PREP FOOTBALL: Nevada Union rallies past Placer for 1st win of season |

PREP FOOTBALL: Nevada Union rallies past Placer for 1st win of season

Nevada Union's Dawson Fay runs the ball during a game against Placer at Le Febvre Stadium Friday night. Nevada Union beat Placer, 16-12. Fay rushed for a team-high 60 yards.
Laura Mahaffy/ | The Union

Miners 16, Hillmen 12


P: Mario Perez 3-yard run (2:18) extra point no good


P: Perez 1-yard run (0:10) 2-point try no good


NU: Hayden Fay 76-yard pass from Owen Dal Bon (11:48) extra point good

NU: Safety (9:42)

NU: Fay 50-yard pass from Dal Bon (9:27) extra point good

For the second straight week the Nevada Union Miners dug themselves a deep hole, but this time they were able to climb out and claim victory.

Trailing 12-0 after three quarters, the Miners scored 16 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to win, 16-12, and spoil Placer’s home opener.

“We’ll take it,” said Nevada Union head coach Dennis Houlihan. “It was ugly, but we’ll take it.”

After three quarters of “ugly” football, which included four personal foul penalties and four turnovers by Nevada Union, the Miners broke out of their funk in a big way. On the first play of the fourth quarter, NU quarterback Owen Dal Bon hit junior receiver Hayden Fay on a short screen pass that Fay took 76-yards to pay dirt to put NU on the board.

“We have to find ways to get Hayden the ball,” said Houlihan. “If they were going to play off on him, we gave him that quick screen so he could let that speed go.”

On the ensuing drive, the Miners would stuff the Hillmen on third-and-2 and force a punt attempt, but the snap soared over the punter’s head and out of the back of the end zone for a safety.

Trailing 12-9, Nevada Union took over on the 50 yard line, and wasted no time grabbing their first lead of the game on another Dal Bon to Fay connection. This time, Dal Bon threw a pretty pass over the top of the Placer secondary that found a streaking Fay, who had beat double coverage. Fay hauled it in and coasted into the end zone.

“Coach Houlihan told me right before, that I was going to have to set up and (Fay) would be open,” said Dal Bon. “I trust him. Hayden is our dude. I set up, hit him, money.”

Fay said he knew he was double covered but trusted the offensive line would hold up and Dal Bon would put the ball where it needed to be.

“I trusted the lineman were going to block for Owen Dal Bon and I knew he was going to throw the right pass,” Fay said.

Fay finished with three catches for 149 yards and two touchdowns.

Dal Bon finished 5-for-13 for 174 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Dal Bon was especially good in the fourth quarter, hitting on the two touchdown passes and also converting on a third-and-8 after scrambling out of trouble and hitting Tyler Nielson, who caught the ball and tapped his toes along the sideline for a first down that helped put the game away.

“I got out of the pocket and I saw a linebacker coming up and there was no way I was going to be able to run it, so I was just hoping for a teammate and I saw Tyler and I threw it. I could have closed my eyes, I knew he was going to catch it. He’s a rock.”

On the ground, Nevada Union gained 136 yards. Leading the way was sophomore Dawson Fay with 60 yards on nine carries. Nielson added 40 yards on 11 carries, and Justin Houlihan had 38 yards on nine bruising carries.

The Miners defense stood out in the second half, rising to the occasion and completely shutting down the Hillmen.

“I don’t think there was any question we were going to pull it off and win,” said Dennis Houlihan. “Because our D shut them down in the second half.”

Leading the NU charge was Justin Houlihan with 16 tackles (11 solo), three tackles for a loss and an interception. Jonathan Weaver came up with nine total tackles. Dal Bon had an interception and Owen Day had five tackles, including a big sack that put a halt to a fourth quarter Hillmen drive.

For Placer, Mario Perez led the way with 97 yards and two first half rushing touchdowns, but in the second half was held in check, much like the rest of the Hillmen offense.

Nevada Union held Placer to just 151 yards rushing a week after the Hillmen put up 310 rushing yards against Golden Valley. The Miners also held Placer to just 96 yards passing and picked off two passes.

Rivalry heating up

Since the return of the Nevada Union/Placer rivalry in 2014, the games had been one sided blowouts. The Miners beat Placer 41-20 on the Hillmen’s field in 2014. Placer returned the favor in 2015, beating NU 43-7 at Hooper Stadium. Friday night’s game was close throughout, though, and will only serve to fuel the re-emerging rivalry.

Solid in the second half

The Miners struggled early against Placer, much like they did Aug. 26 in their season opener against Antelope. But, NU has played really strong football down the stretch. The Miners are outscoring their opponents 30-7 in the second half of games this season.

Do-it-all Dal Bon

Dal Bon was on the field plenty against Placer. Dal Bon took every snap at quarterback, made several strong plays at safety including an interception, and he handled all the punting duties for Nevada Union.

See for yourself

The game can be seen in its entirety, along with the Foothill Sports Report, at

Up next

The Miners (1-1) are on the road again next Friday when they face the Fighting Zebras from Lincoln. Placer (0-2) will look to get its first win of the season next Friday on the road at Reno High School.

JV and freshmen

Nevada Union’s JV Miners (0-2) were no match for Placer, falling to the JV Hillmen 42-6. The freshmen Miners (1-1) also lost to Placer, 40-6.

To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email

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