Wildcats hand Miners fifth straight loss
SACRAMENTO – With each loss, the season becomes harder and harder for the Nevada Union Miners football team.
Friday night’s gut-wrenching game surely didn’t help. Nevada Union (1-5 overall, 0-1 Delta Valley Conference) dropped its fifth game in a row, 21-20, to Franklin (3-3 overall, 1-0 DVC) after a game-winning touchdown by the Wildcats to open conference play.
It’s the first time since 1974 the Miners have lost five in a row.
NU had held a 14-0 lead at halftime over the Wildcats that evaporated after a dull second half. With 4 minutes, 50 seconds left in the game, the Miners found themselves stuck in a defensive battle to hold off the Wildcats, clinging to a 20-15 lead. And the Miners looked able to respond.
Linebacker Tucker Colomb got a stop in the backfield, Cole Stanford had a key pass defended and Kamil Shehadeh got a sack to put Franklin in a fourth-and-16 from its own 22-yard line.
That’s when the game broke down.
Franklin quarterback Mark Clifton threw a bomb to running back Josh Thornton for 78 yards down to Miner 10-yard line. Thornton had snuck behind the Miners’ defensive coverage and tried to race away for the score before Kemp Stanford had the touchdown-saving tackle.
“It was a breakdown in our coverage,” NU coach Dave Humphers said. “We had a chance to win the game right there and unfortunately we didn’t make the play. However, we had numerous chances.”
With a fresh first-and-10, the Wildcats attacked the Miners defense by running the ball straight up the gut twice but only managed one yard. After a timeout, the Wildcats called a swing pass to running back Johnell Murphy, who took the ball on the left side all the way down to the 1-yard-line. At that point, the pressure was so high, both coaches called timeouts to get their players in the right position.
Clifton, who finished with 55 rushing yards on 15 carries, took the snap and headed straight up the middle and appeared to be stopped by the defensive line. But after stretching his arms out with the ball, the referees confirmed that he scored the eventual game-winning touchdown.
“I thought we fought hard, we just got beat on a couple of plays,” Shehadeh said. “If we fix that up we would’ve stuffed it.”
The nine-play, 83-yard drive gave NU only 58 seconds to redeem itself.
With just 49 seconds left on the clock from the kickoff, the Miners turned the ball over after three plays on a Broughan Jantz pass that was intercepted and returned to the Miner 7-yard line.
While there was a penalty on the return, putting the Wildcats back near their own 40-yard line, the game was over and the accomplishments of a good first half for the Miners and good defensive effort were left in the shadow of an amazing comeback by the Wildcats.
“We had the game,” NU quarterback John Wivholm said. “You can’t just put (the blame) on the final drive. If you let the game come down to that, anything can happen.”
It was obvious the Miners had made a turn for better this week. Their performance of their offensive leaders spoke to that. Corey Browning finished with 108 yards on 25 carries, Cameron Ryan had 86 yards on 12 carries and quarterbacks Jantz and Wivholm combined to complete 4-of-12 passes for 50 yards and a touchdown.
At times, the Miners were able to move up and down the field with ease.
“From a spectator’s point of view it was a great game,” Humphers said, while acknowledging the outcome was disappointing. “We told (the players) all week long that we’re very well-matched. That the (league) games are going to come down to the final minutes and it did.
“Our kids want to win badly,” Humphers continued. “It’s the little things. As we get closer and closer, we just have to work on our execution. But I’m proud of the way they battled. We are getting closer.”
Humphers also noted to his team that there were three games in the DVC Friday and that three teams won and three teams lost. In his words, “we’re still in second place.”
To contact Sports Writer Zuri Berry, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 477-4244.
Franklin 21, Nevada Union 20
NU (1-5, 0-1) 0 14 6 0 – 20
F (3-3, 1-0) 0 0 15 6 – 21
NU – Corey Browning 1 run (Kyle Bielen kick), 10:22
NU – Cole Stanford 28 pass from John Wivholm (Bielen kick), 3:10
F – Mark Clifton 3 run (Run converted), 7:39
NU – Browning 5 run (Run failed), 4:50
F – Rau 3 run (Nick Martin kick), 3:57
F – Clifton 1 run (Run failed), :58
JV: NU 16, Franklin 9
Nevada Union struck early against the Wildcats and held on late to win 16-9 to open the Delta Valley Conference.
Chris Biertuempfel threw a big pass to Daniel Petinato and Duncan Chapple scored a quick touchdown to give the Miners a lead they would never relinquish.
NU (4-1-1 overall, 1-0 DVC) gave up its first points on safety in the third quarter but Jason Slade took a handoff up the middle and raced untouched for a 20-yard touchdown with 4:59 to go in the fourth quarter, giving the Miners a 16-2 lead.
Franklin scored a touchdown in what was little more than garbage time to make the end score 16-9.
“I got to say our defense absolutely stepped up,” NU coach Mitch Giles said. “We have some low numbers and they played like soldiers and sucked it up.”
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