Dust Devils shoot to surpass .500 | NevadaAppeal.com

Dust Devils shoot to surpass .500

Dave Price

Rick Walker has seen some close calls in his three seasons as head coach of the Dayton High School football program.

While many of those have resulted in moral victories, unfortunately, they have shown up as defeats on the scoreboard.

Now, Walker is looking to build on a 2003 season that saw the Dust Devils advance to the 3A state playoffs for the first time. They’ve posted 4-5 and 4-6 records the last two years, which equal the school record for most wins, but now they want to take the next step and get over the .500 barrier.

“We’ve been close, but no cigar,” Walker said. “That’s our goal, to start winning those close games. We want to win more games than we lose, and we want to get back to the playoffs.”

The Dust Devils open their season Friday night with a nonconference game against Damonte Ranch in Reno. The freshmen play at 4:45 p.m., followed by the varsity contest at 7:30.

Damonte Ranch is a class 4A school fielding its first varsity football team, but playing an independent schedule this fall. Walker expects a good test from the Mustangs, who are playing under former Bishop Manogue and Wooster coach Tony Amantia.

“We exchanged film from our scrimmages and they looked pretty good. They gave Sparks all they could handle,” Walker said of Damonte Ranch. “Those kids look pretty aggressive. They get after it and they’ll hit you. It will be a good test for us.”

The Dust Devils play their home opener next Friday against Faith Lutheran. They have a bye before opening Northern 3A conference play at home against Lowry on Sept. 17.

“It’s preseason and all, but we still want to win,” Walker said. “It’d be nice to be 2-0 going into league.”

He well remembers his first season as head coach when the Dust Devils began their league season with heart breaking 28-21 losses back-to-back against Lowry and Spring Creek. The Dust Devils lost to Spring Creek on a score with two seconds remaining. There were some signs of promise in last year’s season-ending 30-20 playoff loss against perennial 3A power Tahoe-Truckee.

Dayton will be lacking quantity with a roster that numbers 22 players, but there is no lack for quality, according to Walker.

“We have a small senior class, but we have pretty good experience with the kids we have coming back, and we have some pretty good kids coming up from the JV who should be able to help us out,” he said, adding that he was encouraged by the opening-day turnout of 63 athletes for the combined freshman, JV and varsity teams.

The Dust Devils have a good nucleus that includes defensive tackle Colin Breckenridge (6-1, 225), defensive end Danny Hopper, defensive end Kevin May and kicker/wide receiver/defensive back Trent Wood. Hopper and Wood both received all-conference recognition last year – Hopper as a defensive end and Wood as a kicker. May was a state meet qualifier in the shot put during the spring track and field season.

Another plus is the return of sophomore Travis Wood, who came up from the JV to start at quarterback the final two weeks last year after starter Zane Walker went down with a broken arm. The results were promising because Dayton defeated Yerington 42-6 in the regular season finale – a win that clinched the Golden Pick trophy, presented annually to the Lyon County champion.

Zane Walker is back for his senior season and has been moved over to running back. He ran effectively in the scrimmage against Rite of Passage and Lovelock last week, including one 35-yard TD run.

Dayton’s offense will operate behind a line that includes Jeremy Stanfield and sophomore Robby Bell at the guards, Tony Sandoval, Ray Vela and Breckenridge at the tackles, while Mike Parsley and Kyle Yoder compete for the starting center job. Parsley has moved to the line after playing as a junior running back last year.

Josh Aaker is vying for time at tight end along with May and Hopper. It’s an athletic trio because May was a state track and field meet qualifier in the shot put this past spring and Aaker played varsity basketball as a sophomore last season.

While the Dust Devils only have modest size, Walker is looking to offset that with other attributes.

“It seems we’ve gotten smaller every year I’ve been here, but we’re getting stronger, and I think that’s more important,” he said. “That, and with the Wing-T, you do a lot of different things that utilize angle blocking and quickness.”

Scott Brower looks like a mainstay on defense from his middle linebacker position.

“He’s real athletic,” Walker said of the senior. “He has a nose for the ball and he flies around.”

Wade Giurlani and Cory Cupp, both up from the JV team, are at the outside linebacker. Senior Andy Wilkerson and sophomore Erik Hopper appear set at the cornerback positions, with Zane Walker at safety.

Contact Dave Price at dprice@nevadaappeal.com or call 881-1220.