PREP FOOTBALL: Nevada Union hosts Woodcreek on homecoming night
Know & Go
What: Woodcreek at Nevada Union
When: 7:30 p.m.. Friday night
Where: Nevada Union High School, 11761 Ridge Rd, Grass Valley
Follow along: on Twitter @TheUnionSports or online at TheUnion.com
The Timberwolves from Woodcreek High School will make their way into Hooper Stadium tonight, homecoming night, to face a Nevada Union Miners team looking to rebound from a lopsided loss a week ago.
“We had two great days of practice,” Nevada Union head coach Dennis Houlihan said. “A lot of it was the (players) not putting pressure on themselves and just having fun. When they relax, they play football. We’re hoping we can carry that over to Friday night.”
After last week’s 52-10 blowout loss to Sierra Foothill League foe Del Oro, Houlihan said his team needed to be stronger when it comes to the mental aspects of the game. So, on Monday, he took his team off the field and put them in the classroom.
“Monday we went into the classroom for an hour and we talked about the mental blockers of athletics,” Houlihan said. “I had every kid take their time and write up three things that prevent them from showing up Friday night, and every kid had the right things to say. So, it was quite obvious that mentally they get so over worked up that they can’t perform and it showed Friday night. The first three series were a prime example.
“It’s a lot of psychology stuff, right now, with these guys because it isn’t physical. I watch them during the week, it’s not physical. It’s a mental thing. They get so overworked or so intimidated they can’t perform.”
Not much went right for Nevada Union (1-4, 0-1 SFL) against Del Oro, and things won’t be much easier tonight as the Timberwolves boast a 4-1 overall record and a new offensive scheme that highlights a talented backfield.
Last season, the Timberwolves were balanced on offense, amassing 1,384 yards and 13 touchdowns through the air, and totaling 1,340 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground.
This season, Woodcreek has implemented a veer scheme on offense, designed to put the ball in the hands of its many talented playmakers.
The new scheme is working. The Timberwolves are averaging 256.8 rushing yards per game and already have 16 rushing touchdowns this season.
Leading the ground attack is 5-foot, 7-inch, 170 pound senior Anthony Mahr with 433 rush yards and four touchdowns. Woodcreek also hands the ball to 5-foot, 11-inch, 180-pound junior Tyler England, who is second on the team with 399 rush yards to go with six rushing touchdowns. Completing the three-headed backfield is 5-foot, 10-inch, 180-pound sophomore Isaiah Ajayi, who has 292 yards and four touchdowns, and is coming off a 165 yard, two touchdown performance against Oak Ridge last week.
In the passing game, Woodcreek averages less than 60 yards per game and throws less than 10 passes per game. When the Timberwolves do pass, it usually ends up in the hands of senior Davion Andrews (nine catches, 111 yards, two touchdowns) or senior Kenneth McGloan (eight catches, 167 yards, two touchdowns).
Nevada Union’s defense has struggled this season, yielding an average of 38.2 points per game and has allowed at least 42 points in four of their first five games. Although, The Miners, at times, have shown an ability to stop the run this season. Houlihan said that will be one of the keys to victory Friday night.
“I think we do pretty good against the run,” Houlihan said. “As long as we line up right, I think we have a chance. We have struggled stopping the pass, and so if they are going to come right at us at least we have a chance to play physical football, and I think that plays into our hand a little bit. But, they are good at it. They are very fast, but I think we will adjust to that.”
Woodcreek’s defense has been strong early on, allowing just 13 points per game and holding three of their five opponents to seven points or less.
The Miners have leaned on the run game this season with a pack of sophomores leading the way, but the young backfield ran into a brick wall against Del Oro.
The Golden Eagles stifled NU’s sophomore led backfield, allowing just 25 rushing yards out of NU’s three top running backs.
The likes of Tyler Nielson, who leads the team with 326 rush yards and six total touchdowns this season, and Owen Day (307 rush yards, two rush touchdowns) will need to get back on track if the Miners offense is to put points on the board.
Through the air, senior quarterback James Schnitzius will look to shake off last week’s 6-for-18, 118 yard, one touchdown, three interception performance.
“I want to see him make good decisions,” Houlihan said of Schnitzius. “I think the speed of the SFL is way different and you have to make a decision real quick.”
Since joining the SFL in 2010, the Miners are 2-3 against Woodcreek, but have lost the last two bouts by a combined score of 84-26.
Kickoff is set for 7:15 p.m. tonight.
Around the SFL
Del Oro (2-2, 1-0 SFL) hits the road to face an undefeated Folsom (5-0, 1-0 SFL) squad fresh off a 27-14 victory over Granite Bay (3-1, 0-1 SFL). The Grizzlies step out of league play for the week and host state powerhouse De La Salle. And, Rocklin (3-1, 0-0 SFL) travels to Oak Ridge (4-1, 1-0 SFL), who slipped by Woodcreek last week 35-28 in double overtime.
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Five Jr. Miner football players and four Jr. Miner cheerleaders have all been selected to participate in the Sacramento (SYF) Youth Shrine Bowl, which benefits Shriners Hospitals for Children.
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