Some questions regarding the Northern 3A football playoff race will be answered, at least in part, this weekend when Lyon County's three high school teams play conference opponents.
For example, is Dayton the real deal? The Dust Devils, off to their first 2-0 start ever, play their home opener tonight against a Lowry team that is 1-0 in its first season after dropping from 4A.
For another, just how strong is Fernley? The Vaqueros (2-0), who have scored 68 points in two games, will face a serious test tonight in their home opener against Rite of Passage (1-1).
And will Bishop Manogue be able to challenge for the postseason after winning the 3A state championship last year? The Miners (0-2) have been outscored 84-7 to date, but will try to get back on track Saturday afternoon in a 12:30 p.m. contest when they entertain a 1-1 Yerington team that is trying to gain momentum itself.
Lowry bombed West Wendover 48-0 in its season opener last Friday in Winnemucca, giving Chris Ward a win in his debut as head coach (he took over in August after Ray Parks stepped down to accept an administrative position). The Buckaroos, who never made the playoffs in eight years as a 4A school, are now regarded as a contender in the new Northern 3A.
"I think they're a pretty good football team," Dayton coach Butch Cattanach said. "They execute very well, they're quick up front and they run the veer very well. It's a big challenge for us, but I know the kids are excited about playing a school that just came out of the 4A."
Dayton's defensive unit was solid last Saturday in its 12-7 conference win against Rite of Passage in Yerington. The Dust Devils forced four turnovers and played tough at crunch time - Jory Eley had a fumble recovery and interception, Michael Sampang had a quarterback sack while Brian Martin and Josh May combined on another sack, all inside the final five minutes.
"Our defense thinks they're up to challenge and they'll need to be," Cattanach said. "The key for us, we've got to play assignment football and we've got to contain them on the first and second down plays and force them to throw on third down. We can't let them mix it up with that veer and keep us on our heels."
ROP (1-1) at FERNLEY (2-0)
Fernley coach Dave Hart says the Vaqueros will need a strong effort to get past talented Rite of Passage.
"They're physical and fast," Hart said of the Rams. "We've got to contain them and try to make them drive the length of the field. That's a key because they can score from anywhere; (Jonathen) Harris is a tough running back and they have a couple of receivers who are pretty tough."
The Vaqueros scored 25 unanswered points after the first quarter on their way to a 32-7 triumph in their conference opener last Friday night at Yerington. Quarterback Matt Lambeth threw three touchdown passes to lead the offense.
Fernley and Yerington both lost key players in the game. Fernley lost senior center Dominic Green with a torn MCL, although he may return before the end of the season. The news wasn't so good for Yerington senior wingback/cornerback Neck Rempp, who is expected to miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL.
"That's a devastating blow," Yerington coach Cody Neville said. "We just have to move on, that's all we can do. We have a couple of kids (Josh Hurt and Ben Young) who will step up and do a good job."
MANOGUE (0-2) at YERINGTON (1-1)
The Lions will face a formidable challenge Saturday, even though the Manogue Miners are 0-2.
"I know they're pretty tough. They lost to Foothill (41-0) over in Northern California and then they got beat by one of the best teams in the 3A (Tahoe-Truckee, 43-7) so I'm not going to give those scores a lot of weight," Neville said. "But at the same time, we're not going to go up there thinking Manogue's invincible."
Aside from Josh Allen's 44-yard touchdown run, the Lions moved the ball inside Fernley's 30 five times last week.
"We only had one penalty all night, but it was a crucial one. We went on fourth down inside the 20 and made it, but the penalty brought the play back. We tried again and failed. The thing is, if we go down and score there, we could have gone in at halftime tied (Fernley led 14-6), and who knows what would have happened."
Notes ... The Dayton Dust Devils held their first parent film night Thursday night, allowing parents and members of the coaching staff to review film from the Rite of Passage game. Parent film nights will become a weekly feature on Thursday nights, starting at 6 p.m. at the Pizza Factory in Dayton.