DAYTON — The Dayton Dust Devils have put their 21-game losing streak in the rear-view mirror, and they would like nothing better than to start their Northern 3A season with a win.
It won’t be easy.
The Elko Indians, who handed Dayton a 37-0 thrashing in the 2016 season opener, come to town Friday. Kick-off is set for 7 p.m.
The Dust Devils were one of three 3A teams to play a 2A team last week, and they were the only ones to come out with a victory. Lovelock beat Sparks and Battle Mountain knocked off Lowry.
The Indians run a lot of option, and they boast five linemen — Byron Hansen (5-11, 260), Ryan Dittes (5-10, 267), Riley Plumlee (6-1, 250), Brock Bennett (6-2, 300) and Zach Upchurch (6-2, 300) that are over 300 pounds. A year ago, they averaged nearly 4 yards a carry.
“I looked at some scrimmage film,” Dayton coach Pat Squires said. “They are big up front, very athletic and good at what they do. They carry out their fakes well, and you have to guard against every aspect of the play.
“They run kind of a pistol out of a Winged-T with three wide receivers. They have done the same thing the last couple of years.”
Senior Ryan Wickersham, who carried five times for 12 yards last year and passed for 46 yards, is one of three quarterbacks listed on the roster. Carter Alvarado, a junior, and Ronin Rowley, another junior, are the others.
Leading rusher Gavin Byington, who gained 768 yards and scored six times, is back. Ethan Johnson, who gained 204 yards and rushed for two scores, returns.
Antawn Valtierra is the leading returning tackler with 77 stops. Wickersham had 32 tackles.
“They are big up front,” Squires said of the Indians’ defense. “They run a 3-5 front that could turn into a 5-3 when the linebackers walk up (to the line). We have to stay on our blocks.”
Elko will be aware of running back Austin Lunz, who rushed for 239 yards and three scores, and sophomore quarterback Carson Keith, who accounted for 128 yards. He rushed for a TD and threw for a TD.
“Lunz did a really good job,” Squires said. “Carson, for a sophomore, wasn’t too bad. He was 7 for 14, but he could have been 11 of 14. He had some first-game jitters. He had a couple balls he short armed. The ball that was intercepted was knocked down and went off a helmet.”
The Dust Devils will be without two-way starter Justin Schmidt. Squires is hoping this is the last game Schmidt will miss.
“He is chomping at the bit to get back,” Squires said. “He hasn’t been cleared yet.”