The Dayton Devil Dogs saw their perfect run come to an end with a 28-22 loss to the Sparks Bills in the Sagebrush Empire Pop Warner League pee wee division playoffs Saturday in Dayton.
Sparks jumped out to a 14-0 first-half lead then held off a late comeback charge by the Devil Dogs to win the semifinal battle between undefeated teams played at Dayton Intermediate School.
"I have nothing but respect and love for these kids," said coach Randy Jones, whose Devil Dogs dropped to 8-1. "They played with such class and pride in the second half."
The Bills held a 14-0 lead with three minutes left in the first half when the Devil Dogs mounted their first scoring drive. They drove to the Sparks 24 before Jordan Keeney caught a halfback pass from Trent Wood for a touchdown on the final play of the half. Wood also kicked the extra point to cut the Sparks lead to 14-8.
"Keeney just took the ball away from the Bills' defender. What a great play," Devil Dogs offensive backfield coach Trent Stransky said.
Sparks received the second half kickoff and scored on a 45-yard run and extended their lead to 28-8 before the Devil Dogs began their comeback.
Starting from their own 35, quarterback Bryan Jones completed a pass to Wood and Keeney rambled for more yardage to get the ball rolling. Later, faced with a fourth-and-8 situation, Wood dropped back into punt formation and completed a pass to Keeney, who broke one tackle and ran the rest of the way for his second touchdown.
The ensuing kickoff was fumbled and the Devil Dogs recovered on the Sparks 46. Jones, Wood and Josh Aaker collaborated on a hook-and-lateral play that was good for five yards. Two plays later, Wood completed a pass to Jones for first-down at the 11. Keeney took the ball to the 6 on a power play, and on the next play, Jones scored on a bootleg play. Wood kicked the PAT to make it a 28-22 game.
After an unsuccessful onside kick attempt, Dayton's defense held and forced the Bills to punt. The Devil Dogs got the ball back on their own 36 with three minutes left to play, but they were unable to mount a threat.
"They're a good team," coach Jones said of the Bills, who are now 8-0 this season. "They're a combination of two teams that played each other in the junior pee wee Snow Bowl championship game last year.
"It was a great game, kids were great, and our fans were super. The fans have supported our team so well."
Dayton plays the Reno Eagles in the Sagebrush Empire League's pee wee division Snow Bowl game this coming Friday night at 6 p.m. at Mira Loma Park in Reno.