied more than 400 yards from scrimmage, getting a strong effort from Dal Bon, Hayden Fay, Dawson Fay and Nielson. If they can be as effective on offense and limit their mistakes, the Miners will have a good shot at taking this one. Woodcreek was 4-6 and missed the playoffs last season.
at Folsom – Oct. 13
The three-time defending SFL champion Bulldogs will host the Miners in Folsom. Like the contests with Del Oro, NU’s games with Folsom have not gone the Miners’ way of late. Folsom topped the Miners, 54-7, a season ago and have not lost a game to NU since it joined the SFL.
The Bulldogs did graduate their All-League quarterback and their top-two receivers, but the Bulldogs will not be short on talent at the skill positions and will once again be the team to beat in the SFL.
vs. Granite Bay – Oct. 20
Last season the Miners jolted out to a 14-0 first quarter lead only to see the Grizzlies roar back and outscore NU 34-7 the rest of the way. Granite Bay was a playoff team a season ago and returns many of its top skill position players from a season ago, including Evan Tatersall, who rushed for 133 yards and two touchdowns against NU a season ago.
vs. Oak Ridge – Oct. 27, 7:30 p.m.
The Miners will close the regular season at home against Oak Ridge, who went 10-3 last season. The Trojans return their dynamic quarterback Marco Baldacchino, who threw for 1,841 yards and 22 touchdowns, and rushed for 991 yards and 17 ground touchdowns. The team also returns their top tackler from last season as well. Oak Ridge got the best of NU last year with a 35-14 victory.
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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