I seem to recall that when I was in high school, our football team only won one league game during the four years I was there. I don’t have immediate access to the facts to back it up, but I do know the league win was over our hated rival, which was cause for great celebration. That’s nothing, though, compared to what Nevada Union High School has gone through.
What makes it tougher for the foothill school that serves residents of Grass Valley, Nevada City, and surrounding communities, is that less than a decade ago, the school was a football powerhouse. They were winning league titles and section championships over and over again. The school has suffered declining enrollment since, but until last year was still grouped with the big boys, and that meant lots of losing.
That streak, however, came to an end Friday night. In front of a raucous home crowd at Hooper Stadium on Senior Night, the Nevada Union Miners defeated the Ponderosa Bruins 20-7. The victory came one day short of exactly seven years, 2555 days, and 38 consecutive games since a 52-19 win at Roseville on October 19, 2012. The previous week, they beat Woodcreek at home 45-7—the only two league games they would win that year.
Until last season, the Miners were overmatched in their league. They were playing teams like Folsom, Oak Ridge, Del Oro, and Granite Bay—teams that were loaded and were among the best schools in the entire state. Folsom had a quarterback named Jake Browning, who ended up at the University of Washington and was a Heisman Trophy candidate. Oak Ridge’s QB was Ian Book, who is now starting at Notre Dame.
But in every league, there’s always at least one team you think you can beat, and that team was Woodcreek. In 2016, Nevada Union lost at the Roseville school 34-32. The next season, on a pass tipped away in the end zone as time expired, the Miners lost at home 54-53. It was games like those that made you look up to the heavens and ask “Why?’
Last year, Nevada Union was moved into a different league. The newly created league featured better competition, but there was still no league win. They lost to Oakmont 29-20 and then went to Ponderosa and fell 38-35. It just wasn’t in the cards.
This year, the Miners lost at Oakmont 34-21 and did not look good. They got Ponderosa at home, though, and the defense showed up in force. The final regular season home game turned into something memorable for a lot of people.
At Palmdale High School between 1979 and 1982, I remember celebrating a 6-6 tie against Saugus. Sure, it wasn’t a win, but it wasn’t a loss. We would gladly take it. A year or two later (I think it was my senior year, and I want to say it was Homecoming), Palmdale defeated Antelope Valley 22-6. By far and away, the greatest football night of high school. Not only was it a win, but it came against the school we wanted to win against the most.
For Nevada Union, the players, and even those who go to the school
and don’t play football, will remember this one. My school’s team got
pretty good in the subsequent years after I left. The once-great Miners
team could return to football glory again, although they’ll have to do
it as a smaller school. It’s amazing, though, what one win can do. The
Miners are also headed to the playoffs for the first time in several
years as well. Memories that will stay with today’s youth for a long