It always means something to Chris Nixon when he faces Nevada Union High School in football.
NU is the Elk Grove coach's alma mater, and his father, Marshall, coached the Miners in the 1970s and early 80s with playoff success.
Nixon's top-ranked Thundering Herd hosts the No. 3 Miners tonight in a nonleague showdown of traditional wing-T powers.
Nevada Union can run with power and deception and can pass with quarterback Kyle Cota and wide receiver Ian Davis. Cota has thrown for 717 yards and 10 touchdowns with no interceptions. Davis has five touchdowns. The Miners average 179 yards passing and 168 rushing.
The Miners also sport a tough defense that includes linebackers Hank Humphers and Tanner Vallejo.
Last season, Elk Grove beat NU 23-7 in Grass Valley. The Miners seek redemption as they make a run at the program's fifth Sac-Joaquin Section Division I championship since 1993.
"NU is definitely fast and physical," Nixon said. "The linebacking core is the best we've seen, and nobody has been able to stop Cota and Davis. I'd put them on my fantasy football team if I had time to have one.
"Last year's win was a lot of fun, but we still consider ourselves the underdogs in this game. Last year was the only time any player on our roster had beaten NU."
Elk Grove's offense features running backs Robert Frazier (523 yards, seven touchdowns) and Wadus Parker (407 yards, eight TDs). The Herd averages 339 rushing yards and has scored 20 touchdowns on the ground. Quarterback Tommy Arnold has passed for just two touchdowns, but both went for more than 60 yards.
"We've played Elk Grove almost every season of my 29 years at Nevada Union, and it's always fun," coach Dave Humphers said. "Right now, Elk Grove seems to have as good a team as it's ever had. Really, really good."
Cavaliere goes home Coach Eric Cavaliere, whose No. 6 Oak Ridge Trojans play at Vacaville, also faces his alma mater.
Cavaliere was a tight end and linebacker for the 1985 and '86 Bulldogs. He said he became a teacher and coach because of his mentor, the late Tom Zunino, who coached at Vacaville for 37 years.
"Coach Z absolutely influenced me the way I built my life as a teacher and coach with emphasis on family," Cavaliere said. "I loved my days in Vacaville, and I always appreciated how truthful Z was with me, even if it hurt. He'd let you know if you underachieved. You wanted to please him. What a coach. He owned that town."
Et cetera Franklin junior linebacker Joey Banks leads the area in tackles with 14.3 per game.
Folsom wide receiver Phillip Carter, who averages 24.3 yards per catch and has six touchdown receptions, has received scholarship offers from San Jose State and Northern Arizona.
Placer quarterback Peter Denham has verbally committed to Northern Arizona.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Marcus Green of Franklin High School isn't just the Wildcats' most physical defensive back. He's their best cover man, too. The senior had three interceptions and eight tackles in Franklin's 23-3 victory over rival Cosumnes Oaks last Friday. He was voted The Bee's Prep Football Player of the Week on sacbee.com. No. 2 Franklin (4-0) hosts Jesuit at Cosumnes Oaks tonight.