Revamped Dayton program preps for home opener

Dayton’s new football coach, Tom Eck, wasn’t too flustered after his team’s 38-0 season-opening loss at Lovelock.

It’s about improvements and making timely adjustments, a process toward building what Eck calls a dream program.

“I keep saying I’m boring everyone with my process talk, but it is a process,” he said this week in regards to improving the football program. “We just have to keep improving. When we start competing at the state level, then we can start talking about buying new bleachers and overflow crowds.

“Friday is the first part of that dream.”

Eck’s first home game as head coach is at 7 p.m. today against Sparks.

The Railroaders (0-1) will look to avenge last season’s loss when Dayton (0-1) spoiled their home opener, 50-6. The Railroaders are also looking to bounce back after a week-one defeat at Spring Creek, 47-13.

Tonight’s game includes a recognition of Dayton Youth Football League’s all-stars — a key element of Eck’s long-term vision for the program — along with the football field’s fence displaying Eck’s mantra: “One town, one team.”

On the field, though, Dayton faces many questions. One remains at quarterback.

“It’s still too close to call (a full-time quarterback),” Eck said of juniors Tayton Watson and Blake Fletcher. “So this week we are going to run with two quarterbacks again.”

For Eck, timing is key. Dayton implemented a new offense this season: the flex-bone triple option with a fullback behind the quarterback and two slot backs.

“The biggest way to succeed is for them to be comfortable enough with the system to where they can just react,” Eck said.

It didn’t help Dayton’s scrimmage against Yerington was cancelled because of smoke, which certainly hurt the team’s preparation and ability to name a full-time quarterback before today’s game, Eck said.

Fortunately the opener against Lovelock was out of division.

Dayton’s home opener today is its first game of the season against Division 1-A competition.

Sparks finished last year 1-8, but returns a large contingent on both sides of the ball. “I expect (Dayton) to be fired up after last week just like I expect us to be fired up,” Kittrell said. “We have to shut down their run game and we have to be a little better than we did last week. They have a new coach so we don’t know a whole lot about them.”

The Railroaders boast a size advantage on the line, which includes 6-foot-4, 280-pound senior guard and defensive tackle Ataloanui Tuikolongahau. “We had size advantage last week, too, and it didn’t fare too well for us,” Sparks coach Robert Kittrell said. “It’s great to have, but if you don’t play low, that’s the equalizer.”

Sylis Sanchez, a senior, returns at quarterback for Sparks this year and moves the ball around out of the spread pistol formation, Kittrell said.

“It’s important to get good showing against Sparks this week,” Eck said. “It’s not necessarily impossible to see us competing in league as early as this year, but we have to focus our energy on getting better week to week.”

NOTES: Jason Sandborn, Dayton’s junior long-snapper and defensive end, is not playing this week, but he’s recovering after being taken off the field in an ambulance last week with a hamstring injury at Lovelock. “If he had it his way, he would play and would have been practicing today,” Eck said Tuesday … The Dust Devils are looking to end a losing slide that dates back to last year, winning one game (Wooster, 40-37) since Sept. 19, 2014. Dayton started 4-0 in 2014.


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