PREP FOOTBALL: Nevada Union’s new offensive scheme leads to success in summer 7-on-7s |

PREP FOOTBALL: Nevada Union’s new offensive scheme leads to success in summer 7-on-7s

Nevada Union quarterback JT Conway surveys the field during a 7-on-7 scrimmage against River Valley Thursday at Hooper Stadium.
Elias Funez/

On the final play of the day, Nevada Union junior quarterback J.T. Conway took the snap, surveyed the field and zipped a 40-yard strike to the end zone, where senior receiver Anghel Carrillo made a tough catch against good coverage for the score.

It was a fitting way to finish a strong week of football for the Miners, who shined at a six-team 7-on-7 scrimmage at Yuba College on Wednesday, and then gave the home fans a taste of what’s to come in the 2019 season with a 7-on-7 scrimmage against River Valley at Hooper Stadium on Thursday.

The Miners are in the midst of their summer training and second-year head coach Brad Sparks likes what he is seeing from his team.

“They compete, they’re positive, they don’t make excuses, they’re coachable, they work extremely hard and they love each other a ton,” he said.

The Miners have found success in their 7-on-7 scrimmages this month, thanks in part to a scheme change on offense. Nevada Union has left behind the Wing-T, a run-heavy scheme predicated on deception and pulling linemen, and moved to a spread approach, which features more wide outs and has become popular with college and high school programs across the nation.

“Full bore change. We don’t have a Wing-T play in,” said Sparks. “It’s the spread. It looks closer to what Folsom runs. We met with (former Folsom coaches) Kris Richardson and Troy Taylor and got quite a bit of stuff from them.”

Richardson and Taylor used the spread offense to near perfection at Folsom, resulting in the Bulldogs winning multiple Sac-Joaquin Section and State titles across the past decade. Taylor and Richardson are both at Sacramento State now, where Taylor is the head coach and Richardson is the assistant head coach.

Sparks said the new offensive approach is simpler than the Wing-T, and his players have embraced the change.

“Our kids have really bought into it,” he said. “The kids are excited.”

The Wing-T has been a staple of Nevada Union football since the early 80s, when then head coach Randy Blankenship brought the scheme to the program. It has served NU well over the years, resulting in four Sac-Joaquin Section titles (1993, 1994, 2005, 2009), all of which came under former head coach Dave Humphers, who ran the Wing-T with the Miners from 1991-2012.

A season ago, NU’s Wing-T offense fared well on the ground with 277.7 yards per game, but the passing attack was paltry (71.4 yards per game), and the Miners went 3-7 overall as they were rarely able to keep pace with some of the more explosive offenses on their schedule.

In the 7-on-7 with River Valley on Thursday, the Miners featured a pair of quarterbacks. Conway split the duties with sophomore Gabe Baker, both showing what they can do within the new offensive system.

“Neither guy has really had someone below them, pushing them,” said Sparks. “So them competing with each other has been really good. It’s made us much better.”

Conway was the starting quarterback for NU’s junior varsity squad a season ago, and Baker was the freshman team’s signal caller last year.

“I still need them to be more consistent, but both of them are going to be really good,” said Sparks.

Conway tossed two touchdowns in Thursday’s 7-on-7 with River Valley, including a 17-yard dart to Ty Daugherty for NU’s first score of the day.

Baker threw for one score in the matchup, finding Jaxon Horne for a 4-yard score, set up by a 36-yard pass from Baker to Horne on the previous play.

The Miners have two more 7-on-7’s scheduled for next week. They will travel to Colfax to face the reigning Sac-Joaquin Section Division V champion Falcons at 6 p.m. Monday. They will then host Sutter on Wednesday. After that, the Miners will practice until the Section’s “dead period” goes in effect July 8. The “dead period” ends July 29. The Miners’ first game of the season is against Yuba City, Aug. 23 at Nevada Union.

“I’m really excited about where were going,” said Sparks. “But we still have a long ways to go.”

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

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