PREP FOOTBALL: Nevada Union to host Folsom on Pink Night, Senior Night | TheUnion.com
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PREP FOOTBALL: Nevada Union to host Folsom on Pink Night, Senior Night

Nevada Union's Tyler Nielson runs the ball for a touchdown during a game against Woodcreek last week. Nielson scored four touchdowns against Woodcreek and is a key cog in NU's offensive attack.
Laura Mahaffy/lmahaffy@theunion.com |

Know & Go

What: Nevada Union (2-5) vs. Folsom (6-1)

When: 7:30 p.m., today

Where: Hooper Stadium, Nevada Union High School

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

Already seven games into the 2016 season and the Miners have just two wins.

Despite the poor win-loss record, the Nevada Union football team has shown it is vastly improved from a season ago, and also given its supporters reason to be optimistic about the future.

One of the major differences from last year is the Miners’ ability to move the ball.



With big play running backs in junior Tyler Nielson (556 rush yards, 7 rush TDs) and sophomore Dawson Fay (557, 8 rush TDs) to go with the power running of Justin Houlihan (212 rush yards, TD), Nevada Union boasts a formidable backfield that averages 205.3 yards per game to go with 18 rushing touchdowns this season.

With the run game drawing more defenders into the box, NU has also found success through the air with junior quarterback Owen Dal Bon often finding junior receiver Hayden Fay for big gains.




Dal Bon has already put together a solid junior campaign, completing 52 percent of his passes for 1,071 yards, seven touchdowns and five interceptions. Dal Bon is the first NU quarterback to top the 1,000-yard mark since 2012 when Kyle Cota threw for 2,518 yards.

Hayden Fay, a 6-foot, 2-inch speedster, has had a breakout junior season, catching 32 passes for a league-best 705 yards and seven touchdowns. Fay has at least one touchdown in five of his last six games, is averaging 22 yards per reception and has topped the 100-yard mark in three straight games.

A big reason for NU’s offensive emergence has been the play of a young, but stout offensive line which is led by the lone senior in the trenches Bronson Ryberg.

With all of the Miners’ offensive prowess and talent on that side of the ball, they face an offense that is unmatched by any in the Sierra Foothill League tonight. With rain in the forecast, the Miners welcome the Folsom Bulldogs to Hooper Stadium.

Folsom is the two-time reigning Sierra Foothill League champions and three-time reigning Sac-Joaquin Section Division I champions. The Bulldogs come into today’s contest on the heels of a blowout win over Del Oro, 42-7.

The Bulldogs (6-1, 3-0 SFL) are averaging 42 points per game in SFL contests this season, and are allowing just 9.3 points per game to league opponents.

Folsom is led by senior quarterback Joe Curry, who is completing 68 percent of his passes for 2,022 yards, 27 touchdowns and five interceptions.

Curry has several talented receivers at his disposal as six different pass catchers have at least three receiving touchdowns this season. Leading the receiving corps is senior Drake Stallworth with 543 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns. Eric Davis (30 receptions, 442 yards, 3 TDs), junior Joe Ngata (29 receptions, 418 yards, 4 TDs) and senior Jack Sa (19 receptions, 223 yards, 5 TDs) are also playmakers in the Bulldogs passing attack.

“Folsom has numerous weapons offensively,” said Dennis Houlihan. “We need to defend the pass and limit quick strikes.”

Folsom can also run the ball, averaging 173.7 rush yards per game, led by junior Davin Simmons with 561 rush yards and four touchdowns. Sophomore Kaiden Bennett (164 yards, 5 TDs) and Brandon Rupchock (226 rush yards, 2 TDs) also offer Folsom strong options out of the backfield.

With rain expected Friday night, Dennis Houlihan said he hopes the inclement weather will help the Miners.

“I’m hoping it benefits us with our ground game,” he said. “It may force Folsom to turn to run game more than they would like.”

While the Miners’ offense has proved it can compete against the defenses in the SFL, their defense is yet to make that statement. In three SFL games, the Miners have allowed a whopping 46.7 points per game.

Despite allowing points in bunches, NU’s defense has some bright spots, including a much improved secondary and a tackling machine at middle linebacker. In three SFL games, NU’s secondary has allowed just 161.3 passing yards per game and has as many interceptions (3) as passing touchdowns allowed. NU’s secondary is led by seniors Andrew Link and Jonathan Weaver as well as junior Will Smith.

Junior middle linebacker Justin Houlihan has been a beast in the middle, making a league-best 96 tackles so far this season.

Where NU’s defense has truly struggled has been against the run, allowing 355.3 rush yards per game and 16 rushing touchdowns in three SFL matchups.

RECENT HISTORY

The last time NU and Folsom met up, the Bulldogs beat the Miners, 56-7. In that game, NU’s Kase Scott ran for 117 yards and one touchdown, but it wasn’t nearly enough to keep pace with Folsom who amassed nearly 500 yards of offense. Since Folsom joined the SFL in 2014, the Bulldogs are 2-0 against the Miners with a scoring margin of 119-13.

PINK NIGHT/SENIOR NIGHT

Friday night is also Pink Night at Hooper Stadium. Sponsor for the night is Insight Imaging who will offer free mammograms to anyone in need at their practice off Litton Drive in Grass Valley. Nevada Union cheer will be collecting donations during the varsity game and all donations will go to Insight Imaging for the awareness and education on breast cancer. There will also be an Insight Imaging booth at the game for any questions and educational information. All breast cancer survivors or those currently going through treatment will have free entrance into the game.

It is also Senior Night for the NU football and cheer teams.

KICKOFF

The Bulldogs and Miners get things started at 7:30 p.m. tonight at Nevada Union’s Hooper Stadium.

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


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