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Dayton grabs lead before falling to S.C.

Emerson Marcus
For the Nevada Appeal
Spring Creek defenders Logan Thurston, left, and Jason Painter tackle Dayton receiver C.J. Wilhite in the Dust Devils’ 52-12 home-opener loss against the Spartans.
Emersom Marcus/Nevada Appeal |

The final score mattered, but Dayton’s first lead in a football game since 2014 — even if it took luck — was sweet for the Dust Devils.

Dayton (0-3, 0-3 in Northern 3A) lost 52-12 on Friday in its home opener against Spring Creek (3-0, 3-0), but for the first time since its 15-game losing streak began two seasons ago, the Dust Devils grabbed a lead.

On its first possession, Dayton marched down the field on an eight-play 74-yard drive. The drive stalled, though, at the 1-yard line when the Dust Devils fumbled twice, recovering both. On fourth down, Dayton quarterback Dylan Torgerson ran around the backfield before he spotted a hole on the right side and entered the end zone with 6 minutes, 33 seconds left in the first quarter.

“The (fourth down) play was supposed to be just a quick slant to Jesse (Schmidt),” said Torgerson, who completed 6-of-10 passes for 106 yards. “I think they must have studied on it and they were ready. I took it up the middle and somehow got in.”

Spring Creek answered on its second possession when Spartan quarterback Jon Jund connected on a screen pass on the left side of the field to Dakota Larson — Jund’s favorite target through the first three games of the season. Larson ran along the sideline for 80 yards into the end zone.

“We knew that they’d run that screen,” Dayton head coach Patrick Squires said. “That was their bread and butter. We battled it well at the beginning, but they are a well-coached team.”

When Spring Creek returned to the field, Jund found Laine Keema on another short pass and 65-yard run. He completed 11-of-12 passes for 215 yards and four touchdowns in the first half. Spring Creek went 4-for-4 on two-point conversions through the first 24 minutes.

“We got a lot to improve upon,” Spring Creek head coach Joel Jund said. “Dayton came out and kicked us in the shin. We got to come out better next time.”

With less than one minute left in the first quarter, Torgerson left the game with a bruised right tibia.

Linebacker and backup quarterback Blake Fletcher threw one interception, but completed several deep passes and even found some luck.

One screen pass to the left side tipped off a Spring Creek defender’s hand straight up in the air. When the ball dropped, senior Jesse Schmidt caught it and ran 50 yards to the Spring Creek 18.

“It was pretty much a miracle,” Schmidt said. “The lights caught it, but it just landed in my hands. I was like, ‘aw, man, run.’”

Dayton had already capitalized on one tipped, jump ball caught by Justin Schmidt, Jesse Schmidt’s younger brother, at the Spring Creek 1-yard line, which set up Dayton’s first touchdown.

Two plays after Jesse Schmidt’s catch in the second quarter, Fletcher entered the end zone on a 1-yard rushing touchdown.

Even after Spring Creek shut out the Dust Devils 20-0 in the second half, the coaches and players took more positives away from the game than negatives.

“It’s hard to say a coach is happy after losing 52-12, but I’m happy because we are building and going in the right direction,” Squires said.

That may be tough for people who didn’t pay attention to Dayton’s nine-game scoreless streak to start the season last year — which included a 68-0 loss at Spring Creek and an 0-10 record.

“It was exciting,” Torgerson said of Friday’s game. “I feel like they (Spring Creek) could go to state. They are so good. They are coached really well. I thought it was just a boost to our confidence to compete like that.”