PREP FOOTBALL: Nevada Union opens Sierra Foothill League play against Del Oro
Know & Go
What: Nevada Union (1-3) at Del Oro (1-2)
When: 7:30 p.m., Friday
Where: Del Oro High School, 3301 Taylor Rd, Loomis
Follow along: @TheUnionSports on Twitter, or online at TheUnion.com
For Nevada Union senior linebacker Kase Scott the game tonight against Del Oro is about pride.
“It’s Miner pride,” the second-year defensive starter said Thursday after practice. “We want to start the league season off strong. We learned a lot during the preseason and we’re going to come out strong.”
For Nevada Union head coach Dennis Houlihan tonight’s game is the next step in the evolution of a young football team, and it couldn’t have come at a better time.
“We are making strides, we are getting better and now we get to see if we can do it against a powerhouse,” Houlihan said.
The Miners earned their first win of the season a week ago against Pioneer, and are riding that momentum into tonight’s Sierra Foothill League opener against the Golden Eagles of Del Oro (1-2).
“Practice has been great,” said Houlihan. “Our kids were really focused. Probably the best week of practice we’ve had. I just told them that ‘I feel more confident going into this game than the three games prior.’ It’s about being over prepared and knowing your assignments so there are no mistakes.”
Nevada Union will need to keep the mistakes to a minimum if it hopes to ground the Golden Eagles, who have beaten the Miners five-straight times dating back to 2010, the year Nevada Union joined the SFL.
“Del Oro is good,” said Houlihan. “They are the same team they always are. They are going to go right at you. They want to be physical, they want to run the ball right at you, and they got a DI athlete they like to throw to.”
The Golden Eagles are off to a 1-2 start, but both losses have come in close contests against powerhouse programs in Bellarmine College Prep (3-0) out of San Jose, and Punahou (7-0) from Hawaii.
The Golden Eagles are a balanced team with an offense that can produce on the ground and through the air. Defensively they are physical and opportunistic.
Leading the Del Oro offense this season is junior quarterback Stone Smartt, who has hit on 50-of-83 passes for 728 yards, six touchdowns and four interceptions.
Smartt’s favorite target is University of Colorado commit Trey Udoffia. The senior is usually the fastest player on the field and his numbers back it up. Udoffia leads Del Oro with 13 catches for 319 yards and four touchdowns. Udoffia averages 24.5 yards per catch.
The Miners have been vulnerable to the big play this season, allowing at least one scoring play of more than 40 yards in each of their first four games.
Scott said the NU defense has come a long way since the beginning of the season, and expects a strong effort come game time.
“I expect us to give it 100 percent all game, all four quarters,” Scott said. “That’s what we learned we need to do. We can’t come out strong and fizzle down. We need to keep it 100 percent the whole time.”
Last week the Miners added sophomore defensive lineman Drew Heaps, who made an immediate impact with eight tackles, five of which were for a loss.
“It creates a tremendous amount of positive energy,” Scott said of the addition of Heaps. “I mean five tackles for a loss is a tremendous thing for our defense.”
Heaps’ impressive varsity debut was no surprise to Houilhan.
“Heaps did exactly what we thought he could do,” said Houlihan. “Can’t block him. He’s low to the ground and were trying to utilize that more into our scheme.”
The Miners also settled on a starting quarterback in senior James Schnitzius.
“He’s our man going forward,” Houlihan said. “He just decided to take it. He jumps in every time. He just basically said it’s mine and it showed in practice. Owen Dal Bon will still get reps, because he has to just in case, but in the game James is our guy.”
Schnitzius and sophomore Dal Bon both had a shot at the starting role during the preseason, but Schnitzius pulled away in the last two games, completing 16-of-40 passes for 241 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. A vast improvement from his first two games where he accounted for just 139 passing yards and three interceptions.
Nevada Union has done most of their damage on the ground this season with their sophomore heavy backfield improving every week.
Led by sophomores Tyler Nielson (323 rush yards, six total touchdowns), Owen Day (307 rush yards, two rush touchdowns), and Justin Houlihan (87 rush yards, four touchdowns) the Miners are averaging 182.5 yards on the ground per game.
NU’s offense has hit its stride of late, scoring 35 points in each of its last two games, but faces a Del Oro defense that allows 18.6 points per game.
The Golden Eagles defense is led by junior free safety Mason Hurst (17 tackles, four interceptions) and senior linebacker John Spencer (24 tackles, 2.5 sacks).
The Miners and Golden Eagles are set to kick off at 7:30 p.m. tonight at Del Oro High School.
Around the SFL
League play gets started for six out of the seven SFL teams Friday. Defending SFL, Sac-Joaquin Section and DI state champ Folsom (4-0) travels to face Granite Bay (3-0) in a battle of unbeatens, and Oak Ridge (3-1) hits the road to Woodcreek for a bout with the 4-0 Timberwolves. Rocklin (3-1) has a bye this week.
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email email@example.com.
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User Legend: Moderator Trusted User
New season. New co-head coaches. Same expectations.