Like most coaches, Dayton High's Rob Turner doesn't believe in bringing sophomores up to the varsity unless they are going to get significant playing time.
That's why Turner has just two sophomores - Taryn Aguilera and Austin Fletcher - on this year's team that plays tonight (7 p.m.) in Winnemucca against Lowry.
Both youngsters have played significant roles in the Dust Devils' 2-1 start under Turner, who took over for Rick Walker this year.
"Austin is always around the ball defensively," Turner said before Thursday's practice. "He has a nose for the football. He still hasn't caught up to the speed of the game, but he's getting better every game.
"Taryn was going to play JV until we went to the defensive camp at South Tahoe and he blew me away with the way he played. He's a little (5-10, 175 pounds) stud. He dies everyday at practice he works so hard. He's not afraid to stick his nose in there against bigger guys."
The fact that Fletcher is on the team isn't a huge surprise, considering he was called up to varsity as a freshman. The amount of playing time he is getting on both sides of the ball is kind of surprising.
Fletcher, who gets the start at quarterback tonight, has rushed eight times for 27 yards and he is fourth on the team in tackles with 24 from his outside linebacker position. He returned a fumble 80 yards for a score earlier this season and had eight tackles in the Fallon game.
"I thought I would help more on defense," Fletcher said. "We had lost a few players (to graduation), and I thought I could come in and play.
"Last week I was real nervous because I had to step in and play quarterback. I didn't have very much practice. I'd been practicing at quarterback earlier, but then they stopped. I think I had two days of practice (before Fallon)."
He didn't throw a pass against Fallon, but did a good job running the offense, which includes opening holes for his teammates.
"He (Fletcher) did OK against Fallon," Turner said. "I think he'd practiced just three days. He missed some things. He tried to lead block too much. He's super coachable. He's a little bit crazy which I like. He's not afraid of anybody."
Quarterback is a finesse job except in Dayton's offense when quarterbacks will pitch the ball and then become blockers. It's not a position for the faint of heart. You have to be able to withstand contact; endure some pounding to be effective.
Aguilera is following in the footsteps of his older brother, Brandon, and his half-brother Colin Breckenridge.
"It feels real good to be there (on varsity )," Aguilera said. "I remember when Brandon was a sophomore and got moved up to varsity halfway through his JV season. I was wishing I could do the same thing."
Aguilera didn't have to wait five games into his sophomore year. He's been an instant hit playing with the big boys. He is averaging five tackles a game, has two interceptions and a touchdown reception.
In the opener against Lovelock, Aguilera had a 70-yard TD catch and later returned an interception for a score, but that was called back because of a penalty. He returned an interception 90 yards for a score in the win over Fallon.
At first glance, it looks like Aguilera's contributions have been more significant on defense compared to offense. Don't let numbers fool you. Aguilera, despite giving up size (he's 5-10, 175) to most opponents, is a big reason why Dayton has been able to run the ball in its wins over Lovelock and Fallon. He plays a mean tight end, and being just 5-10, he can play with low pads.
"He doesn't get a lot of notoriety because we don't pass much," Turner said. "His blocking is key to our success on the ground. We ran to his side 21 times and had about 300 yards against Fallon. He's really solid."
Don't forget strong. Aguilera practically lives in the weight room, according to Turner.
"I open the weight room at 6:15 a.m. on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, and he's there every day even though he has a weights class during the day." Turner said.
"I just feel I'm not big enough," Aguilera said. "I'm dedicated at being the best for the team."
Not bad for a guy who played some quarterback last season. Aguilera said he doesn't miss the position too much, partially because the Dust Devils' new offense is a lot different than what he ran on the JV squad.