PREP FOOTBALL: Nevada Union tops Lincoln in overtime
Miners 21, Zebras 14
Lincoln: Ryan Graham 2-yard run. Extra point good.
Nevada Union: Tyler Nielson 26-yard run. Extra point good.
Nevada Union: Dawson Fay 3-yard run. Extra point good
Lincoln: Graham 3-yard run. Extra point good.
Nevada Union: Fay 1-yard run. Extra point good.
With the game on the line, Nevada Union’s defense stood tall.
Clinging to a 21-14 overtime lead on the road against Lincoln, the Miners stuffed the Fighting Zebras twice on the goal line to earn their second win of the season Friday.
“The good thing is our kids keep showing their heart week in and week out,” said Nevada Union head coach Dennis Houlihan. “There is no quit in them. Probably for some of them it’s the first time they’ve had a national tie breaker.”
In California high school football, overtime games are settled after both teams have had four downs to score from the 10-yard line. If the teams are tied after each has had an offensive series, the overtime continues.
The Miners only needed one overtime period to secure the win.
Nevada Union (2-1) opened the overtime period on offense, and kept the ball on the ground. NU went with three straight runs, capped by a 1-yard touchdown burst from Dawson Fay. The sophomore running back initially looked to be stopped before the goal line, but his second effort propelled him through a would be tackler and into the end zone.
Trailing 21-14 in overtime, the Fighting Zebras went on offense and pushed the ball to the 2-yard line after a second down run. On third down, Lincoln’s bruising running back Ryan Graham powered up the middle and was tackled near the goal line. One official signaled touchdown, but he was overruled by another official and the ball was placed inside the 1-yard line. On fourth-and-goal, Lincoln snapped the ball directly to Graham in the shotgun, but the ball squirted free and NU quickly swarmed Graham who had no choice but to simply cover the ball near the 5-yard line.
“It all came down to heart,” said junior linebacker Justin Houlihan. “We knew we had to stop them. We slanted hard, D-line fought all night, and I thought we covered the run pretty good.”
The Miners had a chance to win the game in regulation, but a 3-yard touchdown run by Graham with less than 30 seconds to go tied the game at 14-14. The hard-running Graham was solid all game as he rushed for a game-high 94 yards and two touchdowns.
Graham was the only thing Lincoln had going against the Miners, who once again leaned on their defense to secure victory.
“You just can’t back down,” said Justin Houlihan said of containing Graham. “You have to go right at him. Just have to contain him. You know he will break a couple, but you just have to limit him.”
Justin Houlihan led the Miners with 16 tackles and ½ a sack. Defensive end Owen Day was solid off the edge with five tackles and 1 1/2 sacks. NU cornerback Andrew Link came up big in the third quarter, grabbing an interception to thwart a Lincoln drive that had moved deep into NU territory. Link also blocked a Lincoln field goal attempt just before halftime.
“Defensively we had to buck up, and we looked tired, but we came up with big plays,” said Dennis Houlihan.
The Nevada Union offense had a sporadic night against the Fighting Zebras, managing just 228 yards offensively (126 pass, 102 rush). Leading the NU ground attack was junior Tyler Nielson with 65 rush yards, including a 26-yard touchdown run that tied the game at 7-7 in the first quarter. Fay added 19 rush yards and two touchdowns, including the game winner and a 3-yarder in the second quarter.
Through the air, NU quarterback Owen Dal Bon was 6-for-15 for 126 yards and an interception. Dal Bon’s favorite target was Hayden Fay, who pulled down four catches for 72 yards.
Fake it ‘til you make it
Nevada Union got creative a couple times on fourth and long. With Dal Bon doing the punting this season NU has a myriad of options from the punt formation. After NU’s opening drive stalled in the first quarter, the punt team took the field, but ran a sweep play that came up short. In the second quarter, when facing a fourth-and-17, NU again ran a fake punt, this time Dal Bon rolled out and lofted a pass to Justin Houlihan for a 32-yard gain. The Miners would go on to score a touchdown on that drive.
Every time the Miners and Fighting Zebras clash on the gridiron it is a fight until the end. NU and Lincoln have faced off in three straight seasons with NU holding a slight scoring edge, 82-76. In 2014, Nevada Union beat Lincoln 26-20. In 2015, the Fighting Zebras got some revenge, beating the Miners, 42-35. In all three games the road team has left victorious.
The Miners are now 2-1 and above .500 for the first time since 2014, when they opened the season 3-1.
“Anytime you can win when you’ve gone through what we’ve gone through, it’s exciting,” Dennis Houlihan said. “The kids are excited and the work is paying off for them. Hopefully it’s contagious.”
Next up for the Miners is a matchup with Napa at 7 p.m. Friday at Hooper Stadium. Napa is 1-2 after falling to Pittman, 7-6, last Friday.
Junior varsity and Freshmen
The JV Miners (1-2) earned their first win of the season Friday, beating Lincoln 27-0. Having a big day for NU was Izzy Gonzales with two rushing touchdowns. On the defensive side of the ball, Ryan Werner returned an interception 60-yards for a touchdown. Bram Lofgren also had an interception, and Christian Espinoza had a sack.
The NU freshmen Miners (2-1) also beat Lincoln, 7-0, on Thursday. Leading the freshmen team was Seth Fisher with 71 rushing yards and the game’s lone touchdown, a 4-yard run in the fourth quarter. Also playing well for NU was Dillon Roberts with 50 rush yards. Santino Sanchez-Lane came up with an interception on defense.
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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