Youth football: Junior Miners, Junior Bruins battle for titles
Despite trailing at halftime of the Sierra Valley USA North Division Pee Wee Championship, there was no panic and no quit on the Nevada Union Junior Miner sideline. These kids had worked all season for this and they were not going to let a championship slip through their grasp.
A late second quarter touchdown gave the No. 1 seeded Lincoln Junior Zebra’s a 6-0 halftime lead over the No. 2 seed Junior Miners, but that was all the Junior Zebras would get.
The Junior Miners (9-2) rallied for 19 unanswered second-half points to beat Lincoln, 19-6, and claim the title for the blue and gold.
“I’m extremely proud of these kids,” said NU head coach Ty Conway. “We went through some adversity this season, but today our kids pulled together. They have pulled together throughout. The last couple years they have been starting to progress, starting to learn how to win and now that they believe they can win, nothing can stop this group, nothing at all.”
NU opened the second half with a Jaxon Horne 45-yard touchdown run that tied things up and got the Junior Miners offense rolling. On the play, Horne took the sweep all the way to the edge, shaking one tackler behind the line of scrimmage before cutting hard up field, tip-toeing the sideline and blowing past any pursuing tacklers.
“That was pretty awesome,” Horne recounted. “I thought I was going to go out of bounds, but I tip-toed back in, that was pretty cool.”
Horne would put the Junior Miners up for the first time in the game in the fourth quarter with a 35-yard touchdown. Again Horne took a sweep play. This time getting a great kick-out block by fullback Aiden Wahl, Horne cut upfield and through the defense for the touchdown.
Horne finished the day with 133 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries.
Leading 12-6, the Junior Miners put the game out of reach when Wahl broke free for a 48-yard touchdown run. Wahl broke multiple tackles near the line of scrimmage, then turned on the jets and outran the Lincoln defense to the end zone. Wahl tallied 83 yards with the one touchdown on 13 carries.
Also toting the ball for NU was A.J. Meyer, finishing with 25 yards on five carries.
NU quarterback Justis Conway did a good job of running the offense.
Winning the battle in the trenches was the NU offensive line, anchored by Caden Harlabakis, Caleb Johnson, Christopher McFall, Conner Reece and Ayrton Swasey.
The running back trio of Meyer, Wahl and Horne were also impact players on defense, but stealing the show for NU was defensive lineman Isaiah Carter. The talented nose tackle spent most of the day in the Lincoln backfield making tackles for a loss or putting pressure on the Lincoln quarterback.
“I knew they were going to stretch us out, so we switched it up and went with three down linemen because Isaiah Carter is an all-star,” said Conway. “You will read about him in the NFL one day if he sticks with it. He blows up the middle. Our defensive ends were able to contain, and with five linebackers we were able to slow their passing game.”
Also making an impact on defense was Sayer Turnage, Austin Cameron, David Rueckert, Joseph Castro, Nelson Carter, Vinnie Duncan and Garrett Wells. Also pitching in on the win was David Webb, Antonio Valenti, John Stanley, Ezra Tout and Hayden Felhaber.
The victory was also a bit of payback for the Junior Miners who lost, 8-6, to Lincoln (8-3) earlier this year. Making the win all the more impressive was that NU did it on the Junior Zebra’s home turf, Lincoln High School.
At the end of the game, Nevada Union sounded off with a resounding cheer of “It feels good to be a Miner.”
Lincoln 32, Bear River 8
The Junior Bruins simply couldn’t combat the Lincoln offense, which featured several talented and physically dominant running backs.
The Junior Zebras (10-1) quickly built a 20-0 lead at halftime, and extended that to 32-0 with just nine minutes left in the fourth, but to the Junior Bruins credit they never stopped going hard.
Bear River (4-7) tallied its lone score with 1:39 left in the game. Junior Bruin quarterback Tredan Maronic found Colton Jenkins for a 10-yard touchdown score to get Bear River on the board.
Maronic finished the game with seven completions for 89 yards and the one touchdown. Jenkins caught four of those passes for 54 yards. Logan Lapkass also made his presence known in the passing game with two catches for 31 yards.
Playing solid defense for Bear River was Cameron Pratt Maronic, Jenkins and Tau Torres.
The No. 4 seeded Junior Bruins’ run to the title game was paved with an upset victory over No. 1 seed Placer in the first round of the playoffs.
Placer 22, Nevada Union 6
In the final title game of the day, reigning SVUSA North Division Midget champs Nevada Union took on Placer.
The Junior Hillmen (9-2) were just too much for Nevada Union (6-5), controlling the game with a sound ground game and a staunch defense.
The Junior Miners started out strong, recovering a Placer fumble and driving into the red zone, but they would eventually turn the ball over on downs, and that’s when Placer went to work. On the ensuing, Junior Hillmen drive, they went 91-yards for the first touchdown of the game. They would tack on another a couple minutes later and one more on the final play of the half to grab a 22-0 edge over NU at the break.
The Junior Miners defense would clamp down and not allow another score, and the offense punched in a 15-yard touchdown by Dawson Fay, but the hole was too big and Placer’s defense was too good. Fay led NU on offense with 113 yards and the one touchdown on 14 carries.
Defensively the Junior Miners got strong play from Hunter Daniels, Fay, Logan Lopez, J.J. Lopez, Cameron Dallago and Bram Lofgren.
The Mighty Mite Junior Miners also played in a title game, but fell in the last few minutes, 20-19 to Antelope.
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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