Just like they did last year, Dayton squares off against Incline and Yerington plays Pershing County tonight to kick off the Carson Country high school football season.
Dayton hosts Incline and Yerington visits Pershing County in Lovelock for non-conference games that are scheduled to kick off at 7:30 p.m.
Meanwhile, it's still preseason for Northern 4A programs. Carson hosts Spanish Springs and Douglas scrimmages McQueen tonight at 7:30. Galena hosts Wooster and Hug for a 9 a.m. scrimmage on Saturday.
A smaller, yet faster Dayton squad will take the field looking to improve on last year's 4-5 record (3-5 in the Northern 3A). The four wins tied a school record and included a 20-0 season opening triumph against Incline.
"We lost some good size. We're a lot smaller but we've got to use what we've got and do the best we can," Dayton coach Rick Walker said. "It's nice to have, but if you don't have it, you'd better adjust. We're going to try and do the best we can with what we've got.
"I'm real happy with what we're doing. We had a real good turnout this summer in weights and we had a good showing at the Nevada Union defensive camp in Carson City."
The Dust Devils return two major offensive threats, running back Justin Cross and all-purpose back Dylan Morris. Cross rushed for 1,069 yards while Morris caught 29 passes for 468 yards to go with 11 touchdowns receiving and rushing last year.
The team has altered its offense to a variation of the Wing-T, according to Walker.
"We'll run a lot of misdirection to try and keep defenses guessing where Cross or Morris will be coming from," he said. "We want to make them work."
Incline was 3-6 last year (2-4 in the Northern 2A) and is now under the direction of Chris Morgan, the program's fourth head coach in four years. The Highlanders had an opening day turnout of 23 players, led by Carson Guy, a second-team 2A all-state and first-team Northern 2A player at defensive end last year.
Yerington, 3-6 in the 3A last year but now playing an independent football schedule, will face a formidable opener against a Pershing County team that went 10-1 last year, the one loss coming 48-14 to Lincoln County in the 2A state semifinals.
The Mustangs opened last year with a 15-11 victory at Yerington. Dustin Burrows, who finished the season as a second-team all-state quarterback, rushed for 124 yards, including an 80-yard touchdown burst on the second play from scrimmage to key the win.
All-state guard James George, all-state tight end John James Meyers and second-team all-league running back Tom Rector also return for Pershing County. Joe Yanni is back for his 17th season as coach of the Pershing County program.
It will be a good test for Yerington, which is reloading after losing heavily to graduation.
"I think the 2A is a very competitive league," Yerington coach Cody Neville said. "There aren't any easy wins but we know that every time we step on the field we have a chance to win. And that's a nice feeling because we haven't had that for a while. There's no doubt we'd be a contender but there are some tough teams in the 2A. The community is always behind us, they don't care about what league we are in. They're real excited and we're real excited to get started."
Defense and overall team speed should be strengths this year for the Carson Senators, according to third-year head coach Shane Quilling.
"We should be exciting to watch defensively. We're not going to be real big, but there's some kids who logged a lot of downs last year," Quilling said. "This reminds me of the teams I had at Box Elder (High in Utah) in 1994, '95 and '96. Those were great kids and we won league all three years, won state in 1995."
The only downside so far has been a series of nagging injuries, according to Quilling.
"We're kind of beat up right now," he said on Saturday. "We have eight guys either out of practice or limited practice. It's all stuff that will heal, it's just going to take some time."
For example, returning second-team all-league linebacker John Stewart was hindered by a broken hand. Sam Pincock broke his wrist over the summer. Tilor Smith injured an elbow in a motorcycle accident. Wes Kaylor injured his hand in a fall. Tsuyoshi Curtis is nursing a quadricep injury. Zack Tersteege sustained a separated shoulder. Jeremy Steele is nursing a pulled flexor.
Carson opens its season next Friday against McQueen in Reno.