PREP FOOTBALL: Offensive players to keep an eye on in the upcoming season |

PREP FOOTBALL: Offensive players to keep an eye on in the upcoming season

Friday Night football is right around the corner.

The “dead” period for high school football teams is over, and with just 15 days left until the regular season kicks off, the Nevada Union Miners and Bear River Bruins are back to work prepping for their 2017 campaigns.

“No doubt we’re excited,” said Bear River co-head coach Scott Savoie. “It’s time to get busy.”

Even though the season doesn’t get started until Aug. 25, there are a couple events leading up to it that will help fans get acquainted with this year’s squads. Nevada Union will be hosting the annual “Meet the Miners” Blue/Gold Scrimmage Saturday. The Miners will then head to Bear River High School Aug. 19 for a scrimmage against the Bruins.

“It’s a great warm up and a great test for us early,” Savoie said of the annual pre-season scrimmage with the Miners. “We like it. It’s been a good thing. Dennis (Houlihan) and his staff are first class. A classy group, and we get along well with them. The other thing is Nevada Union plays great defense, so that’s good for us offensively.”

The upcoming scrimmage will mark the fourth straight year the two Nevada County teams have matched up with each other ahead of the start of the regular season.

“It’s gone well,” Nevada Union head coach Dennis Houlihan said of the scrimmages with Bear River. “We try to keep it short. Get a good look at our ones and let our twos and threes get some experience as well.”

As the Miners and Bruins barrel toward their season openers, here is a list of players on the offensive side of the ball to keep an eye on.

Tyler Nielson, Nevada Union, Senior, Running back

The 5-foot, 10-inch, 190-pound Nielson enters his senior season with two years of varsity experience already under his belt. The 2016 All-Sierra Foothill League Second Teamer led the Miners in rushing a season ago with 766 yards and 11 total touchdowns and has a combined 1,331 rush yards and 18 total touchdowns through his first two years of varsity football. Nielson is also a good receiver out of the backfield and is solid as a kick returner.

“Tyler has the ability to make people miss, find the holes and make something happen out of nothing,” said Houlihan.

Austin Baze, Bear River, Senior, Fullback

Bear River’s Austin Baze, who was called up to the varsity team as a freshmen in 2014, enters his senior year with the Bruins. The 6-1, 230-pound fullback is a good combination of speed and power. He led the Bruins in rushing yards (352) and touchdowns (6) a season ago despite playing in just seven games. He also led the Bruins in touchdowns his sophomore season with 11.

“When we get Austin Baze healthy, he is going to be a handful,” Savoie said. “As a fullback, he’s going to be pretty dynamic.”

Hayden Fay, Nevada Union, Senior, receiver

The Miners’ top receiving threat from a season ago is back for his senior year. The 6-2, 175-pound burner led the SFL in receiving yards (951) last season and was second in the league in receiving touchdowns (8). Fay gets yards in bunches, averaging 20.2 yards per reception. He was an ALL-SFL First teamer a season ago and is poised for another big year.

Stephen Taylor, Bear River, Senior, running back/receiver

The 5-11, 170 pound Taylor is a threat in the run game and pass game. He rushed for 308 yards as a junior, including a 123-yard, two touchdown performance against Foothill last season. Through the air, he caught six balls for 149 yards and two touchdowns. Taylor was also an All-Pioneer Valley League First teamer a season ago.

Dawson Fay, Nevada Union, Junior, running back

Dawson Fay, the younger brother of Hayden Fay, had a solid sophomore season in 2016, rushing for 736 yards, with a 6.5 yards per carry average. The 6-1, 185-pound back scored nine touchdowns on the ground a season ago and caught 11 balls for 168 yards as well. He was an All-SFL second teamer in his sophomore season. Entering his junior season, Fay along with Nielson should get the bulk of the offensive load.

Travis Carpenter, Bear River, Senior, offensive line

As a junior, Carpenter played center for the Bruins, but he will be moving to guard this season where he will be counted on to help move the Bear River offense. Carpenter is also an accomplished wrestler, reaching the state tournament in the 184-pound weight division in his junior year.

Owen Dal Bon, Nevada Union, Senior, quarterback

Dal Bon is another Miner who enters his third year of varsity football. He split time at quarterback as a sophomore and took over full time in his junior year, throwing for 1,430 yards, eight touchdowns and 10 interceptions. The 5-11, 170-pound QB completed just 48 percent of his passes last season, but when he did connect they went for big plays, averaging 18.1 yards per completed pass.

Luke Baggett, Bear River, Senior, quarterback

Baggett, an All-PVL player on the defensive side of the ball last season, takes over the starting quarterback spot for the Bruins this season.

“He’s putting in a lot of time and effort and really working hard,” Bear River co-head coach Terry Logue said in July.

Even though Baggett did not play quarterback as a junior, he has played quarterback at lower levels, said Savoie.

“Luke Baggett is doing a great job,” said Savoie. “He’s moving to quarterback this year and he’s really coming on. I think you will see some good things from Luke this season.”

Cole Johnson, Nevada Union, Senior, offensive line

Anchoring the offensive line for Nevada Union this season will be 6-3, 290-pound Johnson at right tackle. Johnson is coming off a standout season with the wrestling team, where he reached the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Tournament in the heavyweight division and will be counted on to move defenders this season.

“He’s way better than last year,” said Houlihan. “He’s really improved.”

Calder Kunde, Bear River, Junior, receiver

The 6-1, 15-pound Kunde is coming off a sophomore season in which he was used as a receiver and a kick returner. He grabbed 13 passes for 98 yards and one score a season ago. Look for Kunde to get a lot more looks this season as he moves into a more prominent role in the Bruins’ offense.

Nevada Union opens the season on the road at the Antelope Aug. 25. The Bruins kick off the season at home against Orland.

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

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