YERINGTON -- Sophomore kicker Trent Wood kicked a pair of field goals and Jake Deen hooked up with Dylan Morris on a 12-yard pass play in the second half as Dayton held off Rite of Passage 15-7 on Friday afternoon.
"We expected that they were going to be tough," Morris said of the Rams, who fell to 1-7 on the season. "We had to fight back from that first touchdown but we knew we had a whole game left."
The Dust Devils (3-5 overall, 2-5 Northern 3A) can now tie the school record for most wins in a season if they can beat Lyon County rival Yerington next Friday at home. The Rams, though, didn't allow Dayton to get into that position easily.
Jha-Cherton Manyfield scored ROP's only touchdown of the game when he returned the opening kickoff 90 yards. And if not for some poor special teams by the Rams, Dayton would've struggled to gain its 8-7 halftime lead.
Until their final drive, when Deen completed 4-of-7 passes for 51 yards, the Dust Devils had only 29 yards of offense in the first half. Dayton scored it first points of the game when ROP had a bad snap on 4th-and-21 from its own 11 that resulted in a safety.
Morris then returned the ensuing kickoff over 30 yards to the ROP 35. The Rams' defense held the Dust Devils to a 36-yard field goal attempt by Wood, which he converted to make it 7-5. Then on the next kickoff, the Rams fumbled and Casey Skog recovered on the ROP 18. Again the Rams' defense held Dayton to a field goal, this time a 37-yarder by Wood, who was recovering from a sprained ankle suffered earlier this week.
"Hey, they beat Fernley, we didn't," Walker said of ROP. "It's hard for us to go into any game overconfident. The defense kept them in the game in the first half."
Penalties also hurt the Rams as they had four penalties for 40 yards in the first half and finished with six for 62 yards in the game. But special teams was the major difference.
Midway through the third quarter on a 4th-and-13 play from the ROP 7, the Rams' punt only traveled 22 yards. Deen took advantage this time when the 6-foot-3 first-year quarterback threw a 12-yard pass to Morris, who made a nice catch by scooping the ball up from below his knees before turning into the end zone for the 15-7 lead.
"Dylan's a great athlete, he needs to make those plays for our team," Walker said. "The second half our line did a pretty good job. Every game we're in has been a dogfight, other than the Manogue game (50-0 loss)."
In the fourth quarter, Moses Savea, which started the game as a tight end, nearly quarter backed ROP on a game-tying drive. Savea found Luke Eisel on a 52-yard bomb on a 3rd-and-9 play that kept a drive alive. He then threw an 18-yard toss to Rantae Jackson on 3rd-and-10 to advance the ball to the Dayton 6. But Arthur Higgins, the workhorse all day for the Rams, fumbled on 3rd-and-goal from the Dayton 4 and Morris recovered with under five minutes left in the game.
"That was a gigantic play," Walker said. "We gave up a few big plays (on defense). Bend don't break."
Dayton running back Justin Cross, who had a quiet game until the final drive, clinched the victory with runs of 18 and 6 yards on third and long situations that forced ROP to burn its final timeouts. Cross finished with 131 yards in the game, 47 of which came in the fourth quarter. Deen finished with 126 yards passing.
The Rams started the game with backup quarterback Norbert Payton, who threw for 34 yards. Higgins finished with 25 yards rushing, as did Marvin Banks. Coach Mark Jacoby said his starting quarterback hasn't played the last two games because of discipline problems. Jacoby also had to replace several starters on the offensive line because of similar problems.
"It was fun for the kids, I'm real proud of them," Jacoby said. "They played hard. There weren't any negative things on that field. You're looking at a team that doesn't have any kids who have played football before this year. We're about as young and inexperienced as it gets."
ROP ends it season next Friday against Ridgeview Academy of Watkins, Colo., a school similar to ROP. The two teams will meet at a neutral site by playing in Queen Creek, Ariz.
Dayton, meanwhile, ends it season against Yerington (3-5), which lost to Fernley 8-6 on Thursday night.
"When you have three wins, you can't get cocky," Walker said. "Cody (Neville) has done a great job over there. They got that big win over Lowry and have been rolling. I expect it to come down the wire."