PREP FOOTBALL: Miners ride 4-game win streak into league bout with Placer
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What: Nevada Union (4-1) vs. Placer (3-2)
When: 7 p.m., today
Where: Hooper Stadium, Nevada Union High School
Follow along: On Twitter @WalterLFordIII or on the radio at 830 AM (KNCO)
The first half of the season has been a lot of fun for the Nevada Union football team.
They’ve won four of their first five games, something a Miners team hasn’t done since 2011, and they’ve put up eye-popping numbers along the way.
Through the first half of the season, the Miners (4-1) are averaging 46.4 points per game and have topped the 60-point mark three times. They have scored 34 touchdowns coming from 13 different players. NU has scored through the air, on the ground, on defense and on special teams. Defensively, the Miners are allowing just 10.2 points per game, pitched two shutouts and have held their last four opponents to just 20 points combined. They have forced 17 turnovers (12 interceptions, five fumble recoveries) and turned it over just three times themselves. The pass rush has been impressive as well with 11 sacks as eight different players have notched at least one.
The most important number over the first portion of the season has been four. The Miners have four wins to their credit, which is more than they’ve had in any season since 2012.
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Do all these numbers mean Miner Magic is back for Nevada Union football?
That is yet to be determined.
While the first half of the season has been a throwback to the glory days of NU football in certain ways, it should also be put into perspective.
Nevada Union has played only one team with a winning record and that was Napa (4-1), which it beat 20-14 in overtime. The Miners’ first five opponents have a combined record of 8-17, and the last three opponents have just two wins between them.
After Last Fridays blowout victory, the Miners’ third lopsided win in a row, Brad Sparks said his team was frothing at the mouth to play competition.
They’re about to get their wish.
The FVL is loaded with strong teams, all of which enter league play with winning records.
“Now, all the real football begins,” said Nevada Union head coach Brad Sparks after last Friday’s win. “We’re looking forward to it.”
First up is the rival Placer Hillmen(3-2), who come into Hooper Stadium tonight on the heels of a 48-14 thrashing of Bishop O’Dowd (Oakland) last week.
The Hillmen also have wins over Vista del Lago and Eureka. Their two losses have come against Whitney and Cardinal Newman (Santa Rosa). By comparison, Placer’s non-league foes have a combined record of 15-13, and only one currently has a losing record.
The green and gold Wing-T machine that is Placer is getting it done with a prolific ground attack which averages 332.8 yards per game. Highlighting the Hillmen charge is 6-foot, 4-inch, 230-pound fullback Hans Grassman with 778 yards and 15 touchdowns through five games.
Through the air, Placer is led by junior quarterback Martin Haswell, who has tossed for 417 yards and three touchdowns on 19-of-39 passes.
Looking to stop Placer’s offense is an NU defense which boasts a plethora of playmakers at all three levels. Leading the NU defensive charge is senior linebacker Duke Morales, sophomore linebacker Gabe Baker, senior defensive back A.J. Meyer and defensive ends Nathaniel Ward and Matt Dal Bon.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Miners get lots of players involved, but none more so than Jaxon Horne, who leads the team in rushing (595 yards), receiving (97 yards) and total touchdowns (14).
Through the air, the Miners spread it around with seven different players notching at least one catch and five different receivers scoring touchdowns.
NU’s junior quarterback J.T. Conway has steadily improved throughout the season and heads into the game with Placer having hit on 20-of-54 passes for 333 yards, five touchdowns and one interception.
“Our confidence is building,” Conway said after last Friday’s game, adding, “Now, I want to see us play up to the level of some one like Placer. I want to see us play at a high level.”
The Miners and Hillmen have been facing off for more than half a century dating back to their first bout in 1952. There have been breaks in the rivalry from time to time, but since it kicked back up in 2014, the series has produced some lopsided scores. The Miners hold a 3-2 edge across the last five contests. In those five games, only one was settled by a margin of less than 21 points. Placer won last season’s bout 63-12, scoring all nine of their touchdowns on the ground.
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Nevada Union’s Hooper Stadium. The junior varsity game starts at 5 p.m.
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email email@example.com.
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