They say you can’t win them all, but winning one would have been nice. At KNCO, I was fortunate in being given the assignment to broadcast one of the most storied high school football programs in the state. It didn’t matter that Nevada Union figured to have a down year—any time spent in a play-by-play booth is quality time. The Miners had a new coach, a young team, and a brutal schedule, and even as an impartial observer, 2-8 looked like an optimistic prediction, but both wins that I had picked would have to come on the road.
Before the season even started, a break blew Nevada Union’s way. The season opener was supposed to be played in Reno, but smoke from a wildfire in Yosemite National Park blew straight into that western Nevada bowl, making breathing a chore, let alone playing football. The game was moved to Grass Valley, but McQueen still won 34-16, and little did we know that would be the closest game the Miners would play all year.
N-U was trounced at home 46-6 and 62-7 in the next two weeks by section powerhouses Grant and Pleasant Grove. Next was a trip to Chico and one my predicted possible wins, but the Panthers took that one in rain and mud with relative ease 41-14. The following week, the Miners were shut out for the first time in 30 seasons. 344 games to be exact—a state record. The Elk Grove Thundering Herd won it 43-0. Did I mention this was fun?
Even at 0-5, and with non-league play over, coaches were not only still positive, but had nothing but praise for the hard work and effort that the players had put in. There had been some injuries, and some players lost to academics, but we kept hearing from both coaches and players about teamwork, effort, and playing the game they love.
League play opened with two road games, both homecoming for the respective schools. While players and coaches were worried about Nevada Union, at least as broadcasters we got to enjoy the homecoming festivities complete with parade floats that would make the Tournament of Roses take notice, and firework shows rivaling many on Independence Day. But N.U. lost 55-7 at Rocklin, and a bitter 41-14 defeat at Woodcreek—a game circled as a possible win.
If you are going to give up 69 points in a game, at least make it fun by scoring 42. That’s what the Miners did at home against Roseville. There were 16 touchdowns in that game—an average of one every three minutes. Even though they still lost by four TDs, Nevada Union set all kinds of season highs. Players and fans were celebrating as if it were a victory, and even players on a winless team couldn’t help but smile.
The last two games were against not only the top teams in the league, but highly-ranked teams in California. Both Del Oro and Granite Bay went to state bowl games last year, and Granite Bay won the state championship. The Miners lost 70-21 and 49-7 to end a very long season.
When you cover a team like this, you get to know the coaches, and even some of the players. Head Coach Dennis Houlihan played at Nevada Union and is getting a chance to coach his alma mater. And despite all the losses, he was nothing but kind and helpful to us. He deserved better.
The seniors, most of whom will never play competitive football again, have been playing football all of their young lives. They’ll remember 0-10, but you like to think they’ll also remember the fun they had, as the coaches said, “playing the game they love”.
And that’s how I feel. I love broadcasting, and I was happy to be part of the team that was able to bring you the play-by-play. A million thank yous to my booth partners Dan Miller and Rick Metz. Both are Nevada Union graduates, so even if you think we were a little harsh at times, this was probably as difficult for them as for the parents and fans. Dan and Rick carried me, though, especially the many times I was fooled by that Wing-T offense.
I’d also like to thank Nevada Union Athletic Director Steve Pilcher, the A-Ds at all the road schools for their help, and giving us a good place to broadcast, our sponsors, and a special thanks to Tom Fitzsimmons and KNCO for letting me do this.
Most of all, though, a million thanks to you who listened. I know 0-10 was rough, but for me, it will still be memorable.