The Nevada Union ended its football season Friday night in Vacaville.
Playing nearly 100 miles from home, the No. 9 seeded Miners couldn’t keep pace with No. 8 seed Will C. Wood Wildcats, losing 39-27 in the first round of the playoffs of Division IV of the Sac-Joaquin section.
“I’m proud of our seniors, I’m proud of the legacy they left,” said NU head coach Brad Sparks. “We certainly would have liked to have won, but I’m proud of our efforts and how we got here. “
The Miners’ loss ends a 2021 campaign in which they went 6-5 overall, 3-2 in the league and advanced to the playoffs for a second straight season. The last time NU had at least six wins in total and three in the league was in 2011.
“I’m proud of what we’ve done and how far we’ve come,” said Sparks. “I think our last playoff game wasn’t even a demonstration (NU lost 56-14 to Vanden) and tonight we stayed competitive. And, in my eyes, it’s a game we should win. We made some really big mistakes tonight.
Mistakes and missed opportunities plagued the miners all night as they committed 12 penalties, returned the ball three times, gave up seven assists and made two unsuccessful trips to the red zone.
NU also started the game a bit slow and was down 14 points in the first quarter before fighting back. The Miners first entered the board when second-year quarterback Dustin Philpott connected with senior wide receiver Brenner Krogh for a 3-yard lead at the end of the first quarter.
The Miners tied the game in the second quarter when senior quarterback Gabe Baker found junior wide receiver Drew Menet in the corner of the end zone six yards away. Menet led all NU wide receivers with eight catches for 76 yards and the scoring.
Nevada Union took their first lead of the game in the third quarter when Baker hit Bodey Eelkema for a 41-yard touchdown pass in the fourth and sixth.
Baker finished the game 26-for-46 with 252 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. He also ran for a high 78 yards in the game. For the season, Baker finished with 1,938 passing yards, 903 rushing yards and 31 total touchdowns (23 passing, 8 rushing).
Trailing 21-14, the Wildcats (8-3) responded vigorously, earning a three-yard touchdown from quarterback Ken Tilford and two long touchdowns from running back Jayjay Olaes to come back in front, 32-21.
The Miners responded early in the fourth quarter with a 9-yard touchdown pass from Baker to senior running back Cameron Cormack, who returned the ball, missed a few defensemen and drove into the end zone. Cormack finished the night with 45 rushing yards and 51 rushing yards on his touchdown. For the season, Cormack finished with 968 rushing yards, 351 receiving yards and 16 total touchdowns (8 rushing, 8 receiving).
NU’s momentum did not last long. In the Wildcats ‘ensuing practice, Tilford held onto the ball and slipped into the Miners’ defense for a 65-yard touchdown and a two-point lead. Tilford finished the night with 165 passing yards, 192 rushing yards and three touchdowns (2 rushing, 1 passing). Olaes finished the competition with 193 rushing yards and three touchdowns (14 yards, 87, 59).
The Miners had a few chances to take the lead late in the game, but failed each time.
Defensively, the Miners were led by senior Jedi center linebacker Vculek, who made 12 tackles, forced a fumble and scored a sack. Clay Renner called with nine tackles, including one for a loss. Julian Spackman had eight tackles. James Kinney made seven tackles and recovered a fumble. And, Traytron Santos had five tackles and intercepted.
“People ask me all the time ‘how is your football team going?’ Sparks said. “And, I always say, ‘I’ll let you know in 10 years, when I see them and they are husbands and fathers and contribute to our community. These are the kind of guys who will be in our community and who will make our community stronger. “
A LITTLE HISTORY
This season marked the 27th in which the miners have reached the playoffs. The schedule is 37-23 overall with four Sac-Joaquin section titles in those 27 appearances, but hasn’t won a playoff game since 2009. NU is 0-4 in their last four. appearances, three of which were played on the road.
For Will C. Wood, this is their first playoff win since 2015. The Wildcats will now travel to Tracy next Friday to take on the No. 1 seed Kimball.
REMARKABLE FIRST ROUND BATTLES
No.6 Placer Hillmen (5-5) got off to a slow start and passed No.12 West Park, 63-28, in Group D-IV, and will now face No.3 Vista del Lago in the second round . . Foothill Valley League team Ponderosa, the No.10 seed in D-IV, failed against No.7 Dixon, 29-20. FVL champion Lincoln is the # 2 seed in D-III and had a first-round bypass.
Colfax, the No.9 seed in DV, saw its season come to an end after falling to No.8 Woodland, 22-19.