Taking it up a notch: Miners set for home opener against Pleasant Grove | TheUnion.com

Taking it up a notch: Miners set for home opener against Pleasant Grove

Junior quarterback Justus Spillner (6) will lead Nevada Union against Pleasant Grove Friday in the Miners' home opener.
John Hart/jhart@theunion.com | The Union

The Nevada Union football team shocked the Sac-Joaquin Section with their Week Zero upset of Placer, but when the Miners take the field Friday for their home opener against Pleasant Grove they will be facing a far more difficult challenge.

“Last week we went up against a well coached team,” NU head coach Dennis Houlihan said. “This week we got a team with great athletes… It will test if we can handle pure speed.”

Last season, the Eagles stormed into Hooper Stadium and hung 62 points on the board on their way to a 55-point victory. Houlihan said his team hasn’t forgotten what happened to them last year.

“They are not clueless,” Houlihan said of his team. “They know who we are going up against. A lot of great athletes and a very fast team.”

The Miners are 0-2 all-time against Pleasant Grove, losing badly last season, and by one point, 29-28, in 2012.

Pleasant Grove (0-1) has a new coach in Jason Rossow and is coming off a 34-10 loss to Rocklin in Week Zero, but the game was closer than the score indicates.

Against Rocklin, the Eagles did most of their damage through the air as junior quarterback Jake Ford threw for 161 yards and one touchdown on 12-of-26 passing.

The Eagles are led on the ground by 5-foot, 11-inch 175 pound running back Damaree Morris, who rushed for 673 yards and nine touchdowns last season but was held to just 58 yards against Rocklin.

On the defensive side of the ball, Pleasant Grove presents problems via its pass rush, said Houlihan.

“They put a lot of pressure on the outside,” he said. “We have to have our eyes open and get rid of the ball quickly. They have two really good defensive ends.”

The Eagles held Rocklin’s run game to just 137 yards, but did get burnt in the pass game, allowing 288 yards through the air.

For the Miners, the week of practice coming off their first win since 2012 was a good one, said Houlihan.

“We are more confident now,” he said. “We had a good week, it’s always hard coming off a holiday weekend, but the kids have responded. We still have to be able to transfer that from practice to the field Friday.”

The confidence is well deserved after NU’s pistol formation wing-T was able to shred Placer’s defense for 409 rushing yards and 161 passing yards.

NU’s improved pass game saw junior quarterback Justus Spillner throw for 161 yards and three touchdowns (both varsity career highs). earning him Sacramento Bee Prep Player of the Week honors.

After their victory over Sacramento Bee top-20 ranked Placer, the Miners have crept into the rankings at No. 18, one spot ahead of Placer, who dropped from No. 14 to No. 19, and one spot behind Pleasant Grove (17). But those rankings have little value to Houlihan at this point.

“Not after one win,” he said. “Maybe if we start winning consistently. I think we shocked people with our turnaround from last year, but we have a long season ahead of us and things can go a number of ways.”

NU will look to snap a seven-game home losing streak dating back to Oct. 12, 2012, when they kick off at 7:15 today at Hooper Stadium.

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

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