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PREP FOOTBALL: Nevada Union looks to break through vs. Del Oro

Nevada Union's Dawson Fay runs in for one of his two touchdowns against Rocklin last week. This week, Fay and the Miners head to Loomis to face Del Oro.
Elias Funez/efunez@theunion.com |

Know & GO

What: Nevada Union (2-3, 0-1) at Del Oro (3-2, 0-1)

When: 7:30 p.m., Friday

Where: Del Oro High School, 3301 Taylor Rd, Loomis

Follow along: On Twitter @WalterLFordIII or online at TheUnion.com

Over the last decade or so, it would be safe to say Del Oro has had Nevada Union’s number when it comes to football.

The Miners are 0-9 against the Golden Eagles going back to 2006, with seven of those losses coming in Sierra Foothill League play.

“It might be on the back of some of the coaches’ minds,” Nevada Union head coach Dennis Houlihan said. “But I try not to bring it into the kids’ minds, because we have a lot more things to worry about other than we haven’t beaten them in a while.”

With Nevada Union heading to the Foothill Valley League next season, tonight in Loomis will be the Miners’ last chance to grab a league victory over Del Oro.

The Golden Eagles (3-2, 0-1 SFL) come into the matchup on the heels of a 28-21 loss to SFL foe Granite Bay. The Miners (2-3, 0-1 SFL) also dropped their league opener, falling to Rocklin 39-22 last week.

Del Oro, which reached the CIF Division 1-A State Championship game in 2016, walloped the Miners, 58-21, a season ago, but head coach Casey Taylor and many of the play makers from that Golden Eagles team are no longer around.

Taylor is with Capital Christian now and former Del Oro quarterback Jeff Walters is the new head coach. The Golden Eagles also graduated their starting quarterback, a pair of 1,000-plus yard rushers and the SFL Defensive MVP from a season ago.

“They are a different team,” said Houlihan. “They have a different coach, they have different guys and a different personality. They are still a good football team, but they are not the same as they were.”

Through five games this season, the Golden Eagles’ offensive attack has been balanced with 141.8 pass yards per game and 141 rush yards per game. Leading Del Oro has been 6-foot, 4-inch senior quarterback Josh Gazzaniga with 358 pass yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions. Junior quarterback Carson Jarratt has also been strong in limited action, throwing for 344 yards and five touchdowns. Brice Edwards leads the ground attack with 347 rush yards and five touchdowns. As a team, Del Oro is averaging 26 points per game.

Looking to slow the Golden Eagles’ offense is a Miners defense much improved from a year ago.

Leading the Nevada Union defense all season has been senior middle linebacker Justin Houlihan, who leads the SFL with 50 tackles, including seven for a loss. The Miners also have defensive playmakers in defensive back Hayden Fay (13 tackles, three interceptions), defensive back Garrett Graves (18 tackles, interception), linebacker Jace Wheeler (31 tackles) and defensive lineman Cameron Dallago (18 tackles, sack).

Where the Miners have struggled of late has been on offense. While their running game has been strong, averaging 203.2 yards per game behind junior Dawson Fay (525 yards, six rushing touchdowns) and senior Tyler Nielson (238 rush yards, four touchdowns), the passing game has faltered mightily.

For the season, Nevada Union is averaging just 73.6 passing yards per game and the Miners have completed just three passes for 57 yards in their last two games.

“We got to get our passing game going,” said Dennis Houlihan. “We really focused on our offensive line, we worked on getting the ball out quicker … We just want to be able to get teams out of the box a little bit.”

The Miners are averaging 23.2 points per game and will face a Del Oro defense that is allowing 17.8 points per game.

Anchoring the Golden Eagles’ defense is senior linebacker Andrew Birch with 49 tackles. Del Oro also gets after the quarterback with 12 sacks this season, and boasts a strong secondary with five interceptions so far.

“Their defense is good and our offense has been struggling, so we have to do something about it,” said Dennis Houlihan.

The Miners and Golden Eagles are set to kickoff at 7:30 p.m. tonight at Del Oro High School in Loomis.

If the Miners are able to pull out a victory, Dennis Houlihan said it would go a long way in boosting his team’s confidence going forward.

“It would be humongous,” he said. “It would put us through the roof, because then we would know that we could compete.

“For our kids, I just think we need that confidence level to raise up a little bit and for them to know they can do it.”

To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email wford@theunion.com.


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