Never underestimate a team hungry for victory.
The Diamondbacks of Union Mine High School, considered the underdog, won their Sierra Valley Conference opener Friday night at Rosemont High School with 34-33 victory over the undefeated Wolverines.
The Wolverines came in with a 5-0 record and had outscored their opponents 175-26 through four games (Florin forfeited in Week 1).
The Diamondbacks entered with a 3-2 record, losing on the road to “powerhouse” programs Escalon and Amador, according to head coach Jacob Bist. Despite dropping two games, it was an improvement for Union Mine as the team had only won one preseason game combined over the previous two seasons.
“We’ve had a really hard schedule,” senior defensive back Andrew Merrill said. “Overall, we’re fighting through it and that’s why we had that tough schedule, in the beginning, to get us ready for league games like this.”
The Diamondbacks came into Friday’s game with the underdog mindset that was created by late head coach Chic Bist, who died in September at 71 after a battle with pancreatic cancer, and is carried on with his legacy by his son, Jacob.
“He set a good foundation,” Bist said about his dad. “It’s a culture that we brought to Union Mine. When we first got there, kids weren’t playing to win football games, they were just there to put a jersey on. We had 16 kids ineligible because of grades, and we (only) have one kid in our whole program right now (who is ineligible). My dad did a great job.”
The Wolverines jumped out to a 21-6 lead after the first quarter on Rosemont. The Diamondbacks offense struggled early in the game, with their only points of the first coming off a pick-six by Merrill returned 13 yards for the score.
Merrill did it again in the second quarter, this time returning the interception 23 yards for the score. The Wolverines held a narrow 21-20 lead at halftime.
Union Mine opened the second half with their third interception returned for a touchdown. Junior free safety Devin Williams got his second interception of the game and returned it 54 yards for the score to give his team the lead.
The momentum created by the defense got the Diamondbacks offense going in the second half, allowing them to get the running game going and sustain long drives to keep the Wolverines off the field.
Rosemont nearly completed the comeback. Trailing 34-27 with 34.3 seconds left, senior quarterback Kyle Masterson made a 6-yard pass for a touchdown to cut the deficit to one. The Wolverines coaching staff ultimately decided to attempt the extra point kick and tie the game. The kick was a line-drive and was blocked by the Diamondbacks, sealing the win.
“Our mindset every day coming into practice is we are the underdog,” Merill said. “That mentality makes us play harder every single day. The underdogs are coming for the top.”
Union Mine senior quarterback Clayton Byer completed 13 of 25 passes for 151 yards on top of six carries for 38 yards and one touchdown.
For the Wolverines, senior running back Zion Gedeon scored four rushing touchdowns in the loss. Senior quarterback Kyle Masterson had a night to forget with four interceptions and three ran back for touchdowns.
“Every day our kids come to play, my dad is still the head coach,” Bist said. “I’m just there to be the voice.”
The Diamondbacks host Liberty Ranch and Rosemont faces El Dorado on the road, both at 7:30 p.m. Friday.