It was Homecoming at Hooper Stadium Friday night and the festivities were in full effect.
The home stands were packed, the student section was raucous, there were classic cars escorting the Homecoming Court around the track, there were two rivals battling it out on the gridiron, and there was even some Speedo-clad streakers at halftime. The only thing that was missing was a victory for the home team.
The Nevada Union Miners fell behind early in the contest and never fully recovered as they fell to the visiting Placer Hillmen, 47-26.
“I’m still proud of these guys,” Nevada Union head coach Brad Sparks said of his team. “We’re on the right path, we’re doing the right things in practice, we’re doing the right things in the weight room, we’re doing the right things in the hallways and in our community, and we just got to keep working forward.”
Sparks also praised Nevada Union administrators for orchestrating the Homecoming events and doing so within the Nevada County Public Health Department’s COVID-19 mandates.
“I think this was a great event for our community, our school and our kids,” Sparks said. “I got to thank my admin. They worked their tails off for our kids, to make sure this happened. The band, the choir, the student section, the fans we had in here tonight, and they did it all under the county’s restrictions. I’m awful proud of how we did that tonight. I think we showed a lot of class and I can’t say enough about our admin, Dan Crossen, Kelly Rhoden, Tim Reid, Luke Browning and Brett McFadden, they did every thing they could to make sure we had a great event tonight.”
On the field it was all Placer early on. The Hillmen’s Wing-T offense got rolling in the first quarter and never stopped as it racked up seven touchdowns and more than 500 yards on the ground.
Leading the Hillmen charge was senior running back Lavelle Davis Jr., who rushed for 314 yards and four touchdowns (5 yards, 75, 1, 65) on 30 carries.
Placer also got a big game from sophomore running back Kosta Aleksic, who carried the ball 14 times for 168 yards and two touchdowns (5, 39).
The Hillmen jumped out to a 20-0 lead in the first quarter behind touchdown runs from Davis, Aleksic and senior quarterback Andy Hall.
Nevada Union’s offense started to find its stride at the end of the first quarter, when quarterback Gabe Baker connected with receiver Andrew Webster, who got behind his defender then burned up the sideline for an 81-yard touchdown. Baker finished the game with 284 passing yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
Baker’s second touchdown pass of the evening came in the second quarter, when he found Drew Menet in the end zone from 25-yards out. That score brought NU to within six points, at 20-14. That would be as close as they would get, though, as Placer scored just before halftime and then on their opening possession of the second half to extend its lead to 34-14.
Leading the NU pass catchers was junior Clay Renner, who hauled in five passes for 110 yards. Menet also had a solid night with five catches for 82 yards and a score.
The Miners’ running game was led by Baker, who tallied 99 yards and touchdown on 13 carries. NU senior running back Cameron Cormack followed with 15 carries for 81 yards, including a 15-yard sprint to the end zone.
Defensively, the Miners were led by senior middle linebacker Jedi Vculek who wrapped up 20 total tackles. Senior defensive lineman Justin Lopez followed with 19 tackles, Renner wrapped up 13 tackles and junior defensive back James Kinney notched 11 tackles. Junior safety Trayton Santos tallied 10 tackles and recovered a fumble. And, Webster pulled down an interception in the game, his fifth of the season.
“I’m proud of these guys and proud of how hard they fought tonight. I really am,” said Sparks. “We’re on the verge of doing some great things here. We’re just a little off. We still need to fix a few things.”
The Miners (4-3 overall, 1-1 Foothill Valley League) have just three games left on their regular season schedule. They travel to face Oakmont (3-4, 0-2 FVL) this week. They then face Ponderosa (4-1, 2-0 FVL) Oct. 22 at home, and close the regular season Oct. 29 at Lincoln (4-2, 2-0 FVL). Placer (1-5, 1-1 FVL) is set to host Rio Linda (1-5, 0-2 FVL) next week.
NU: Gabe Baker – 11-for-24, 284 yards, 2 TDs, 1 Int
P: Andy Hall – 1-for-6, 8 yards, Int
P: Lavelle Davis Jr. – 30 carries, 314 yards, 4 TDs
P: Kosta Aleksic – 14 carries, 168 yards, 2 TDs
NU: Gabe Baker – 13 carries, 99 yards, TD
NU: Cameron Cormack – 15 carries, 81 yards, TD
NU: Clay Renner – 5 catches, 110 yards
NU: Drew Menet – 5 catches, 82 yards, TD
NU: Andrew Webster – 1 catch, 81 yards, TD
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