PREP FOOTBALL: Miners win fourth in a row, blank Fairfield (VIDEO/PHOTO GALLERY)
When Brad Sparks took over as head coach of the Nevada Union varsity football team in 2018, he said he wanted to build a program the community could be proud of.
If the packed stands and optimistic energy at Hooper Stadium offered any indication, he’s doing just that.
The Miners won their fourth straight game Friday night, beating the Fairfield Falcons, 64-0, in front of a jubilant Homecoming crowd.
“We executed,” said Sparks, whose team is now 4-1 overall. “We knew what we were facing this week, but it was also one of those things where we wanted to do some specific things to get ready for Placer and we did accomplish those things.
“More importantly, for me, it’s about what we are doing as a program. We’re finally starting to climb up that ladder… The program hasn’t won a Homecoming game since 2014, and I don’t think we’ve won back-to-back home games in a while.”
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The Miners got it done in all three phases of the game Friday night as they scored on offense, defense and special teams.
“We’re hitting on all 10 cylinders and that’s what we want getting into league,” said Sparks.
SPREADING IT AROUND
On offense, the Miners scored early and often as their spread offense carved through Fairfield’s defense with ease.
Sophomore fullback Gabe Baker got things started with a 25-yard touchdown run. The skilled back added an 18-yard scoring run in the second quarter as well.
Running back Jaxon Horne, the team’s leading rusher on the season, only carried the ball twice in the game but got involved in other ways. The talented junior scored three touchdowns in all, running one in from 22 yards out, catching a 27-yard touchdown pass and returning a kickoff 85 yards for a score.
Junior quarterback J.T. Conway tossed a pair of touchdown passes. The first was to Horne, who jumped over his defender to pull down the ball on the play. Conway also hit Benji Taylor on a wide receiver screen that went 35 yards for a score.
“Our confidence is building,” said Conway, who has thrown five touchdowns and no interceptions across the last three games. “Our offensive line has been phenomenal. I don’t think I was even close to being touched on any of the pass plays. So, props to them.”
Junior running back Jeremy Nettles also made an impact, rushing for a team-high 65 yards, including a 4-yard touchdown jaunt.
And, senior fullback Tino Sanchez-Lane reached pay dirt with a 33-yard touchdown run.
DIGGING IN ON DEFENSE
Nevada Union’s defense has been ferocious the past four games and Friday night was no different.
The Miners held Fairfield to negative yards rushing, allowed only 44 yards through the air and picked off four passes.
The first came when senior cornerback Zach Ehrlich snagged an errant pass in the first quarter and returned it 36-yards for a touchdown.
“Zach’s pick tonight was incredible,” said Sparks. “He looked like a bolt of lightning out there.”
Junior defensive back Drake Schlachter pulled down two interceptions, giving him three on the season.
“We’re working as a team really well, and were communicating on defense which is helping a lot,” Schlachter said. “I’ve never been on a team that’s been 4-1 before and it’s a great feeling.”
Senior defensive back A.J. Meyer also grabbed an interception, his third of the season.
“Jason Horne is doing a great job of coaching our DBs,” said Sparks, whose team now has 12 interceptions on the season. “Everybody told us we couldn’t run man coverage and I would tell you, they were all wrong…Especially with the defensive line we have. We put pressure on people, and when you can put pressure on people and play man coverage, you’re usually pretty good on defense.”
The Miners also shined on special teams.
In addition to Horne’s kickoff return touchdown, kicker Moises Tovar hit eight extra points, kickoff specialist Sanchez-Lane put all his kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks and Sammy Slay blocked a punt.
WHAT LIES AHEAD
Things are about to get a lot tougher for the Miners as they open Foothill Valley League play against Placer next Friday. The Hillmen are 3-2 after playing a brutal non-league schedule.
Sparks said his players are looking forward to it.
“They are frothing at the mouth to start playing competition, and that’s something I haven’t seen here in a while,” he said. “These guys are going ‘we can’t wait to play Placer next week.’ That’s what they were saying in the locker room at halftime”
PRACTICE PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
The Miners’ Tractor Supply Practice Players of the Week were Horne, Jaycee Youngman and Jon Patterson. Tovar was named the Special Teams Player of the Week.
The JV Miners improved to 2-2 on the season with a 36-6 thrashing of Fairfield.
Elliott Tinnel, Conner Reece, Canyon Rios, Aaron Schafer and Cameron Cormack all scored touchdowns for the Miners.
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
SCORE BY QUARTER
MINERS 64, FALCONS 0
NU: Gabe Baker 25-yard run (Moises Tovar kick) 10:01
NU: Safety (7:41)
NU: Jaxon Horne 22-yard run (Tovar kick) 6:32
NU: Zach Ehrlich 36-yard interception return (PAT no good) 5:41
NU: Horne 27-yard pass from J.T. Conway (Tovar kick) 2:38
NU: Benji Taylor 35-yard pass from Conway (Tovar kick) 11:52
NU: Jeremy Nettles 4-yard run (Tovar kick) 8:44
NU: Baker 18-yard run (Tovar kick) 6:11
NU: Horne 85-yard kickoff return (Tovar kick) 11:38
NU: Tino Sanchez-Lane 33-yard run (Tovar kick) 2:03
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