Dayton has lofty goals for this season
Appeal Sports Writer
DAYTON - If it's true that confidence builds confidence and success breeds success, then Rick Walker's Dayton D
Coming off a 7-4 season (Dayton’s second winning season in a row), a playoff win (the team’s first), and an appearance in the Class 3A state semifinals (where it lost to Virgin Valley), Walker and his team feel they are ready to take the next step in the program’s evolution.
“We’ve set goals since I’ve been here,” said Walker, who is in his fifth season. “We want to play for the title and become the state champions.”
While it’s true that Dayton took a big hit with the graduation of wideout Jordan Stokes, last season’s conference leader in receptions and receiving yards, Walker – who played for Western Montana College and was a high school assistant coach in Madras, Ore. – said he’ll have a lot of leadership this season.
“This is the biggest class – 17 seniors – we’ve ever had,” he said. “It feels good. Real good.”
Walker said senior quarterback Travis Wood will guide an offense that will feature senior running back Erik Hopper and fullback Brandon Aguilara. They will be guided up front by guards Robby Bell and Nick Brown, tackle Brandon Seymour and center Josh Coughlin.
The 5-foot-10, 195-pound Coughlin is one of his newer players, but Wood (a starter since his freshman year), Aguilara, who started last year, and the others are all seasoned starters.
Wood led the conference, throwing for 2,450 yards and 19 touchdowns last year and scored twice more on the ground.
“We’re returning quite a bit of people,” said Wood, who was also a first-team All-Star. “The summer’s gone pretty well. Our goals are pretty high this year. They should be. I’ve been here four years on varsity and we’ve gotten better every single year. This year’s goal is to have a home (state playoff) game and win it.”
To get there Dayton must first beat perennial front-runners Truckee and Spring Creek – no easy task when considering their history with the Dust Devils.
“We’ve never beaten them,” Wood said. “We’ve gotten closer every year. They’re returning some good players. All the other teams are looking good. There are no weak teams. It’s a pretty competitive league.”
With the departure of Stokes, Walker said Wood will have some different targets, including senior wideouts James Yeater and Mike Martin.
“They will have some shoes to fill with Stokes gone,” Walker said.
Tommy O’Brien and junior Anthony Onstott will contribute at tight end.
Wood will also punt this year, Walker said, which makes him a double threat.
Wood attended several camps over the summer, including two days at the University of Nevada combine, the Nike Camp, in Stanford, Calif., and the Elite 11 in Las Vegas – a quarterback camp.
Wood said Nevada and UNLV have had some talks with him and he’s received letters from several other schools.
Hopper had a big year in 2005, rushing for 1,346 yards and 26 touchdowns to go with more than 700 receiving yards (“Mr. Do It All,” Wood quipped).
Hopper will miss Dayton’s two opening games for disciplinary reasons, but is expected to be a key cog in the Dust Devils’ offense – and defense, where he plays safety.
“We want to win state,” Hopper said. “We’ve been going for it a few years, but we haven’t got it. This year…We’re talking this year. I’ve played in some summer football camps. I’m looking forward to playing a lot.”
Dayton has some good size up front. Seymour is a load at 6-5, 260, Brown goes 6-4, 230 and Bell is 5-10, 230.
Walker said special teams and kicking position are still up in the air and he will rotate the defense to see what the players will do.
Bell and Brown will likely play defensive tackle, with Seymour playing tackle or defensive end.
Seymour, a large player who carries no fat, has been recruited by Colorado State and can play anywhere up front.
“We were good last year and had a good team, but I think we can win state this year if we put it all together,” said Seymour, who lives in Virginia City.
Seymour worked out this summer in the Rams’ camp.
“It was an intense camp,” said Seymour, who’s also drawn some interest from Boise State, Utah, Arizona and USC. “Everyone there was being recruited.”
Along with Hopper, senior Rudy Reyna is expected to contribute at safety and junior Byron Trigueros could start at cornerback with Yeater.
Walker said senior Josh Avery, who played at outside linebacker last year, will see a little more time as a middle linebacker this year.
Walker said a couple players who were on last year’s junior varsity squad will step up to varsity this year. One of those players is junior Brett Remington, who is expected to see some action on the offensive and defensive line this season.
“This could be the most talented team I’ve had since I’ve been here,” Walker said. “It probably is. They’ve had a pretty good summer – not as good as I would’ve liked. But it’s kind of scary, the potential is there. The pressure’s on. That’s the way it’s going to be.”
And it’s no secret to whom Walker will turn to when it comes time to lead the charge come crunch time.
“I’m waiting for the senior leadership to rise up and take us to the next level,” Walker said.
With two consecutive winning seasons and its first home playoff victory under their belts, optimism is running high in Dayton.
The Dust Devils have already made some history. It’s time for them to see if they can let the success and confidence they’ve been building up for the last several seasons turn into some more school firsts and climb the three remaining mountains in the way of their becoming an established program with a pedigree.
Spring Creek, Truckee and a state championship – along with the rest of the 2006 football season – are summits waiting to be scaled. The only question is whether this will be the first team of Dust Devils that reach those heights and etch their names in the history books.