DAYTON — The team that often times makes the best mid-game adjustment is often the victor.
That was the case during the Dayton football team’s 40-37 win over Wooster Friday night.
Wooster jumped out to a 14-0 lead on its first two possessions. The Colts prolific passing attack had led to 88 yards for quarterback Hunter Triplett on 6-of-6 passing to start the game — including a 36-yard scoring strike to Chris Greco for the 7-0 lead. The passing also had opened up some holes for Colts running back Genaro Cortez. Cortez carried three times on the second drive for 36 yards, the final carry was a 23-yard scoring run putting Wooster up 14-0.
That’s when Dayton changed up its defense.
Coach Rob Turner said Dayton went to a cover 2 man under defense — and it was trouble for pretty much the rest of the night for Triplett and Wooster. The Colts would score once in the second quarter and then added two scores in the final 2:28 as Dayton’s defense was pesky and gritty.
“We are athletic enough at our outside backers and cornerbacks to play man coverage with anyone,” Turner said. “We turned them over a few times and that made a big difference.”
The turnovers are what gave Dayton the momentum, the lead and the victory.
“This game was the first of our second season,” Turner said he told the team. He was emphasizing how the Dust Devils must run the table and get some help to make the playoffs.
After falling down 14-0, the Dust Devils were forced to punt from their own 47. A Wooster player called for a fair catch on Benji Ply’s punt but the ball went off another Colt player and into the arms of Dayton’s Quinn Santana at the Wooster 21.
Dayton’s offense was again stalled and left with a fourth-and-7 from the 18, Dayton kept the drive alive when Skyler Berntson set up Santana’s 16-yard run with a nice pancake block that allowed Santana to get to the corner and down to the two. Berntson would put Dayton on the board with 9:48 to play in the second quarter.
Dayton forced another turnover on Wooster’s next possession when Cortez fumbled and Jon Joyner jumped on it for the Dust Devils at the Wooster 31. Just four plays later, quarterback Davis Winebarger hit Jaret Reed on a 20-yard scoring pass to tie the game.
Reed would make a statement on defense on the Colts ensuing possession. On third-and-25 Triplett dropped back and Reed picked it off and returned it more than 30 yards for a 20-14 lead.
After a penalty, Dayton went for two and Berntson gave Dayton a 22-14 lead.
The interception didn’t sway Triplett as he led the Colts back through the air as Wooster tied it at 22. The Colts had a chance to go in front at the end of the half, but Triplett was tackled in the backfield after picking up the snap on a 30-yard field goal. The play didn’t seem to have that large of impact at the time.
After a Wooster punt, the team’s traded turnovers with Dayton taking over at the Wooster 27 on a fumble recovery. Berntson ran it down to the 10 on first down and Winebarger took the quarterback keeper — ran the wrong direction than the Dayton coaching staff had called for — and scored to give Dayton the lead. The point after was no good, but Dayton was up 28-22 with 6:03 to play in the third quarter.
Winebarger had 13 yards on the ground and finished 6-of-13 for 99 yards, 92 of those yards to Reed who hauled in four catches.
After the teams traded turnovers, Dayton would go up by two scores with the help of Russ Alfano who stepped in for the injured Santana. Santana was carted off the field after a strong 12-yard run where he went down grabbing his ankle mid-way through the third quarter.
“Losing Quinn, he is a two-way guy and our long snapper; he does everything for us,” Turner said, but added others stepped up.
“These guys are close,” Turner said about the seniors who have been playing football together since they were 6 or 8 years old. “It really is a testament to the bond this team has.”
Alfano, who had just one carry this season coming into this game, would pick up a first down for the Dust Devils on their 8-play drive along with helping clear the way for Berntson who seemed to get stronger as the game went on. The senior carried five times for 40 yards on the drive, including a 22-yarder and a three-yard gain which saw Berntson run about 30 yards after a change of direction. He scored on the next play to give Dayton a 34-22 lead with 7:03 to play. Berntson carried 27 times for 196 yards as he crossed the 1,000 yard mark on the season.
Wooster would cut the deficit on a 12-play drive that had Triplett involved in every play. The quarterback (19-of-25 for 279 yards and nine carries for 55 yards) hit Colton Duminie for a four-yard score with 2:26 to play.
Dayton would answer back after recovering the on-side kick as Berntson would carry for 51 yards down to the Wooster 6 and then punch it in two plays later for the game-sealing score with 1:49 to play.
Triplett hit his favorite target Chris Greco with 29.6 seconds to play, but the Dust Devils recovered the onside kick. Greco had eight catches for 134 yards.
Dayton, 5-3 in league and 4-3 overall, finishes out the year at Elko and at Fernley.