Dayton hosts Fernley with playoff spot at stake
DAYTON — Eyes on the prize.
The prize for Dayton High’s football team is the final spot in the 1A playoffs if it can knock off Fernley in the regular-season finale for both schools today at Dayton. Kick-off is set for 7 p.m.
Dayton enters the game 4-4 in league and 4-5 overall. Fernley is 5-3 in league and 5-3 overall.
Dayton coach Rob Turner has said all along, even when things weren’t going well for his team, that it could come down to tonight’s game for the playoff berth.
“In this league you just never know,” he said before Wednesday’s practice. “You take care of business when you can. The loss to Spring Creek killed us. I’ve said that a million times. It doesn’t surprise me it’s come down to this.
“The kids are really excited. We have a healthy rivalry with them. Their coach (Chris Ward) is coming over to the house for dinner. He’s from a small town in Montana. I didn’t know him then, but we’ve gotten to be good friends over the last couple of years. My wife babysat one of their assistant coaches when he was growing up in Montana. It’s a crazy sort of thing.”
Dayton will be without diminutive safety John Aguilar, who was ejected in the win over Sparks. By NIAA rule, he can’t even attend the game. Benji Ply and Steve Thompson will rotate in his place. Ply also serves as one of Dayton’s two kickers. Jack Phillips, who starts at tight end and safety, has an injured shoulder, but is expected to be ready to play.
“Losing John hurts our run defense,” Turner said.
Run support will be critical because Fernley loves to run the football. The Vaqueros average 236 yards per game on the ground and 124 through the air. The guy to contain is quarterback Skylar Williams, who leads the team in passing (643 yards, 8 TDs) and rushing (687 yards, 7 TDs).
“They run like crazy,” Turner said. “Williams can throw and run. They run the read option, so we have to be prepared for three things on every snap — the dive, pass and the read option. We are a pretty solid team. I think we can handle it. They are a fun team to watch. They run that offense (read option) very well.”
The Vaqueros’ defense will have its hands full stopping a Dayton offense which put up 42 points in a win over Sparks. Austin Fletcher broke Eric Hopper’s school rushing record, and he’d like nothing better than to pad it substantially tonight and in any possible playoff games. Quarterback Davis Winebarger needs to execute the short and intermediate passing game, and stay away from interceptions.