By Liz Kane
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Friday night’s rain was intermittent but action on the gridiron was anything but as the Union Mine High football team dumped a deluge on host El Dorado to retain possession of the Gold Nugget trophy for another year.
After El Dorado capitalized on two early fumbles to take a 14-6 lead, Diamondback junior quarterback Graham Bennett and his go-to running backs, brothers Cody and Sean Tow, started clicking on all cylinders en route to a 43-14 victory.
Union Mine, undefeated at 4-0 in the Sierra Valley Conference, 7-0 overall, is tied at the top of the league standings on a collision course with River City. El Dorado, 1-3, 2-6, is in fifth.
The D’backs were led by Sean Tow, a sophomore, who rushed for 232 yards on 17 carries and three touchdowns, slicing and dicing through the Cougar defense for runs of 35, 49 and 66 yards.
His first score came on the third play of the game after Cody Tow moved the chains on two rushes to set up the touchdown. Cody ran for 83 yards on the night and a touchdown, and caught three passes for 29 yards.
It wasn’t smooth sailing in the early going as El Dorado took advantage of two turnovers, one recovered by Jesse Romero and the second by Tanner Sepelyak. Setting up shop at the D’back 25, Travis Allec picked up a first down and 6 more yards before Cougar quarterback Travis Vincent found David Cochran in the right corner of the end zone to make it a 6-6 ball game with 7:35 left in the first quarter.
Union Mine turned it over again on the second play from scrimmage and after a 4-yard pass to Wade Bennett and runs by Allec, including a 15-yard sprint down the left side, Vincent connected with Gabe Derilo for an 8-yard score. Vincent ran it in for the extra two to give El Dorado the lead.
It took Union Mine just 43 seconds to even the score as the Tow brothers turned up the heat. Cody’s 18-yard runback had the D’backs at the 38, Sean carried over the 50 to the 39 on a 23-yard run and Cody took it the rest of the way.
“This team just goes about it’s business and doesn’t get excited,” D’back coach Dave Johnson said. “Even when we were behind nobody got down and once we settled down things went our way. The team has confidence in each other and Sean and Cody, who is the heart and soul of this team, really complement each other. And it’s nice knowing that anytime you snap the ball Sean can break out.”
Union Mine took the lead for good with two touchdowns in the second quarter on Bennett’s 1-yard dive and just before the half, his 21-yard pass to Ronnie Eddy. Bennett finished the night with 53 yards passing on six attempts.
The Cougars received to start the third quarter but went nowhere. Allec was dropped for a 4-yard loss by Tyler Evans. He gained 3 back on his next run but it was another three-and-out after Vincent’s pass went in and out of the receivers hands on third down.
Sean wasted little time putting another seven points on the board with a 21-yard punt return followed by a 49-yard sprint to pay dirt and his third PAT of the evening. He scored again with 10:53 left in the game on a 66-yard rumble. The D’backs set up for the PAT, but on a bad snap, the D’backs Jeremy Hernandez ran it in for the extra two.
It was a night of frustration for the Cougars. Union Mine’s defense broke up plays and covered his receivers, forcing Vincent to scramble and try to stay out of trouble much of the evening. He was sacked four times by Evans, Cameron Chima, Paxton Fitzpatrick and Hernandez, and threw one interception.
Allec ran for 107 of the 136 total yards the Cougars gained and Dylan Powell rushed for 7.
The D’backs entertain third-place Vista Friday while the Cougars are on the road at Galt.