The Miners needed to regain momentum at the seven-minute mark of the fourth quarter after a Grant touchdown had narrowed the score to 36-34. They did with an 11-play 78-yard scoring drive that took five minutes off the clock.
Chris Thibodeaux's two-yard run was Nevada Union's final score in a 43-40 shootout win that matched the top two ranked teams in the Sac-Joaquin Section. The Grass Valley school also figures to move up in next week's state rankings. The Miners were No. 11 coming into the game while Grant stood at No. 7.
"With this fog, it was just an incredible atmosphere for this game," said Nevada Union coach Dave Humphers. "It has to go down as one of the all-time great NU-Grant matchups."
Grant used two big plays to take a 28-22 lead at halftime. The first was a 98-yard kickoff return by sophomore sensation Syd Thompson and the second was a 33-yard interception return by Worrell Williams.
In the second half, it was Nevada Union that dictated the tempo for a majority of the snaps. The Miner offensive line -- paced by senior Shane Curry along with juniors Sean Jackson, Steve Glazer and Ian Pilcher not to mention the extra blocking from 6-5, 260-pound tight end Phil Cosenza -- created room for running backs Thibodeaux, Joey Bratton and quarterback Jon Sheets.
But it was the play of sophomore fullback Ryan Herrera that was the major difference. Herrera was making his first varsity start after a JV call up and provided yet another option to the NU Wing-T offense.
The power-packed runner scored three times in his debut and finished with 17 carries for 114 yards.
"Two weeks ago, I knew I was going to play (in this game)," Herrera said. "It's just an unbelievable feeling. The other team played great, but everybody on our team just did a great job."
Nevada Union's rushing attack also featured Thibodeaux with 12 carries for 99 yards and Bratton with eight carries for 91 yards. Sheets scored on a three-yard run and got the Miners' out to a fast start by throwing a 38-yard touchdown pass to Joe Dolan on the team's first offensive play.
"We brought the sophomore up and he runs like a truck," Humphers said. "We did offensively what he hoped to do and our defense played better in the second half."
The Miners will move on into the Sac-Joaquin Section Div. I playoffs as the No. 1 team from the Metro League and will likely host Laguna Creek of Elk Grove in next week's opening round.
The good news for Grant is that the team that usually loses in the NU-Grant game often bounces back to win the section title. The bad news is that for that to happen this time the Pacers will have to start out with a game next Saturday on the road against unbeaten Jesuit of Carmichael.
The Pacers had to play without starter Tommie Hall, who missed a practice earlier in the week and was held out for disciplinary reasons. But coach Mike Alberghini refused to use Hall's absence as an excuse.
"We put (Worrell) Williams in there and I think he did as good a job as (Hall) could have done," Alberghini said. "We just now have a tough opponent coming up next week at their place and we'll have to find out about our defense."
Grant's leading rusher, C.J. Wallace, turned in a gutty effort as well. Wallace ran for 68 yards on nine carries in the team's first scoring drive, but suffered a foot injury that seemed to slow him up at some points for the rest of the game. He still finished with 124 yards on 23 carries and had three touchdowns overall.