Second-half lapse dooms Dust Devils

SPARKS " For one half, the Dayton Dust Devils appeared to have shaken off any issues stemming from last week's blowout loss to Lovelock.

However, we all know it takes a full four-quarter effort to win a football game, and Dayton simply didn't have it in the final two periods.

Dayton managed just two first downs and 57 yards total offense in the final two quarters, and the defense yielded 14 points in less than two minutes in the third quarter en route to a 28-12 loss against Sparks in the Northern 3A opener Friday night.

"I think we wore down," said Dayton coach Rick Walker, who watched his team fall to 1-3 overall and 0-1 in 3A play. "We haven't been ahead too much this year. We didn't answer the bell (in the second half). Our lack of depth is killing us. Tannar (Wood) didn't finish and that leaves a pretty big hole on both sides of the ball.

"They (Sparks) didn't surprise us. They ran the same stuff they have been running the last two years. Number seven (quarterback Joe Puccinelli) was a lot faster than he showed on film."

Puccinelli hurt the Dust Devils with his arm and feet. He ran for 124 yards and a touchdown, which included a 73-yard TD scamper midway through the final quarter, and he also threw scoring passes of 50 and 10 yards to Bryan Orellana, one in the first half and one in the second half. The stat is very impressive considering Sparks completed just one pass in its last game.

"He (Puccinelli) was hurt even before the first scrimmage," Sparks coach Rob Kittrell said. "He's finally healthy."

This was definitely a tale of two halves. Dayton dominated the first, scoring twice and holding the Railroaders to just one first down until midway through the second quarter.

Dayton took advantage of a short field to score its first touchdown, driving 39 yards in seven plays with Nick Bircheff (11 carries, 63 yards) scoring from the 2.

Two big plays " a 14-yard run by Bircheff and a 14-yarder by Conner Oliver " were the key plays in the drive which gave Dayton a 6-0 lead.

Sparks went three and out again, and an 18-yard punt return by Oliver gave the Dust Devils field position at the Sparks 32.

Oliver (20 carries, 66 yards) broke loose for 12 yards for a first down at the 20. After a 5-yard penalty moved the ball to the 15, Oliver carried down to the 12. On second-and-2, quarterback Connor Conroy threw a 12-yard scoring pass to Kyle Tookey to make it 12-0 with 11:55 left in the half.

Dayton actually had a chance to build on its lead after Sparks' Angel Guillen fumbled at midfield during a 17-yard run.

The Dust Devils managed just two yards during the next three plays, however, and punted the ball away.

That turned out to beginning of the end for Dayton.

Sparks' offense finally got on track late in the first half, putting together an impressive 13-play, 89-yard scoring drive capped by Puccinelli's 10-yard scoring pass to Orellana with 38 seconds left in the half, cutting the lead to 12-7.

The Railroaders converted two big third downs on the drive. Andre City gained seven yards to the Dayton 28 on a third-and-2 play, and Puccinelli gained nine yards down to the Dayton 15 on a third-and-6 play.

"Obviously it hurt to give it up," Walker said. "We had done a good job defensively up until then."

"That was a big drive," Kittrell said. "We needed to score to have momentum going into the half."

Sparks pulled ahead early in the third quarter when Oliver fumbled at his own 49 and Xavier Barr recovered for the Railroaders.

It took just three plays to reach the endzone. After an incomplete pass on first down, Prince Hall dashed up the middle for 30 yards and a first down at the 19. Angel Guillen (9 carries, 81 yards) scored on the next play. Chris Garcia's PAT made it 14-12 with 8:31 left.

Sparks took advantage of another short field to score just two minutes later after a 33-yard punt rolled out at midfield.

On first down, Puccinelli rolled right and tossed a pass in the right flat to Orellana, who outraced the Dayton secondary into the endzone. Another Garcia PAT made it 21-12 with 6:32 remaining.

"Our secondary has been giving up big plays," Walker said. "We tried to address that this week."

Oscar Correa blocked an Oliver punt late in the third quarter, but Dayton's defense stepped up and stopped Guillen for a two-yard loss on a fourth-and-3 at the 8.

Dayton had the ball three more times, but managed just one first down.

"It's big to be 1-0," Kittrell said. "We beat a good Dayton program."

- Contact Darrell Moody at dmoody@nevadaappeal.com, or by calling (775) 881-1281.

Boxscore

Northern 3A

at Sparks High School

Sparks 28, Dayton 12

Sparks 0 7 14 7 - 28

Dayton 6 6 0 0 - 12

First quarter

D - Bircheff 2 run (kick blocked), 2:49 remaining

Second quarter

D - Tookey 12 pass from Conroy (pass failed), 11:55 left

S - Orellana 10 pass from Puccinelli (Garcia kick), 0:38 left

Third quarter

S - Guillen 19 run (Garcia kick), 8:31 left

S - Orellana 50 pass from Conroy (Garcia kick), 6:32 left

Fourth quarter

S - Puccinelli 73 run (Garcia kick), 6:33 left

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