PREP FOOTBALL: Nevada Union hits road to battle Woodcreek
KNOW & GO
What: Nevada Union (2-4) at Woodcreek (2-4)
When: 7:30 p.m., Friday
Where: Woodcreek High School, 2551 Woodcreek Oaks Blvd, Roseville
Follow along: On Twitter @WalterLFordIII or online at TheUnion.com
Standing at midfield after a lopsided loss to Del Oro last Friday, Nevada Union head coach Dennis Houlihan said the game against Woodcreek is a must win situation.
“It’s a must because we match up with them athletically better than other teams in the (Sierra Foothill League),” Houlihan said. “We want to get a league win. I just feel it’s a game that could go either way.”
The Miners (2-4, 0-2 SFL) have lost 21-straight in SFL play and are 0-19 under Houlihan. The SFL has been a rough home for the Miners, who have a 5-29 record in league play since joining it in 2010.
But, that is all in the past and Nevada Union has shown promise this season, especially on the offensive side of the ball.
The Miners are averaging 24.7 points and 348.8 yards per game this season.
“We have guys in spots who can make plays,” Houlihan said. “We have one senior on offense. We will be good on that side for the next few years. I think the biggest reason is having skill guys up as sophomores and now their confidence is higher. Also, makes a big difference when the quarterback is confident in running the offense. He is a competitor.”
Junior quarterback Owen Dal Bon, who saw some playing time as a sophomore, has given NU’s offense a much needed boost in the passing game. He is averaging 145 passing yards per game to go with five passing touchdowns and four interceptions.
Dal Bon along with speedy receiver Hayden Fay, also a junior in his second year on the varsity squad, have given the Miners a much needed deep threat that keeps defenses from packing the box. Fay has 25 catches this season for 563 yards and six touchdowns. Fay is averaging 22.5 yards per reception.
While Dal Bon and Fay have been able to stretch the field with the passing game, NU has found most of its success on the ground. Behind the dynamic running duo of junior Tyler Nielson and sophomore Dawson Fay, the Miners are averaging 203 yards per game. Nielson, who led the Miners in rushing last year as a sophomore, leads NU with 504 rush yards to go with three rushing touchdowns. Nielson is also second on the team with 119 receiving yards. Dawson Fay has been NU’s big play guy out of the backfield with 476 rush yards, a 7.1 yards per carry average and eight touchdowns. Dawson Fay has also thrown a touchdown pass this season.
Looking to slow the Miners offensive charge is a Woodcreek defense that allows 33.3 points per game. Woodcreek does get after the quarterback and has eight sacks this season.
While NU’s offense has been able to move the ball this season, the Miners’ defense has struggled to slow their opponents of late, allowing 47 points per game across their last three contests.
NU’s defense has had a tough time slowing down the run game, allowing 539 rush yards to Del Oro last week and 250 rush yards to Rocklin Sept. 23.
“Defensively we have struggled up front,” said Houlihan. “A few changes this week. We need to be in the mindset that we won’t get punched backwards. Need to win the line of scrimmage and make big plays.”
Woodcreek does most of its damage on the ground, boasting two talented backs in senior Tyler England and junior Isaiah Ajayi. The speedy Ajayi has 558 yards rushing to go with seven rushing touchdowns and England has 531 yards to go with five rushing touchdowns.
Woodcreek does pass often, throwing the ball around 24 times a game. Senior quarterback Matthew Gordon is completing 50 percent of his passes for 638 yards, two touchdowns and five interceptions.
Nevada Union’s pass defense has been much stronger than it has been in recent seasons, notching 12 sacks through six games with Owen Day and Grady McCuen leading the way with four each. The secondary has also come through with six interceptions this season, led by Andrew Link’s two.
Leading the NU defensive charge will be junior linebacker Justin Houlihan, who already has 89 tackles (55 solo).
The last time Nevada Union and Woodcreek met up, the Timberwolves won 49-17. In that game, Ajayi ran for 152 yards and two touchdowns and England added 53 yards and two touchdowns. For NU, Nielson had 80 yards and a touchdown.
The Miners and Timberwolves kickoff tonight’s game at 7:30 p.m. at Woodcreek.
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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