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Prep Football | Nevada Union 33, Napa 14

Napa Valley Prep Football: Nevada Union pulls away from Palma, Grizzlies

Zach Allen

Napa High's Zach Allen crosses the goal line after catching Yovani Palma's pass at the 1 and breaking a tackle for an 8-yard touchdown, cutting Nevada Union's lead to 12-6 in the second quarter.

The Napa High and Nevada Union football teams found out they would be playing each other only after their Aug. 27 games had been canceled due to unhealthy air from wildfire smoke and they need to fill their original bye weeks.

Each had lost its starting quarterback due to injury since then, but the replacements had their best games Friday night. It was on defense where the Miners from Grass Valley won the nonleague game, 33-14.

Having given up 40 points a game coming in, and played two still-unbeaten teams in Woodcreek and Union Mine, Nevada Union seemed to have a chip on its shoulder as it kept Grizzlies senior quarterback Yovani Palma and New Mexico-bound wide receiver Christoph Horton from taking over the game.

Horton finished with a season-high 133 receiving yards on 8 catches, but far more Palma passes to him did not get caught — mostly because he was double-teamed most of the night.

Palma had more passing yards then sophomore counterpart Dustin Philpott, but their stat lines were eerily similar—16 of 31 for 188 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions for Philpott, and 16 of 30 for 212 yards, one TD and three picks for Palma.

But while the Miners’ run game churned out 233 yards, Napa rushers combined for minus-5 net yards.

Palma snagged one of Napa’s interceptions while playing safety, adding a short return to the NU 19-yard line and setting up his 8-yard scoring strike to Zach Allen four plays later. That cut the Miners’ lead to 12-6 midway through the second quarter.

Max Knauer intercepted Philpott on NU’s next drive, but the Miners ended the Grizzlies’ ensuing drive with Andrew Webster’s interception moments before halftime. Also helping keep the Miners at bay in the first half was defensive end Thomas Hatton, who had two sacks and hurried Philpott several other times.

But James Kinney picked off Palma passes on Napa’s first two drives of the second half. The Miners parlayed the second of those into a 9-yard scoring run by Cameron Cormack that made it 20-6. The shifty Cormack, who also scored in the fourth quarter, finished with 145 yards on 22 carries.

Palma, who had taken over two games before when junior Anthony Tubridy went down with a shoulder injury against Rodriguez, said he’d last played quarterback in youth football. But he indicated that he doesn’t feel extra pressure because everybody on the team has been working hard to get better at their position.

“Every week during practice we just work hard. Everyone has that chip on their shoulder,” Palma said. “Every single loss we’ve taken hits us hard because we love the sport and we have pride.

“I really owe (my improvement) it to my teammates and coaches. I played quarterback in youth football with the Napa Valley Jets and Napa Saints, and most of my teammates used to play for that team, as well.”

Palma’s most impressive drive was an eight-play, 80-yard scoring march in the fourth quarter. He completed successive passes to three different receivers, including Horton for 30 yards to the Miners’ 9. He took it into the end zone himself and also found Horton with the conversion passes to make it a winnable 27-14 game with 6:07 left.

“I’m really proud of Yovani,” Napa head coach Askari Adams said. “Yovani really improved tonight. He’s throwing better balls. I think he’s finally starting to get comfortable. He was doing some stuff tonight that he wasn’t doing the last two weeks. I think he’s starting to get his feet wet.”

But NU chewed up the clock and got a 4-yard scoring run from Kinney with 1:51 left to seal the deal.

The Miners outgained Napa 421-207 in total yards. Still, Palma said the Grizzlies are ready to open Vine Valley Athletic League play at American Canyon next week.

“We’re taking steps every single week, getting 1% better every single day, taking accountability with our teammates. Our coaches do a good job doing that,” he said. “We’re going to come back stronger every single week. Nobody’s stopping us.”

The Grizzlies are going to need a more product run game to have a chance against American Canyon, which will be seeking its fourth straight win.

“I keep preaching ‘You can’t be the nail. You gotta be the hammer,’ and right now we’re just being the nail, just sitting back and allowing teams to attack us,” Adams said. “We’re not attacking with the same effort. But it will come. I feel like we’re getting better every week. We’ve got to keep moving ahead, moving forward. Hopefully this week we’re get the ship turned around and going the right way.”

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Sports Reporter

Andy Wilcox is a sportswriter-photographer for the Napa Valley Register. He's had similar roles in Walnut Creek, Grass Valley, Auburn, Tracy and Patterson. He grew up in Ohio. His wife, Laura, is a pastry chef. He also enjoys playing guitar and piano.

Related to this story

The Napa High football team’s 28-3 loss to Rodriguez of Cordelia was the definition of a game that got ugly late as junior quarterback Anthony Tubridy, after making his fifth straight start of the calendar year Friday night at Memorial Stadium, left the game with an injury after getting sacked in the second quarter.

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