DAYTON — Skyler Berntson spent his spring on the track and his summer in the weightroom, and the results were easy to see.
Berntson carried 16 times for 166 yards and had TD runs of 49 and 59 yards, and he also caught a 38-yard touchdown pass to lead the Dayton Dust Devils to a season-opening win over Lovelock 27-12 Friday night.
“I’m a lot faster than I was last year,” Berntson said. “I’m a lot stronger. Speed and power. See the hole and hit it hard, and don’t let anything or anybody stop you.”
“It’s a huge difference,” Dayton coach Rob Turner said when asked about Berntson. “You could see it on both sides of the ball. Twice he made stops behind the line where he carried the blocker with him and still made the play. He’s so fast and so strong.”
And, he was barely grazed on both of his long scoring runs.
Turner gave the Mustangs a heavy dose of Berntson on the opening drive, and the 165-pound senior delivered.
Three runs netted 18 yards, and after a 7-yard run by Quinn Santana down to the Lovelock 38, Berntson and QB Davis Winebarger hooked up on a screen pass that went the distance.Benji Ply added the PAT.
“The defensive end was rushing hard, and Davis had to keep going backward, and he just popped it over the guy’s head,” Bernston said.
The Mustangs took four minutes off the clock on their next drive, but actually lost three yards. Marcus Nester shanked his punt 17 yards and it went out of bounds at the Lovelock 37.
It took just two plays for Dayton to cash in. Diminutive Johnny Aguilar, after being thrown for a yard loss, raced through the Mustangs’ defense for a TD to make it 13-0 with 5:49 left in the opening quarter. Ply added the PAT to make it 14-0.
Lovelock QB Angel Ramirez guided the Mustangs on a 68-yard scoring march on the ensuing drive. He completed two 16-yard passes to Nester, the second one ending in a score, to make it 14-6. Nester also had a 24-yard run on the drive as he accounted for all but 12 yards.Dallon Mendoza returned the ensuing kickoff 88 yards for a score, but a holding call at the Dayton 35 moved the ball back to the 25.
Three short runs left Dayton two yards shy of a first down at the 33. Lovelock jumped offsides on the next play, giving the Dust Devils a first down at their own 38. Berntson gained 3 on first down, and then roared through the middle and broke free for a 59-yard scoring run to make it 20-7 with 11:18 remaining in the opening half. Dayton had one more opportunity to score in the first half, but Mendoza fumbled a backward pass and Lovelock recovered at its own 49. Dayton scored its final TD of the night on its first possession of the second half when Berntson broke loose for a 49-yard scoring run. Ply’s kick made it 27-6.
From there, it was up to the defense, led by Quinn Santana, Jon Joyner and Jesus Castaneda to keep the Mustangs in check. Lovelock managed just 223 yards of total offense, including two three and outs to start the third quarter.
“They execute well,” Turner said of Lovelock. “They are going to score no matter what. We gave up a couple of big plays. We shut down our blitzing (package) in the second quarter. I think we blitzed once in the last three quarters. We were overrunning plays.
“It’s always nice to start with a win. I’m relieved. I’m always jittery the first game. We got the win and we came out of the game healthy. We need to stay healthy.”