They lose Berntson, but not game on way to 4-0 start
DAYTON — When a member of a family goes through a struggle, a strong family rallies.
That was the case Friday night at Dayton High School when the Dust Devils eked out a 22-21 win over Truckee.
“That’s what they said,” coach Rob Turner said. “I told them how proud I was of them for sticking together and it was Julio (Meza) that said that’s because we are a brotherhood, coach.
“They are words, but for these kids it really is a bond.”
When Dayton running back Skyler Berntson left the game early in the second quarter with an ankle injury, the Dust Devils didn’t fold and roll over to Truckee, they rallied and turned to thunder and lightning.
Thunder being fullback Quinn Santana — 6-feet, 2-inches, 190 pounds — and lightning being John Aguilar — listed by MaxPreps as 5-feet, 1-inch and 103 pounds.
The two were instrumental in carrying the workload after Berntson left, but came up even bigger with the game on the line.
“He hasn’t been getting a lot of reps,” Turner said. “For him to run that hard and play that hard on defense; there was a lot on him playing both ways tonight.
“Quinn, ... what a workhorse. Even when they met him at the line they couldn’t bring him done.”
One play after fumbling at the 25-yard line, Julio Meza recovered a Truckee fumble and set up the Dust Devils at their own 30-yard line with time running down in the fourth quarter.
With 3:21 to play Santana carried for 14 yards, quarterback Davis Winebarger (3-of-8 for 28 yards) hit Dallon Mendoza for 13 yards to the Truckee 43 yard line. Aguilar carried for four yards before Santana carried for 10 yards down to the 29-yard line with 2:30 to play. Aguilar gained a yard and Santana dragged Wolverine defenders on back-to-back carries getting Dayton to the 11 with 1:15 to play. The Dust Devils gave the ball to Santana (16 carries for 130 yards) one more time before turning to Aguilar (17 carries for 98 yards). Aguilar carried for a first down to the 5-yard line with 45 seconds to play. The Dust Devils then called the shifty speedster’s number one more time as he took the ball toward the home sideline and cut back toward the middle before diving into the end zone for the game-winning score.
The 2-point conversion was no good, but the Dayton defense was strong at the end like it was for the entire night.
“I wasn’t too worried about our defense, they have been so tough. But, obviously (Meza’s fumble recovery) was a momentum changer. And that safety was huge.”
The Wolverines, who were limited in practice this week due to smoke from the King fire, were gutty themselves.
“I thought we came in a little overconfident,” Turner said. “With them not being able to practice; they battled. It wasn’t a walk in the park. We took advantage when they started to cramp up. That’s when we really pushed our guys to get to the play in quick and line up and snap the ball. We were getting to them.”
For awhile, it looked like Truckee might head back to California with a win.
Truckee tied the game at 14 with 31 seconds to play in the first half on a 20-yard pass from Sean Bokinskie to Eli Delauney. The game stayed tied as both teams played strong defense until late in the third quarter. After a punt pinned Dayton at its 4, the Dust Devils were unable to pick up a first down and were forced to punt from their own end zone. Truckee took advantage of the great field position and a Dayton miscue. The Dust Devils defense was swirling and combined with a holding call had the Wolverines in a 2nd-and-20 situation, but a 10-yard pass play and an illegal hit to the helmet gave Truckee the ball at the 12 and a first down. Three plays later, Tanner Sawyer scored from the five giving Truckee a 21-14 lead.
Dayton had great field position after a kick return by Meza. Aguilar picked up 34 yards on his first carry of the drive and Dayton was inside the Truckee 10. Two plays later Aguilar would fumble, but that just lit a fire in the Dayton defense.
A false start and a run for no gain, closed the third quarter with Truckee facing 2nd-and-12 at the one to start the fourth. After an incomplete pass, Truckee called Delauney’s number, but the defense was ready and tackled the running back in the end zone for the safety and cut the deficit to 21-16 with 11:44 to play.
“I told the team they showed great character tonight,” Turner said. “To lose Skyler and to still play that hard and gut out that one ... It was one of the best high school football games I have seen.”
The teams would trade drives until the Meza fumble followed by the Meza fumble recovery setting up Thunder and Lighting and the Dust Devils first 4-0 start since 2009.
Dayton, behind Berntson jumped out to a 7-0 lead with 2:49 to play in the opening quarter. Winebarger scored on a QB sneak from the two. The 13-play drive went 64 yards with Berntson gaining 42 of the yards. He finished with 11 carries for 86 yards. Truckee evened the game with 5:55 to play in second quarter when Bokinskie snuck it in from the 1-yard line.
Dayton went back in front, when Meza (4 carries 58 yards) broke a run to the outside and went 50 yards to give Dayton a 14-7 lead with 3:39 to play in the half. Truckee tied the game on the aforementioned 20-yard pass. The drive was helped by two 15-yard penalties for illegal contact to the head on Dayton, something the Dust Devils will try to clean up this week in practice before traveling to Fallon next Friday.