A year ago in Grass Valley, the emotions stirred for myriad reasons.
Elk Grove High School football coach Chris Nixon winced before kickoff when the public address announcer declared the return of a Nixon, a former Miner and the son of the "late Nevada Union coach Marshall Nixon."
The "late" mention was a bit premature, to be sure, coach Nixon cracked this week.
"Gave me a scare, and I looked into the stands and dad was still there, so all was good," Nixon said.
All was grand Friday, too.
A year after a milestone moment at NU, the top-ranked Thundering Herd literally sprinted to a 43-19 victory over the No. 3 Miners in a nonleague contest of decades-old wing-T rivals.
The Herd prevailed in its finest showing of the young season on the strength of a spectacular 303-yard, three touchdown effort by halfback Robert Frazier and a defense that yielded just six second-half points.
And yes, the old man was there, too, alive and well. Marshall Nixon was tickled at the view of his son's team storming to a 5-0 mark in the program's first home game of the season.
Last year's 23-7 win at NU was part of a 12-1 Thundering Herd campaign. A repeat showing, if not a bit more? That's the goal, certainly.
"That game last year was the statement game for our team," coach Nixon said. "You have to beat NU before getting labeled legit."
Elk Grove, ranked No. 1 in the Sac-Joaquin Section and No. 2 in Northern California by MaxPreps.com, is fueled by superb interior blocking with an offensive line that proudly goes by "The Hammerheads."
Elk Grove countered NU's passing attack of Kyle Cota with two swift runners and that attacking defense.
Cota had touchdown passes of 33 and 10 yards to Austin Marks and Ian Davis, respectively, for a 13-6 lead. It was pretty much all Herd from there.
Frazier ripped off scoring runs of 44, 77 and 57 yards in an impressive show of his burst. Backfield mate Wadus Parker returned a fumble 75 yards for a touchdown and ended the scoring with a 59-yard scoring run in finishing with 108 rushing yards. Parker was ribbed by Nixon for redeeming himself. Parker's late fumble at NU last year resulted in the Miners' only score.
"This could be one of the best teams Elk Grove has ever had, and right now, they look like as good a team as they've had," said Nevada Union coach Dave Humphers, whose team is 3-2. "They have a terrific set of running backs, and they're quick and athletic on defense.
"I'm really happy for Chris Nixon and his success."
Humphers showed terrific class, hustling across the field to pat an injured Elk Grove player on the shoulder pads with just over three minutes left and the game in hand, and then he shook Nixon's hand.