I guess my play-by-play job is safe. At least for now. Last year was my first season broadcasting Nevada Union High School football at my main employer, KNCO. People here love their Miners, but at least last season there was a new coach, so the brunt of the blame was pushed in his direction, and not mine.
Dennis Houlihan survived the offseason, and this time, actually got to use it to prepare his team. Houlihan only had a few weeks before his season last year, but now has been able to fully implement his system, and get his players to buy into it. A little break in the schedule helped as well.
N-U will not have a winning record. They play in a league where the fifth best team is ranked the ninth best in all of Sacramento. One team (Folsom) is nationally ranked, and two or three could possibly win a state title. One win in their league would be an accomplishment, and two would be amazing, but at least the non-league schedule, which was put together before last season's tenth loss, offered them something.
Although the schedule isn't as brutal, Friday's game wasn't a gimme. The Miners traveled 20 miles down the road to Placer High of Auburn—a good team in the region and a renewal of an old rivalry when Houlihan was a player. A good crowd was on hand, but N-U was able to move the ball early. A 20-yard pass and an 80-yard run for touchdowns in the first quarter, and the Miners had their first lead in nearly two full years. It was 14-0 at the end of the first quarter.
The schedule will show the Miners' weaknesses soon enough. Both running backs are 5-foot-8. One weighs 185 and the other 190, but they are quick, and stronger than they were last year. They also both rushed for about 200 yards in the victory. The quarterback is a stud in the making. Thrown to the wolves as a sophomore last year, Justus Spillner is two inches taller, 25 pounds heavier, and has wowed coaches at quarterback camps during the offseason.
Nevada Union went on to win 41-20, and maybe because it was a road game, the celebration was a little subdued. It also could be the coaches. I'm sure Houlihan is no different than other guys who teach and coach this game for a living. He's happy for his players, and will deflect all the attention from himself. Inside, you know he's gotta feel like jumping up and down. It's nice to get your first win, even though you wish it came a lot sooner.
Miner details: Before Friday night, Nevada Union's last win on the football field was October 19, 2012—a 52-19 trouncing at Roseville. We hate to do the math, but 679 days between victories is awhile.
Life is just a fantasy: My fantasy football draft was Sunday, and Yahoo! gave me an A grade, and picks me to go 11-2 and win the league. I guess I should be proud of my player-picking skills, but you still have to play the games (or have actual players play the games on a make-believe team and score mythical points)...Meanwhile, my fantasy baseball team is crumbling. I've finished in the top three in my league five years in a row, including a title in 2011, and have never failed to make the playoffs, with fifth place as my worst finish. With one week to go, I'm in seventh place, and only the top six make it. I have a mathematical chance, but right now, so do the Cubs. I also made a roster blunder on Sunday, failing to activate Hyun-Jin Ryu from the disabled list, which ended up costing me two games in the standings.
Speaking of blunders: Well, not a blunder as much as a lie. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly was just quoted as saying he was going to ease in rookie Joc Pederson, who was just called up from the minor leagues. “I'm not just going to throw him out there”, he said. So with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning tonight with the tying runs on base, Mattingly sent Pederson up to pinch-hit. He struck out to end the game.
More Pederson: Joc played against the Gold Sox in 2011, and went 1-for-11 with an RBI in a four-game series as a member of the Norcal Longhorns. Joc is his real name. He has a brother, who also played for the Longhorns, named Tyger. Tyger is his real name, too.
Photo: Nevada Union's Travis Owens carrying the ball, and looking poised to score. Photo swiped from The Union newspaper. As I see written a lot on You Tube, no copyright infringement intended.