Dayton's Kage Walker had a lot of pressure on his shoulders coming into this season. The junior is not only the son of the head coach, but was expected to make a run at the starting quarterback job and play several roles on defense.
While Walker still has a shot to fulfill this season's potential, he will have to overcome missing the first two games of the season. Instead, he had to sit in the stands and watch his team win the first two games of the season without him.
"It makes it 10 times tougher, but I've got to be here to support them," Walker said of watching from the stands. "I haven't been in there for as many reps so I forget things a little more. It will take one more week of practice and then I'll be good to go I think."
Walker was suspended for the first two games of the season for breaking Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association rules. He his set to make his first appearance at 7 p.m. today when the Dust Devils take on Battle Mountain at home. But he will have to overcome a bit of rust to make an impact.
In Thursday's walk-through practice he struggled to dial down the hand signals his dad, Rick Walker, sent in and made some decisions that didn't help with the elder Walker, who slammed a clipboard down on the new synthetic turf field before reprimanding several Dayton players.
"I don't care if it's a high school kid or professional, if you know you're not playing it's a big effort to make sure you're sharp and on top of it at all time," the elder Walker said. "The last two weeks we've been just asking him to scout stuff and just fill here and there. So he wasn't getting near the reps that he normally would.
"That's part of it and the other part of it is he's a junior in high school and sometimes they're focused and sometimes they're not. It's just the nature of the beast."
Walker wasn't just frustrated at that moment, but for the second half of practice as the Dust Devils lost some focus as the day went on. The mental lapses, though, are something quarterback and safety Connor Conroy were something the team would overcome in time for the game.
"We should be able to practice all practice," Conroy said. "We should be excited for (today). There's really no excuse for slacking off at the end of practice, but I don't think it's going to be any kind of concern for tomorrow.
In addition to Walker's return, Dayton will also get back Jeff Peterson, a 6-foot-2, 260-pound lineman, who was suspended for the same incident. The two returning players will give Dayton some much needed depth and a chance to see more players in different roles, a major key as it turns to conference play next week.
"You've got a little aches and pains and bruises that kids have to take care of, so the more people that you have that you can slide in there and fill in, the better," the elder Walker said. "Just adding those two kids, who have been out, gives us seven or eight positions because they can fill in over here and there and they're pretty flexible with the things that they can do."
With a win against Battle Mountain, the Dust Devils will tie last season's win total when they went 3-7 overall.