PREP FOOTBALL: Nevada Union tops Napa with late stop (VIDEO)
MINERS 14, INDIANS 13
N: Caden Cortese 4-yard run (Jose Acosta kick) 11:12
NU: Dawson Fay 92-yard kickoff return (2-point try no good) 10:58
NU: Fay 1-yard run (2-point try good) 6:41
N: Brandon Herter 3-yard run (2-point try no good) 2:00
With the game on the line, Nevada Union’s defense didn’t back down.
“We have a philosophy. It’s bend. Don’t break,” said Nevada Union senior linebacker Justin Houlihan. “Teams are going to drive on us. But once we get inside the red zone, (we) bend, but we’re not going to give it up.”
A year ago it was Napa celebrating a one-point victory over Nevada Union in Hooper Stadium after a defensive stand. The Miners returned the favor this time around with a 14-13 victory last Friday at Napa’ Memorial Stadium.
Leading 14-7 in the fourth quarter, the Miners defense seemed to have Napa bottled up, but multiple penalties kept the Indians’ final drive alive and they eventually scored on a 3-yard run from Brandon Herter to pull within one with just 2 minutes left in the game.
On the extra point, Napa opted to go for two and the lead.
Indians quarterback Isaiah Newton dropped back and lofted a pass to the back corner of the end zone. The coverage was tight and ball fell incomplete.
Nevada Union celebrated what they thought was the game-clinching defensive stand. But, they would have to do it all over again as on the ground next the football was a yellow flag and the call was defensive pass interference. Napa would get another shot, this time from the 1-yard line after the penalty.
The Indians handed the ball to Herter, but the Miners surged through Napa’s offensive line and sophomore Tino Sanchez-Lane made the stop in the backfield.
“It was really nice, and for our defense to do it was special,” Nevada Union head coach Dennis Houlihan said. “They had a great game. They really did.”
On a night when Nevada Union’s offense sputtered, their defense and special teams shined.
Justin Houlihan was a force on defense, leading the team with 10 tackles and cutting through the Napa offensive line on multiple occasions to make tackles in the backfield.
“Somebody made him very angry in the second half,” said Dennis Houlihan. “All of a sudden he was hitting people and they were stopped.”
Junior defensive end Cameron Dallago put pressure on Napa’s quarterbacks all night and came up big in the third quarter with a strip sack and fumble recovery to halt a Napa drive that had moved deep into NU territory. He would finish the game with eight tackles including three and a half for a loss.
“Cameron’s been there all year,” said Dennis Houlihan. “Tonight he kind of just decided he was going to show up and take over.”
Nevada Union senior cornerback Garrett Graves snatched his first interception of the season, pulling down an under thrown pass in the fourth quarter. Sophomore linebacker Duke Morales tallied six tackles, inlcuding a sack. And, Sanchez-Lane had four solo tackles and a fumble recovery on a muffed punt return.
“Our defense has played better than it has in the last three years,” said Dennis Houlihan. “They’re believing in themselves, they’re physical and they made tackles tonight. They made some big plays.”
DAWSON DIGS IN
Nevada Union’s offense did just enough to get the job done. Missing two regulars on the offensive line and losing senior running back Tyler Nielson to an injury in the first half, the Miners turned to junior Dawson Fay.
Trailing 7-6 in the third quarter, Fay rushed the ball six times on an eight-play drive, eating up 50 yards and capping it with a 1-yard touchdown run to put NU up 12-7.
“Tyler went down. We had two centers out tonight. So we struggled up front, but Dawson at halftime told me ‘give me the ball.'” said Dennis Houlihan. “When you got a back that tells you that, and you trust him, you’re going to give him the ball.”
Fay led all Miners on the ground with 71 yards and a touchdown.
“I just wanted the ball,” Fay said. “I wanted to get into the end zone and finish the game.”
Nevada Union would convert the two-point try on a pass from Owen Dal Bon to Hayden Lee, and go up 14-7.
Fay would also make his presence known on special teams with a 92-yard kickoff return touchdown in the second quarter.
“I’m surprised they kicked it to me, to be honest,” Fay said. “The seam opens, I see it, I hit it and just go straight to the sideline and we practice it. They said ‘right when you get through the seam go right to the sideline,’ and I’ve done it both times, so it works.”
The kickoff return touchdown is Fay’s second this season after taking one back 94-yards against Lincoln Sept. 8.
The Miners struggled in the passing game, completing just two of their nine passes for 52 yards. One completion went for 22 yards to Hayden Fay. For the senior receiver it was the 18th straight varsity game in which he’s made at least one catch. The other completion was on a fake punt play when Dal Bon found Justin Houlihan for a 30 yard gain to keep a drive alive.
With Nielson out and the Napa defense keying on Dawson Fay in the fourth quarter, senior running back Isreal Gonzales came up big with a 28-yard run to clinch the victory.
“(Gonzales) is a special kid,” said Dennis Houlihan. “When he touches the ball, out of those five times, he’s going to do something really big on two of them… He’s shown that he is a big playmaker for us.”
Gonzales finished the game with 54 yards on six carries.
WHAT LIES AHEAD
With the win, Nevada Union finishes 2-2 in non-league play and will now turn its attention to the Sierra Foothill League.
The Miners have not won a league game in the Dennis Houlihan era, going 0-23 against SFL foes since 2013.
Nevada Union opens league play this Friday at Rocklin (3-1).
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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