Dayton beats Battle Mountain |

Dayton beats Battle Mountain

Rob Renaud
Appeal Sports Writer

Coach Rick Walker and his Dust Devils erased a 12- point deficit in the second half and then hung on to beat Battle Mountain 14-12 in both teams season opener Friday night at Dayton High.

“Our ‘D’ did an excellent job, just an excellent job”, said coach Walker.

Battle Mountain’s offense, which averaged 33.9 points per game in 2007, was held under 100 yards by the Dust Devils and could be said to have scored only one touchdown on its own.

Indeed, both defenses held firm throughout the first half.

Dayton, using an effective running tandem of sophomore tailback Conner Oliver and senior fullback Nick Bircheff, was able to move into Longhorn territory on its first three possessions, but was stopped short each time.

Battle Mountain finally mounted a drive in the final two minutes of the half on the legs of senior fullback Fritz Knight. After a short Dayton punt, the Longhorns took over at their own 47. Knight carried on a fullback sweep to the left side and broke into open field for a 27 yard gain. Two plays later, tailback Michael Lake gained 14 yards to reach the Dayton 12. Knight carried twice more to give Battle Mountain first and goal at the four. The Dust Devil ‘D’ stopped Lake and Knight each for no gain and a pass to the right corner fell incomplete before William Wolf took the ball wide left on fourth down for the score. The two-point try failed and the score at half-time was 6-0 Battle Mountain.

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After forcing a Longhorn punt on the first possession of the second half, Dayton set up on its own16. Oliver carried for no gain, and then a seemingly crushing blow fell. Junior Dayton quarterback Connor Conroy dropped back and lofted a floater into the teeth of the secondary. Safety Devon Brannon intercepted the pass and returned it to the Dayton four yard line. One play later, Knight broke through for a touchdown. The tw-point PAT again failed, and Battle Mountain led 12-0 with 6:48 remaining in the third quarter.

The Dust Devils didn’t give up on themselves though.

Junior Kyle Firestone returned the kick 24 yards to the 41. Oliver carried for one yard. Knight then broke through the middle and, showing great patience, picked his way downfield for a 58 yard touchdown. Oliver’s PAT was good and Dayton was back in the game exactly one minute after Battle Mountain’s score.

The Dayton defense stepped up after that. Battle Mountain was held to 33 yards total offense in the second half.

Tannar Wood made two tackles for losses on the Longhorns next series to set the tone.

The win couldn’t have come though, without a near miracle play pulled off by Conroy and Oliver. On third and 13 near the start of the fourth quarter at the Dayton 43, Conroy rolled out to his right. Under a heavy rush, he pulled the ball in and was nearly sacked. Conroy ducked under the tackle, scrambled to his left and found Oliver alone near the far sideline for 17 yards and a first down.

That play got momentum fully on the Dust Devil side of the field, as Dayton marched to the end zone on the strength of Bircheff’s 23 yard carry to set up a 3-yard score at the 7:33 mark.

Battle Mountain had one more scare in store for Dayton. On third and five at the Longhorn 41, quarterback Matt Newgard got free around the left side and was running in open field when Firestone made a game saving play, stripping Newgard of the ball. Wood fell on the fumble, effectively sealing the win for the Dust Devils.

Oliver finished the night with 81 yards on 24 carries while Bircheff had a big night, rushing for 137 yards, 112 in the second half, and two touchdowns.

Conroy was 5 of 10 for 22 yards and an interception.

Battle Mountain’s Knight ended with 61 yards and a touchdown.

The crowd got a scare when junior Dayton lineman Garrett Killian was hit in the back on punt coverage and didn’t get up. Killian was taken from the field by Lyon County ambulance, but was seen to be moving his extremities.

“It looked more like a hamstring or his hip,” Walker said. ” They were just being more cautious than anything.”

Of the win, Walker said that he was pleased but that his team had plenty to work on in next week’s practice.