The pattern on the Northern 3A football schedule became apparent to Dayton High School coach Butch Cattanach when he sat down to plan his scouting trips before the season even started.
"I noticed we wouldn't get to see North Tahoe the week before because they had a bye, and it was the same with Truckee and Spring Creek," Cattanach said. "Everybody has a bye week before they play us.
"You'd have thought we won the Super Bowl last year," he observed with a laugh. "That is a definite disadvantage for us. I'd like to have 10 days to prepare for the next team we play. We have to go on and play the game. We have no choice, and we're not getting any bonus points for it."
Any disadvantages will be set aside this afternoon when the Dust Devils (1-1 in division, 2-1 overall) take the field to play North Tahoe (1-0, 1-1) at 1:30 p.m. in Tahoe City. The game is important for both teams in what shapes up as a wide open Northern 3A playoff race. Lowry, Fernley and North Tahoe were the only unbeaten teams left in the nine-team division entering the weekend.
The Dust Devils will need a solid performance to get past a North Tahoe squad that is a perennial playoff contender.
"North Tahoe is a very good team and Bill Freeman is an excellent coach. They always come prepared to play," Cattanach said.
In order to have a shot at winning, the Dust Devils must stay away from the mistakes that plagued them in their 28-0 loss to the Lakers last year.
"Four plays led directly to all of their points," Cattanach said. "They intercepted a screen pass for a touchdown, they had two long passes on third down helped them score two other touchdowns, and a blocked punt led directly to another."
The Dust Devils will also try to contain talented running back Bryan Collins, who rushed for 1,352 yards and 15 touchdowns last year. Collins also returned a kickoff 95 yards for one touchdown then scored a fourth-quarter touchdown and two-point conversion in North Tahoe's come-from-behind 23-22 victory at Spring Creek on Sept. 8.
North Tahoe lost its season opener 20-19 at home to Quincy.
The Dust Devils will have a couple of voids in their lineup with fullback Josh Feliz sidelined with a sprained ankle he sustained early in last week's 34-9 loss to Lowry, and defensive back Jory Eley with a partial shoulder separation.
"We have a couple of injuries, but one of the things about this team is, we have good depth," Cattanach said. "I think we have some guys who will step up and fill in very well."
The Dust Devils are led by senior tailback Shane VanZant, who has rushed for 430 yards in three games behind a line that is buoyed by center Michael Sampang, right guard Ryan Jacobsen and right tackle Josh May.
"We're real focused and we're hoping we can go up there and play a sound football game," Cattanach said.
Notes ... Speaking of byes, the Dust Devils have their open date on Oct. 13, giving them two weeks to prepare for a home game against Bishop Manogue on Oct. 20 ... Dayton celebrates homecoming next Friday with a division game against Tahoe-Truckee.
Rite of Passage hosts Yerington
Given a break here or there and the Rite of Passage Rams could well be 2-0 and standing on top of the Northern 3A football standings.
Instead, the Rams are 0-2 (1-2 overall) after back-to-back games in which they saw leads evaporate in the second half and wound up short - 12-7 against Dayton and 18-15 against Fernley.
This afternoon, Rite of Passage hosts Yerington in a 1:30 p.m. division battle between neighborhood teams in Yerington.
The Yerington Lions are also 0-2 in division play (1-2 overall) after absorbing a 35-14 defeat against defending 3A state champion Bishop Manogue last Saturday in Reno.
Records can be deceiving in the Northern 3A, Fernley coach Dave Hart pointed out on Thursday night.
"Manogue has lost a couple of games, but they're going to come around. Rite of Passage is dangerous, and Yerington is getting better every week with that Fly (offense)," Hart said. "You've got to be prepared to play every week."
Rite of Passage coach Tracy Watkins echoed that.
"I think the league is still wide open," Watkins said. "I really don't see anybody going through this thing without a loss. Two or even three losses could still get you there (to the playoffs)."
Three teams from the Northern division will advance to the state 3A playoffs in November.
Today's game will feature two standout running backs: Josh Allen of Yerington, a senior wingback who rushed for 111 yards against Manogue last week, and Jonathen Harris, who ran for 65 yards on 16 carries against Fernley last week.
Rite of Passage took a 15-0 first-quarter lead last Friday, only to, see Fernley come back to win on two touchdowns in the third quarter. The Rams had their own comeback denied in the fourth quarter when they were unable to convert on a first-and-goal situation.
"We've lost two games that were close enough that we could have won," Watkins said. "That's just the inexperience of our kids showing up. The kids are learning, but it's coming at a high expense."