It was a Tale of Two Cities at Dayton High School on Friday night.
It was the best of times when sophomore quarterback Carson Keith was given time to throw (198 yards and three touchdowns).
It was the worst of times when Keith wasn’t given ample time (Sparks sacked the Dust Devils quarterback on at least six occasions).
It was the season of light, as the Dust Devils scored 30 points.
It was the season of darkness, as the Dust Devils allowed 46 to visiting Sparks.
In the end, it wasn’t a novel, it was a 46-30 win by Sparks in a 3A football contest.
It was a game of momentum until mid-way through the first half.
“We are in football games, we are making things exciting,” Dayton coach Patrick Squires said. “A couple years ago you couldn’t say that. We’re playing football and we are in games; we can win them we just need to put this all together.”
Carlos Rodriquez was a thorn in the Dust Devils’ side all night. He scored on a long run, a kick return and an interception return to lead the Railroaders.
Sparks used at least five players behind center, the formation changes caused fits for the Dayton defense. Sparks was able to run from the quarterback position rather comfortably. Rodriquez scored on a 42-yard scramble to give Sparks a 7-0 lead with 2:19 to play in the first quarter. He also had a 25-yard scamper later in the quarter, but that drive stalled.
“We expected them to throw the ball a lot more than they did. They came at us with the run game and we had a hard time stopping it,” Squires said.
Dayton would take an 8-7 lead with 10:37 in the second quarter when Keith connected with Walker for the first touchdown, but the lead was short lived.
Rodriquez returned the kickoff 80 yards to give Sparks a 14-8 lead. Dayton bounced back when Alex Dusky scored on a 3-yard run. The 2-point conversion gave Dayton a 16-14 lead with 8:32 to play in the half.
Sparks took a 20-16 lead with 6:12 to play in the first half and then after a strong punt return by Rodriquez, Jorge Dominguez cashed in his second scoring run to make it 26-16.
Sparks would take the opening kickoff and go ahead 32-16. Sparks would go up 40-16 after a bad snap on a 4th down punt attempt had the Dust Devils turn the ball over at the 5. Dayton’s special teams struggled to give Walker enough time to punt. When he did have enough time, the Railroaders returners were able to pick up big chunks of yardage. Field position hurt the Dust Devils throughout the game.
“Momentum shifts killed us,” Squires said. “We have to shore things up. It is a process. No one is giving up, we are going to work hard.”
That’s when the season of light took hold for the Dust Devils.
Keith hit Walker for a 32-yard touchdown with 6:05 to play in the game. The score cut the Sparks’ lead to 40-22. After Dayton’s defense held, Keith threw a pick-six to Rodriquez who stepped in front of the ball and ran it in from the 12-yard line to make it 46-22.
“It is the growing pains we have with a sophomore quarterback,” Squires said. “He is a good quarterback; he made some great passes.”
Keith would not waver and connected with Walker on a 68-yard strike with a minute to play to make it 46-30. Keith finished with 198 yards passing and the three scores, all to Walker.
Dayton used five running backs to ease the workload of Austin Lunz. Justin Schmidt carried the ball 13 times, with a long of 11 yards. Keith had a 23-yard scramble and David Leach added a 20-yard run, but the sacks pretty much wiped out any positives on the running back.
Sparks improved to 1-2 on the season and 1-1 in league. Dayton, 1-2 and 0-2 in league, travels to Spring Creek for a 7 p.m. Friday game next week.