DAYTON — Just when you thought the Dayton High football schedule couldn’t get any tougher, the Lowry Buckaroos are coming to town.
Lowry, 4-0 and ranked 13th in the state by MaxPreps, takes on Dayton, 1-3, today at 7 p.m.
It’s tough enough to compete with Lowry when you’re at full strength let alone when you have injuries and illness. The Dust Devils already lost two-way starter Syler Bernston for the season to a shoulder injury earlier this year, and now Jon Joyner and Jesus Castaneda have been declared out. The team has been ravaged by the flu. Coach Rob Turner missed a day of practice this week, but he indicated he will suit 24 players today because some players who have been injured are healthy enough to come back.
Lowry is arguably the best team in northern 1-A football. Quarterback Calvin Connors (20-for-28, 61 yards, 7 TDs; 417 yards rushing, 7 TDs ) and running backs Beau Billingsley (40 carries, 410 yards, 3 TDs) and Brandon Okuma (27 carries, 278 yards, 2 TDs) give the Buckaroos a dangerous three-pronged attack. Billingsley also leads the team in receptions with nine grabs for 192 yards and a score. What’s scary is that Lowry is averaging 10.58 per carry thus far.
“They’re tough,” Turner said. “They have three ways they can hurt you. We have to be able to contain the run game. Their quarterback can chuck the ball, too. We didn’t stop the sweep very well last week. We have to be able to play on the perimeter. They run some Wing-T with Okuma.”
Dayton’s offense struggled last week against Fallon, and Turner has high hopes that problems have been cleaned up. Austin Fletcher enters the game with 518 yards rushing and a 7.2 average per carry. Quarterback Davis Winebarger has passed for 452 yards thus far. The key will be not to get into a shootout with Lowry because the Dust Devils don’t have the weapons. Ball control will be critical to any success Dayton has today.
This is the last of the tough games (Fallon and Lowry are the best two teams in 1-A). The rest of the Dayton games — South Tahoe, Sparks, Wooster, Elko and Fernley — are winnable. Turner believes that Dayton will have to win four of those games to finish in the top four and make the playoffs.
“We have to win at least four and hope the right people lose,” Turner said. “It would be nice to make the playoffs.”