‘We’re all hungry’: Breaking down Nevada Union’s fall football schedule
After playing just two games in the COVID-shortened spring season, the Nevada Union Miners football team is ready to dig into its 2021 fall campaign.
“It’s been a great summer. It feels like normal,” said NU head coach Brad Sparks, now in his fourth season at the helm. “We’re all hungry. We want to get out there and get after it.”
Sparks said he’s been impressed with his team during the summer practice sessions and various seven-on-seven competitions they’ve been a part of.
“This is probably the first group since I’ve been here where we haven’t had a single bad day of practice,” he said. “These guys are coachable, they are fun to be around and they work extremely hard. It’s a bunch on no-excuse guys. I don’t know if that’s a reflection of COVID, and they are just tired of being cooped up and restrained from what they want to do. But, I got to tell you, this is a group of guys who leave everything on the field.”
The Miners are coming off a 2021 spring season in which they went 1-1, with a win over Bear River (20-7) and a loss to Placer (34-27). In 2019, the team went 5-6 overall and reached the playoffs for the first time in eight seasons.
All prep football teams in the Sac-Joaquin Section are currently five days into a two-week “dead period.” During the mandated dead period teams are still allowed to hold conditioning and weight-training sessions.
The Miners will be able to return to regular football activities July 26. NU is set to host its annual Blue and Gold Scrimmage Aug. 6, and is slated to face off with Bear River in a scrimmage Aug. 14 at Hooper Stadium, before the season officially kicks off Aug. 20.
“We got guys who don’t have a lot of game experience behind them, but they got motors. They are your stereotypical Nevada Union kids who want to overachieve,” Sparks said. “I think that’s what makes our whole team special. We have a bunch of kids who want to overachieve and shock the world.”
With the season opener a little more than a month away we take a look at the Miners’ 2021 game schedule.
GAME 1: NU AT BELLA VISTA, AUG. 20
The Miners open the season on the road against a team they have a lot of history with, just not in the last 20 years.
Bella Vista first appeared on the Miners’ schedule in 1982 and became a common matchup. The Miners and Broncos faced off 16 times over the years with NU winning 14 of the matchups. The two have not faced off in more than 18 years.
In the COVID-shortened spring 2021 season, Bella Vista went 0-3 with losses to Inderkum, River Valley and Roseville.
GAME 2: NU VS. SHELDON, AUG. 27
Nevada Union’s home opener at Hooper Stadium will be against Sheldon, a team they haven’t faced since the 2009 playoffs. The Miners beat that Huskies team 41-7 en route to the Sac-Joaquin Section title.
Sheldon is coached by NU grad and former player Chris Nixon, who is the son of former NU coach Marshall Nixon. Chris Nixon ran the Elk Grove program for nine years before joining Sheldon as the offensive coordinator in 2019. He was promoted to head coach in 2020.
The Huskies went 2-1 last season, with wins over Pleasant Grove and River City and a loss to Davis.
GAME 3: NU AT WOODCREEK, SEPT. 3
The Miners will travel to Roseville for Game 3 to face a former league foe from their Sierra Foothill League days.
Since 2010, the Miners and Timberwolves have faced off eight times, with Woodcreek winning six.
The last meeting between the two came in 2017, a game in which the Miners lost 54-53 on a last second score by the Timberwolves.
GAME 4: NU VS. COLFAX, SEPT. 10
The Miners and Colfax Falcons are set to face off for the first time ever in football in week four of the non-league season.
“It’s going to be great,” said Sparks. “I look forward to our kids playing Colfax and our two communities showing up and playing under the lights, and enjoying a great community battle.”
The Falcons will be coming to Hooper Stadium for the first time since 2018 when they topped Bear River, 31-28, in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division 5 Championship Game.
The game will also be Heroes Night at Hooper Stadium, where local police, fire, military and first responders will be honored before the game.
GAME 5: NU AT UNION MINE, SEPT. 17
Nevada Union closes its non-league slate on the road against the Union Mine Diamondbacks, a school the Miners have never faced in football.
The Diamondbacks are coming off a 2-2 season with wins over Liberty Ranch and Burbank, and losses to El Dorado and Truckee.
“This season is about developing guys, especially early,” said Sparks. “We’re really, really young, and I’m hoping we’re hitting our stride as we get into league, and those younger guys have enough games under their belt where they are confident and running on all cylinders.”
GAME 6: NU VS. RIO LINDA, OCT. 1
The Miners open Foothill Valley League play at home against the Rio Linda Knights.
Since NU joined the FVL, Rio Linda has had the Miners’ number, beating them in 2018 and 2019 by 42 points each time.
The Knights are coming off a 1-3 season in which they topped Galt, but lost to Oakmont, Ponderosa and Lincoln by large margins.
GAME 7: NU VS. PLACER, OCT. 8
Nevada Union welcomes the Placer Hillmen to Hooper Stadium on Homecoming Night.
The rivalry has been a thrilling one in recent years. Since 2014, the teams have battled it out seven times, with the Hillmen winning four and the Miners claiming three. The last time NU topped Placer was in 2017.
The Hillmen are coming off a 2021 spring season in which they went 2-1 with wins over NU and Ponderosa, and a loss to Lincoln.
GAME 8: NU AT OAKMONT, OCT. 15
The Miners’ first road game of the FVL season takes them to Roseville to face the Oakmont Vikings.
Since coming together in the same league, the Miners have yet to beat the Vikings, going 0-2 in a pair of closely contested games.
Oakmont went 3-0 in the 2021 spring season, beating Ponderosa, Antelope and Rio Linda.
GAME 9: NU VS. PONDEROSA, OCT. 22
Nevada Union’s final home game of the regular season comes against the Ponderosa Bruins, a team they beat in 2019.
Ponderosa is coming off a 1-4 run through the 2021 spring season with losses to Oakmont, Lincoln, Placer and Vista del Lago. The Bruins’ lone win came against Rio Linda.
The game with Ponderosa will also serve as the Miners’ Senior Night.
GAME 10: NU AT LINCOLN, OCT. 29
The regular season comes to a close for the Miners with a road bout against the Lincoln Fighting Zebras.
The Miners and Zebras have faced off six times since 2014. The Zebras hold a 4-2 advantage across that span.
Lincoln went 3-1 last season with wins over Placer, Ponderosa and Rio Linda. The Zebras’ only loss came against Folsom.
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, email firstname.lastname@example.org
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The Nevada Union Boys Varsity Soccer team kicked off their season with a non-league home bout against Lindhurst last Friday night under the lights at Hooper Stadium.