Uphill battle | TheUnion.com

Uphill battle

Nevada Union's Mo Nieves runs in for a touchdown with Del Oro's Jonathon Tuttle giving chase.
John Hart/jhart@theunion.com | The Union

The 2014 prep football season is a mere month and a half away and the Nevada Union football team has been working all summer to put together a winning product.

The Miners are coming off their worst season in school history (0-10), so the climb back to the top will be a tough one, but this year features a handful of new opponents and new challenges.

Things haven’t got any easier in the talent-riddled Sierra Foothill League with the addition of Folsom and Oak Ridge, and a new lineup of non-league opponents should make for an interesting season.

Last season, the Miners were young, starting several sophomores and juniors, but with a year of varsity experience under their belts the product on the field should see a marked improvement.

Here are five games in the upcoming Nevada Union season that any fan of high school football should catch.

Nevada Union at Placer — August 29

The Miners open the season against an old foe when they travel to Placer to face Dave Humphers disciple Joey Montoya and the Hillmen.

Martello, who once was an assistant under former NU head coach Humphers, and the Hillmen run the Wing-T with precision and should give the Miners a dose of their own medicine.

Placer graduated their top two rushers from last season in Todd Valliere (1,301 rushing yards, 15 TDs) and Cameron Scott (1,167 rushing yards, 15 TDs), but return Cole Blackwell (419 rushing yards, 8 TDs) and Austin Hess (389 rushing yards, 3 TDs).

Placer started the year 1-4 last season after a grueling non-league schedule, but went 4-1 in the Pioneer Valley League.

The Miners will feature a bevy of backs in Mo Barrios, Travis Owens and Edwin Dardon as they take on the Hillmen defense that allowed just over 30 points per game last season.

Nevada Union vs. Pioneer — Sept. 19

The Patriots will visit Hooper Stadium for a week four matchup against the Miners, and will be the last test for NU before they start the league season.

Pioneer finished 4-6 last season in the Tri-County Conference and were outscored throughout the season by a combined 230-325.

The Patriots feature a run happy offense that averaged just under 220 yards per game last season. Pioneer attempted just 37 passes last season, completing 13 for 250 yards.

This will be NU’s last tune up before the SFL opens up and a win could go along way.

Nevada Union vs. Del Oro — Sept. 26

The Miners open the SFL season by welcoming the SFL and Sac-Joaquin Section Division-II champions to Hooper Stadium.

Del Oro will be without star running back Dylan Kainrath (2,039 rushing yards, 27 TDs) and Quarterback Michael Moore (2,555 passing yards, 29 TDs). But, the Golden Eagles have little problem replacing talent and will be led by the electric wide receiver and kick returner Trey Udoffia.

The Golden Eagles were nearly unstoppable last season when they beat NU, 70-21, but things should be different this year as Del Oro graduated much of the team that hung 70 on the Miners.

Nevada Union vs. Folsom — Oct. 10

Folsom’s Jake Browning and the Bulldogs will bring their elite passing game to Hooper Stadium as they face NU for the first time as a member of the SFL.

As a junior Browning was nothing short of amazing, throwing for 5,373 yards (382.5 yards per game) and 75 touchdowns while leading Folsom to the Sac-Joaquin Section D-I title and a bid to the CIF State Championship game. Folsom’s only loss in 2013 was to De La Salle in the state title game.

The Miners will have their hands full with the Bulldogs, but for anyone who is a fan of high school football shouldn’t miss a chance to see Browning, who undoubtedly will go down as one of the greatest players in California prep football history.

Nevada Union at Oak Ridge — Oct. 24

Also joining the SFL this season is Oak Ridge, who went 12-2 last season and lost in the Sac-Joaquin Section D-I championship game to Folsom.

The Trojans will be the second to last game of the regular season for NU, and should carry playoff implications for one or both teams.

Last season the Trojans boasted a balanced offense, averaging 186 yards passing and 153 yards rushing. Oak Ridge does return quarterback Ian Book, who passed for 2,558 yards last season and 30 touchdowns to just five interceptions.

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

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