Dayton football opens season at Elko | NevadaAppeal.com

Dayton football opens season at Elko

Emerson Marcus
For the Nevada Appeal

Even entering his first game as a head football coach at the varsity level, Patrick Squires knows how tough it is to beat Elko in eastern Nevada.

In 2014, Squires was on the sideline as Fallon’s special teams coach in a 25-14 Greenwave victory at Elko.

It won’t be so easy, though, when Dayton plays its season opener at 7 p.m. today on the Indians’ home turf.

Elko has beaten Dayton a combined 138-7 in the two teams’ previous three meetings, including a 49-0 rout in Dayton last year.

“They are a top four team every year,” Squires said of Elko. “They are well coached with tough kids…we are preparing this week to compete physically.”

Fortunately for the Dust Devils, Elko returns only three starters on offense.

Elko quarterback Alex Puentes graduated last year, and Elko head coach Luke Sellers said the Indians still have as many as four players vying to replace him.

Puentes left as the school’s all-time total offense leader at 3,282 yards — more than 1,000 yards ahead of anyone in school history, Sellers said based on school records dating back to the early 1970s.

One of the potential replacements is 6-foot-4, 185-pound senior Austin Smith, who played running back last year in the Indians’ run-first shotgun wing-t formation. Aside from Smith, who’s slated to play a different position this year, Elko returns only two starters from 2015: wide receivers Kyrin Allen and Trenton Freitag.

“Other than that there are no starters in the show,” Sellers said. “Both clubs are trying to figure out what their identity is. In this situation you don’t know a whole lot about each other.”

Dayton’s biggest question mark remains its new spread offense implemented this year under Squires. Dayton ran the triple option last year and didn’t score its first touchdown until the final drive of the season. The Dust Devils finished the year with a 0-10 record.

After splitting reps this offseason between seniors Blake Fletcher and Dylan Torgerson, Squires announced this week Torgerson would get the nod behind center in the season opener. Fletcher will start at linebacker, Squires said.

“Squires has been great for us,” Torgerson said. “The new offense has been amazing. Everyone is picking it up fast.”

While not a regular season game, Squires said Dayton scored five touchdowns last week in a scrimmage against Yerington.

Squires said Tuesday at least 26 players are expected to suit up for today’s game, more than last year’s team, which regularly had players on the field on offense and defense. Dayton also will field several more seniors this year than last year’s team made up predominantly of juniors.

“We have a whole new offense — a whole new strategy and way of life,” Squires said. “We are prepared. They are in shape. They are mentally prepared. We have focused a lot on the mental aspects of the game. If losing, if down, even if things aren’t going right, we are going to play all 48 minutes.”