NEVADA - Big plays from sophomores Caeden DaSilva and James Edwards helped Nevada post a 35-21 victory over Union Friday at Cub Stadium.


Nevada entered Friday’s game coming off its first Class 2A District 7 loss last week at West Marshall. The Cubs were sitting at 20th in the RPI standings used determine playoff qualifiers, with 16 teams earning a playoff bid in each class.


So the Union game was a must win.


DaSilva provided the spark Nevada needed on offense and Edwards came in and sealed the deal on defense to help the Cubs keep their playoff dreams alive.


“That speaks to the effort that those kids play with every day,” Nevada head coach Andrew Kleeman said. “Those are two of our best scout team players and they have been all year. It was fun to see those guys get opportunities in the varsity game and to make plays.”


DaSilva caught a 50-yard touchdown pass from Keaton Fry deep down the left side on the second play of the second Nevada drive of the game to put the Cubs up 7-0. He added a 25-yard touchdown reception over the middle late in the second quarter and finished with seven catches for 130 yards.


“Coach was telling us in the locker room about making plays,” DaSilva said. “I just went out and did my job as best as I could. My key is fighting for my teammates.”


DaSilva wasn’t able to play until the fifth game of the season in a 28-27 victory over Vinton-Shellsburg. In his four games since getting on the field he leads Nevada in receiving with 27 catches for 386 yards and four touchdowns.


“Caeden DaSilva is a tremendous athlete,” Kleeman said. “We try to be creative with how we use him. He’s just got tremendous speed. He’s an aggressive kid and he’s been a great pick up for us.”


Cub quarterback Keaton Fry said it’s nice to have a weapon that can take it to the house at any time.


“He’s a threat, I’ll tell you that,” Fry said.


On the other side of the ball Edwards was forced into action at linebacker in the second half.


“He came in with some shuffling around unfortunately due to injuries,” Kleeman said. “He just came in and did his job.”


Union had started to pick up some momentum early in the fourth quarter. Brayden Grosse found the end zone on a 32-yard run to pull the Knights within 28-21 and Nevada’s next possession ended with a missed field goal.


But following the missed field goal a Grant Higgins sack put Union back at the Cub 14. On the next play Edwards came up clutch.


In just his second snap of the game Edwards stepped in front of a Brandon Tomkins screen pass and returned it 12 yards for a pick six with 5:58 left.


“I just read the play,” Edwards said. “I saw that they were going to come out and I just sat there waiting for it.”


Edwards’ defensive touchdown was the final nail in Union’s coffin.


The victory put Nevada at 6-2 overall and 3-1 in 2A District 7. The Cubs have managed to remain a playoff contender with just one game remaining despite being banged up for much of the season.


Starting quarterback Kody Kruschwitz returned from an elbow injury to see limited action on offense for the first time since the second week of the season. But starting safety/receiver Ayden Rhodes went down with an injury in the first half against Union and was forced to sit out the rest of the game.


“This season more than any that I’ve coached we’ve had to shuffle kids around in different positions and play a lot of young kids,” Kleeman said. “What I love about this team is they’re just resilient. They just find a way to win. It’s not always pretty, but they find a way. That speaks to the work that they put in and how much it matters to them.”


Fry threw for 210 yards and three touchdowns and ran for 62 yards. His other touchdown strike was a 25-yarder to Caden Jones in the first half.


Jones ended up with 67 yards rushing and 48 receiving. Blake Bottorf made a 32-yard reception and Kruschwitz ran for 11 yards.


Carter Franzen came up with a huge play for Nevada on special teams late in the first half. After Union pulled within 21-14 on a 1-yard Grosse run with 2:18 left in the second quarter. Franzen immediately swung the momentum back in Nevada’s favor by returning the ensuing kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown.


It was the longest kickoff return in school history.


Jones and Grant Higgins each had a sack and Henry Nelson recovered a fumble for Nevada on defense. Caleb Kooiker made 9.5 tackles, Noah Adelmund 7.5, Isaac Pantoja six and Cael Franzen four.


Union dropped to 2-6 overall and 2-2 in the district. Grosse ran for 110 yards and two touchdowns, Brandon Tompkins threw for 102 yards and a score and added 62 yards rushing and Marc Mahood made two catches for 40 yards and a touchdown for the Knights.


Nevada closes out the regular season next Friday back at home against Roland-Story (1-7, 0-4).


Nevada 35, Union 21


U 0 14 0 7 - 21


N 7 21 0 7 - 35


Scoring


First quarter


N - Caeden DaSilva 50 pass from Keaton Fry (Kody Kruschwitz kick), 4:28.


Second quarter


U - Marc Mahood 37 pass from Brandon Tomkins (Mahood kick), 7:27.


N - Caden Jones 25 pass from Keaton Fry (Kruschwitz kick), 4;43.


U - Brayden Grosse 1 run (Mahood kick), 2:18.


N - Carter Franzen 99 kickoff return (Kruschwitz kick), 2:01.


N - DaSilva 25 pass from Fry (Kruschwitz kick), 0:21.


Fourth quarter


U - Grosse 32 run (Mahood kick), 11:15.


N - James Edwards 12 interception return (Kruschwitz kick), 5:58.


Team statistics U N


First downs 17 16


Rushes-yards 37-203 32-144


Passing 8-15-1 10-17-0


Passing yards 102 210


Total yards 305 354


Fumbles-lost 1-1 0-0


Punts-average 5-28.0 4-34.2


Penalties-yards 7-88 5-40


Individual statistics


Rushing: U - Brayden Grosse 16-110, Brandon Tomkins 16-62, Jacob Carey 4-28, Hunter Heitmann 1-3. N - Caden Jones 11-67, Keaton Fry 16-62, Kody Kruschwitz 3-11, Ayden Rhodes 2-4.


Passing: U - Tomkins 8-15-1-102. N - Fry 10-16-0-210, Kruschwitz 0-1-0-0.


Receiving: U - Heitmann 3-47, Marc Mahood 2-40, Grosse 3-15. N - Caeden DaSilva 7-130, Jones 2-48, Blake Bottorf 1-32.


Tackles: U - Seth Wirtz 6.5, Heitmann 4.5, Cameron Bruess 4, Josh Hines 3.5, Dakota Marvets 3.5, Brandon Stech 3.5. N - Caleb Kooiker 9.5, Noah Adelmund 7.5, Isaac Pantoja 6, Cael Franzen 4, DaSilva 3, Jones 3, Carter Franzen 3, Ross Uthe 3, Grant Higgins 3.


Sacks: U - Wirtz. N - Jones, Higgins.


Fumble recoveries: N - Henry Nelson.


Interceptions: N - James Edwards.