Prep football: Miners open playoffs on the road
The Sac-Joaquin Section’s high school football playoff brackets were released Sunday, and the Miners’ path through the postseason starts in Vacaville against the Will C. Wood Wildcats.
“We’ve been road warriors for what seems to be three years now, so let’s get on the road, go to Vacaville and win our first round of the playoffs,” said Nevada Union head coach Brad Sparks, whose team has played 12 of its last 17 games away from Hooper Stadium. “I like where we’re at (as a team), and I think we should all be healthy by game time this week, so it’s looking good for us.”
The Miners, who went 6-4 overall and 3-2 in Foothill Valley League play, landed in the Division IV bracket where they are the No. 9 seed. The Wildcats are the No. 8 seed after going 7-3 overall with a 3-2 mark in the Monticello Empire League.
Will C. Wood enters the playoffs on the heels of a 38-7 loss to Vacaville in their regular season finale, but have won three of their last four overall. The Wildcats have also fared well on their own turf this season, going 4-1 at home. Nevada Union is 3-3 in road games this season.
The Wildcats run a spread offense that averages just under 30 points per game. They are led by dual-threat quarterback Ken Tilford, a senior who has thrown for more than 800 yards, rushed for more than 700 and has 15 total touchdowns (six passing, nine rushing) this season. Will C. Wood also boasts a highly productive running back in senior Jayjay Olaes, who has more than 800 yards rushing, 250 receiving and 10 total touchdowns (eight rushing, two receiving).
Nevada Union’s spread offense also comes into the contest, averaging just under 30 points per game. The Miners are also led by a duel-threat senior quarterback in Gabe Baker. The 6-foot, 3-inch, 245-pound Baker finished the regular season with 1,686 passing yards, 825 rushing yards and 28 total touchdowns (20 passing, eight rushing) in nine games played.
The Miners’ offense boasts several weapons, including senior running back Cameron Cormack (917 rush yards, 306 receiving yards, 15 total TDs), junior receiver Clay Renner (28 receptions, 527 yards, three TDs), junior receiver Drew Menet (29 catches, 414 yards, four TDs) and junior receiver Andrew Webster (11 catches, 295 yards, six TDs).
On the defensive side of the ball is where the Miners have struggled this season, allowing 33.4 points per game on average. Despite allowing big numbers, NU’s defense has shown a propensity to make big plays, notching 18 sacks and forcing 25 turnovers this year.
Leading the defensive charge for NU is senior linebacker Jedi Vculek (105 total tackles), sophomore defensive end Bodey Eelkema (110 total tackles), senior defensive tackle Justin Lopez (92 total tackles), defensive end Renner (six sacks), defensive back Webster (six interceptions) and junior defensive back James Kinney (two interceptions).
Will C. Wood’s defense gave up 21.6 points per game on average this season. At the forefront of the Wildcat D is 6-foot, 4-inch, 240-pound senior defensive end Krishna Clay, who leads his team in tackles (71), tackles for a loss (21.5) and sacks (9).
For the Miners, it’s their second straight trip to the postseason after making it as the No. 9 seed in the 2019 Division IV bracket. There were no playoffs during the abbreviated 2021 spring season. NU fell to No. 8 Vanden in the first round in 2019. The last time the Miners won a postseason game was in 2009, when they topped Monterey Trail, 20-2, to win the Section’s Division I championship. Nevada Union has won four Section titles (1993, 1994, 2005, 2009) in its history.
The Wildcats are back in the playoffs for the first time since 2018. They haven’t won a playoff game since 2015, and have never won a Section championship in football.
The Miners and Wildcats are set to kickoff at 7 p.m. Friday at Will C. Wood High School.
AROUND THE FVL
Nevada Union is one of four teams from the Foothill Valley League to earn a playoff bid.
Placer (4-5, 4-1 FVL) is the No. 6 seed in the Division IV bracket and is hosting No. 11 West Park (6-4, 5-0 Greater Sacramento League) on Friday. Ponderosa (4-4, 2-3 FVL) is the No. 10 seed in Division IV and will be at No. 7 Dixon (6-3, 4-1 Golden Empire League) on Friday. League champ Lincoln (7-2, 5-0 PVL) will be in the Division III bracket, which is set to be released Monday.
COLFAX LANDS NO. 9 SEED IN DV
The Pioneer Valley League champion Colfax Falcons (7-2, 5-0 PVL) garnered the No. 9 seed in the Sac-Joaquin Section’s Division V bracket and will travel to face No. 8 seed Woodland (8-2, 3-2 Golden Empire League) on Friday.
Colfax and Woodland have already met up once this season, a week two matchup in which the Wolves won 20-10.
The Falcons enter the playoffs on a six-game winning streak, including a 14-0 victory over Bear River in the regular season finale.
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, email email@example.com
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