Who is this guy? | TheUnion.com

Who is this guy?

John HartThis Miner seemingly came from nowhere to rush for three touchdowns last week. But the secret is out.
ALL | GrassValleyArchive

A Nevada Union football fan who had not taken in a junior varsity game all season might have been thinking the same thing as the Grant High coaching staff last Friday night.

“Who is this guy?”

His name is Ryan Herrera.

He’s a 5-foot-8-inch, 230-pound sophomore fullback.

And, for at least last week’s Metro Conference championship-clinching contest, he was NU’s secret weapon.

But after eclipsing the 100-yard mark and scoring three touchdowns on the biggest stage of the season, the word is out.

Miner fans who arrived early enough on Friday nights this season already knew what Herrera could do. Prior to being called up to the varsity last week, he was pounding NU’s junior varsity opponents.

“He just broke the junior varsity single-season rushing record,” Nevada Union coach Dave Humphers said. “And you know, Jefferson Heidelberger and Matt Messari (as well as other former NU standout backs) also played junior varsity for us. So we’ve had some great ones in there, and he now owns that record.”

Humphers and company didn’t decide to make the switch just last week; the plan had been in place for nearly a month. Herrera had practiced with the varsity offense for nearly two weeks before the Grant game.

“We were just working with our secret weapon,” Humphers said. “He played in the junior varsity game against Yuba City, but we pulled out our secret weapon for Grant.”

It’s not as though the Miners were lacking capable running backs. In fact, NU’s rushing attack has been a three-headed monster in the form of Vu Pham (735 yards), Joey Bratton (648) and Chris Thibodeau (598).

With the addition of Herrera, the Miners now have their own version of the Four Horsemen. And, according to Humphers, Herrera is the Clydesdale type, a true powerful, workhorse-type of runner.

“Having a big, strong fullback is very important against Grant – and he is all of that,” Humphers said. “Because with Grant’s speed on defense, we were probably not going to get a lot of long runs. We needed a ball-control type of back with that kind of strength.

“The combination was good.”

And how.

Herrera wasn’t the only Miner to rush for more than 100 yards in the game. Bratton and Thibodeau also broke the threshold.

Though he was being thrust into such an electric atmosphere in his first extended varsity action, Herrera said he was able to keep his emotions under control.

“I actually didn’t think I would get that much playing time,” Herrera said. “I was a little bit nervous, but I calmed down after the first couple plays of the game.

“That (game) will always be a memory for me. The line was blocking great and helped me achieve that goal.”

Humphers said Herrera’s preparation for his coming-out party began long before he joined the varsity squad – typical of all Miners. Five other members of NU’s junior varsity team – including Herrera’s twin brother, Rich – are now also practicing with the varsity.

“He has been running this offense well before coming into high school,” Humphers said. “He been running these plays since playing in our youth program. So actually, the Junior Miners helped prepare him for that game.”

Herrera said if he gets the call again, he’ll be ready. But if not, he said he won’t be pouting about it.

“Whatever helps the team,” he said. “I don’t care if I get the ball 20 times or zero. It’s whatever helps the team win.”

Humphers said Herrera showed further proof of his team attitude before he even hit the Grant High field. The Miners’ junior varsity team was trailing the host Pacers and Herrera was hot.

“He’s a sensitive kid, a nice young man,” Humphers said. “He cares greatly about his teammates. During the varsity warmups, when the junior varsity was behind, he got upset about it. He really cares.

“That’s the kind of young man I really enjoy coaching. I’m hoping the Herreras have more children, because these two are special.”

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