PREP FOOTBALL: Miners, Bruins gear up for critical league bouts
With just three games left in the high school football regular season, an urgency to win is setting in as the Sac-Joaquin Section’s divisional playoff pictures begin to emerge.
“We’re going to find out what kind of moxie this team has in the next three weeks,” Nevada Union head coach Brad Sparks said after last week’s Foothill Valley League loss to Oakmont, which dropped the Miners to 4-3 overall and 0-2 in league play. “Are we a team that’s going to buckle down and say ‘we got this,’ or are we going to go, ‘you know we’re not there yet and let’s pack up camp?’ I’m not that kind of coach and I know the (assistant) coaches aren’t, so I expect us to fight hard.”
The Miners are currently ranked seventh in the Section’s Division IV rankings, according to MaxPreps.com. The D-IV playoff bracket will feature 12 teams.
The Bear River Bruins are 6-1 overall and 1-1 in Pioneer Valley League play, and currently hold the No. 5 ranking in D-VI, which will also have a 12-team playoff bracket.
Both the Miners and Bruins have critical league bouts tonight. Here is a breakdown of the games:
Nevada Union vs. Ponderosa, 7 p.m., tonight
The Miners are at home for the final time during the regular season and looking to snap a two-game skid when they host the Ponderosa Bruins tonight.
Ponderosa (4-3, 1-1 FVL) comes into the contest riding high after a 35-21 victory over Lincoln last week.
The Bruins are led by 6-foot, 4-inch junior quarterback Ty Uber, who has thrown for 652 yards and eight touchdowns, and also run for 341 yards and six scores.
Uber’s favorite target is senior receiver Jackson Hubert, who leads the team with 21 catches for 365 yards and four touchdowns.
Ponderosa’s ground game averages just under 200 yards a game and is led by senior running back Colin Taylor, who has rushed for a team high 543 yards and scored 10 total touchdowns.
Looking to stop the Ponderosa offense is an NU defense which allowed just 51 points through the first five games of the season, but has given up 62 points in its last two contests.
The defense is led by senior linebacker Duke Morales, who leads the team in tackles with 59 and has tallied double-digit tackles in each of the last two games. The Miners also get strong defensive play from junior safety Jaxon Horne (32 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, 1 interception), junior defensive end Nathaniel Ward (15 tackles, 3 sacks), senior defensive end Matt Dal Bon (21 tackles, 7.5 tackles for a loss), defensive back A.J. Meyer (33 tackles, 3 interceptions, 1 sack) and sophomore linebacker Gabe Baker (44 tackles).
On the offensive side of the ball, the Miners have leaned on Horne the past two weeks. The junior running back has tallied 326 yards from scrimmage (213 rushing, 113 receiving) and three touchdowns in league play so far. For the season, Horne has rushed for 808 yards and 14 touchdowns, and has 210 receiving yards to go with two touchdown catches.
The Miners also have offensive playmakers in fullbacks Tino Sanchez-Lane and Baker.
As a team, the Miners average 223.6 yards on the ground per game. It’s through the air that they’ve struggled, completing just 35.9% of their pass attempts and managing just 84.6 yards per game.
“We are struggling in the passing game, and that’s got to get better. It’s got to,” Sparks said.
A season ago when the Miners and Bruins met up in Shingle Springs it was a tight one with Ponderosa pulling out a 38-35 victory.
In other FVL action, Oakmont (6-1, 1-1 FVL) travels to face the Placer Hillmen (5-2, 2-0 FVL), and Lincoln (4-3, 1-1 FVL) is on the road at Rio Linda (5-2, 1-1 FVL).
Bear River vs. Foothill, 7 p.m., tonight
After losing their Pioneer Valley League opener to the unbeaten Center Cougars on Oct. 4, the Bruins got back on track with a 42-14 thrashing of Lindhurst last week, and in the process showed their plans to make the playoffs for a third straight season haven’t changed.
“We kind of needed this to get back on track,” co-head coach Scott Savoie said after the game. “Hopefully we can build a little momentum here and get going. We’re going to need it.”
The Bruins (6-1, 1-1 PVL) close out three straight road games to start league play when they head to Sacramento to battle the Foothill Mustangs tonight.
Foothill (4-3, 0-2 PVL) comes into the game on a three-game losing streak which included a 10-7 loss to Colfax and a 45-6 loss to Center in league play.
Despite the losing skid, the Bruins aren’t looking past the Mustangs by any means.
“Foothill appears to be pretty dang good,” said Savoie. “It’s going to be a great, great battle for us.”
In the win over Lindhurst, Bear River’s offense spread the ball around with senior quarterback Colton Jenkins throwing for 127 yards and a touchdown, and a bevy of backs combining for 373 rush yards and five ground scores. Running backs Ryder Kiggins, Zach Fink, Jacob Ayestaran, Jaime Vargas and Joe Knowlton have all stepped up offensively to give the Bruins a diverse attack.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Bruins returned to their stingy ways against Lindhurst and allowed just one offensive touchdown. Bear River did give up a kick return touchdown against Lindhurst, which concerned co-head coach Terry Logue as they head into the matchup with Foothill.
“Somehow, someway we got to get our kickoff team fortified up,” Logue said after last Friday’s win. “I don’t know, no matter what I do, kick shallow, kick short they run it. Just depressed about that right now. (Against) Foothill that can’t happen.”
The Bruins and Mustangs have been facing off annually since Foothill joined the PVL in 2010. Since then, the two have played each other nine times with the Bruins going 9-0. The last two meetings have been close, though, with Bear River overcoming a 22-7 first quarter deficit last season to win 56-31, and pulling out a 14-13 win during the 2017 season.
In other PVL action, Colfax (5-2, 2-0 PVL) is set to host Lindhurst (2-5, 0-2 PVL), and Marysville (3-4, 1-1 PVL) travels to face Center (7-0, 2-0 PVL).
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, email email@example.com or call 530-477-4232.
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