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Dayton, Yerington football remain optimistic

BY MIKE HOUSER

Nevada Appeal Sports Writer

 

Prior to 2006, the Dayton Dust Devils football team had never won four games in a row, much less played in a playoff game.

But that dubious streak ended two years ago when head coach Rick Walker, along with such outstanding performers as two-way lineman Brandon Seymour and quarterback Travis Wood, led the Dust Devils to unprecedented heights.

In that season of firsts, Dayton opened the year 10-0, beat Spring Creek and Truckee for the first time in school history (it ended up topping the Wolverines twice) and went all the way to the Class 3A state semifinals, where it was edged out by Virgin Valley, 21-19.

This year the Dust Devils fell upon some lean times, finishing 3-7 (including a forfeit win over Yerington), but was still in the playoff hunt until a 12-6 loss to Lowry in their next-to-last game of the season.

“Our age showed. We had only four returners with varsity experience,” said Walker, who is in his eighth year in command at Dayton. “We showed inconsistency, which was the key component, I think.”

Of its 26-player team, Dayton graduated seven seniors, including three two-way players who received second-team nominations: tight end/defensive end Tannar Wood, two-way lineman Mitch Gilgert and linebacker/running back Nick Bircheff.

Walker remains optimistic, however. He will welcome back 19 returners next season and will be able to have his pick from a junior varsity team that went 6-4, with its two league losses coming against powerful Truckee and Lowry.

“The biggest thing last summer is we averaged 35-40 kids in the weight room,” Walker said. “Fifty percent of them were freshmen and sophomores. We’ll have some of those sophomores on varsity next year who will have the work ethic to get better. We saw a huge improvement on JV this year. They began to use a no-huddle offense.”

Walker said there is reason to believe there could be better times ahead in Dayton.

“I think the juniors feel like the (younger players) can come up and fill in spots,” Walker said. “I think the chemistry will be good. And with our juniors, hopefully some leaders will step up.”

YERINGTON LOOKS AHEAD

For Yerington High School athletic director Daron Wildermuth, the writing was on the wall when the Lions ended their fourth game of the Class 3A season with only 14 healthy players, after losing five of them ” three to concussions ” in a loss to Fernley.

The Lions had played in the Class 2A state championship game in 2007, but a year after moving up one classification, Yerington, then 1-3, pulled the plug on its season by forfeiting its remaining four games.

“We had filed a petition to go into 2A in football only and stay 3A in the other sports,” said Wildermuth, in his second season as AD. “Five, six years ago we filed a petition to play independent football.”

Under the bylaws of the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association (NIAA), Yerington, which competes at the 3A level in all other sports, would not have been eligible to compete in postseason play if granted independent status at 2A.

At the time it petitioned to stay in 2A, Yerington had a student enrollment of 467. In order to be eligible to compete in 2A, a school’s enrollment must be less than 460 for two consecutive seasons.

“We tried to compete in football this season,” Wildermuth said. “The administration at the school and the coaching staff thought it was in the best interest of the high school in terms of injuries (to forfeit).

“We were concerned with the concussions and what could happen. We elected to play our JV schedule and forfeit the rest of the (varsity) games.”

Wildermuth said Yerington’s enrollment is now 440 and is projected to remain so next year, but the Lions will make another go of it at the higher classification.

“We will play 3A. We will honor the league,” Wildermuth said. “With guidance and a little better preparation and forethought, hopefully we can put a quality, competitive football team out there.”

Even though the Lions graduated 10 seniors, Wildermuth said he had no concerns about the Yerington football team competing at the 3A level next year.

“I think our football program gets in and works (in the off-season),” he said. “We lost a great senior class from the year before. But small towns run in cycles.”

And Wildermuth is counting on next year’s crop of players to be on an up cycle.