Dayton High's football team has made road trips before, but never as long and as important as the one they will embark on Friday morning.
The Dust Devils (7-4) travel to Mesquite for the NIAA 3A semifinals against Virgin Valley Saturday at 1 p.m. It's Dayton's first-ever trip to the 3A Final Four.
The winner will receive a berth in the state finals against the winner of the Truckee-Spring Creek game Nov. 19 (3 p.m.) at University of Nevada's Mackay Stadium.
"We've got a charter bus, and we'll be leaving about 7 a.m.," Dayton coach Rick Walker said. "We're working on getting a practice field in the Vegas area and go straight there for a practice and then go to Mesquite.
"You always worry about trips like this; something going wrong. The charter buses with the TVs helps baby-sit the players; keeps them pretty calm."
Walker likes the direction his team is headed after a setback to Fernley two weeks ago. Dayton hammered Sparks 49-14, two week after barely squeezing past the Railroaders 31-27.
"I thought last week our offense was really quick," Walker said. "The kids stepped up. Fernley stopped the run. That kind of set the stage for us. Defensively, Sparks didn't do much after the first two drives of the game."
The Dust Devils have probably the most potent trio of skill players in Northern Nevada with quarterback Travis Wood (2,220 yards passing), running back Erik Hopper (1,339 yards rushing) and wide receiver Jordan Stokes (929 yards receiving). Toss in Brandon Aguilera, who rushed for 132 yards last week against Sparks, and you know that Virgin Valley will have its hands full.
"Against Faith Lutheran, they ran a five-man front," Walker said. "I figure they will run more 4-4 to battle stuff that we do out of our Wing-T. (Stewart) Carboni does a great job (at linebacker). He's not real big, but he's tough."
Hopper, Stokes, Josh Aaker, Brandon Seymour, Robby Bell, Dadim Gladwell and Wade Guirlani have played well defensively in recent weeks for Dayton. They will be tested by Virgin Valley's physical running game.
"I've seen tape from their first game against Fernley and their last game against Faith Lutheran," Walker said. "They are not really big. They have a few guys in the 220 and 230-pound range, so we match up with them pretty well. They are more of a running team. They run a lot of two tight ends and I-back formations. They pound it at you. They are more of a running team."
Stewart Carboni, Omar Torres and Shad Teerlink carry the rushing load for Virgin Valley. Tony Frehner starts at quarterback and tight end Cass Coverman is a solid blocker and receiver.
Virgin Valley is a dangerous team. The squad was 1-3 in the regular season, and then came alive to win two playoffs games.
"They've got that momentum going," Walker said. "From what I saw, they kind of backed into the playoffs. If Boulder had won, they wouldn't have been in that four-team playoff."
And that makes them a dangerous team in Walker's mind.
GALENA (7-3) AT McQUEEN (9-0)
When: Tonight, 7 p.m.
Where: McQueen High School
Last week: McQueen 46, Douglas 14; Galena 34, Reno 23
NOTES - This is a rematch from earlier in the season when McQueen edged Galena 19-14. It's a game that Galena could have very easily won, but failure to take advantage of good first-half field position proved to be the Grizzlies' undoing... Offensively, both teams rely on punishing ground games, which means that the front lines will determine the outcome of the game. The Lancers will relay, as usual on the Pritchard twins, Josh and Shawn, for the bulk of their running yards. Shawn Pritchard had 83 yards rushing and Shaun added 32. Neither played extensively in the second half after McQueen built a big lead on Douglas. McQueen will run some two tight end sets which means that 6-8 Matt LaGrone and C.J. Riley, both capable receivers, will be in there. Travis Reynolds, who had two catches for 42 yards, is the team's best receiver. QB Ryan Wickes completed 53 of 96 passes for 624 yards and 12 scores. Galena depends on workhorse Ryan Krueger, who has had a few 200-yard games this season. Krueger had 1,531 yards and 17 scores. Jimmy Sargent is an effective runner. QB Jacob Anderson has passed for more than 700 yards and 10 scores. Anthony Fritsche is Anderson's go-to receiver. The Grizzlies' "Yellow Swarm" defense is led by Joseph Milegich, Jake Hess, Sargent, Cole Dowty, Justin Harger and Justin Gates. Both teams play solid defense as evidenced by the score in the first meeting. McQueen's Felipe Kioa recovered a fumble last week, and Robbie LaVoy and Bobby Kirby also played well.
Contact Darrell Moody at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling (775) 881-1281