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Football: Dayton Dust Devils face crucial stretch at South Tahoe

Darrell Moody
dmoody@nevadaappeal.com

Dayton coach Rob Turner knows what his team has to do to claim a playoff berth this year.

“We need to win three of our last four games to have a chance,” Turner said Thursday morning. “With Fernley beating Lowry that first week and us losing to Lowry, that hurts us.”

The final stretch begins tonight when the Dust Devils (4-2, 3-2) visit winless South Lake Tahoe (0-6, 0-5). It is homecoming for the Vikings.

This game figured to be tough before, but it certainly is tougher with starting quarterback Davis Winebarger declared out with a broken finger on his throwing hand. Winebarger hit his hand on a helmet last week. Reserve tailback/starting safety John Aguilar also is missing the game with a quadricep injury.

Turner has moved running back Skyler Berntson to quarterback, fullback Quinn Santana to tailback and Jaret Reed, normally a tight end, to fullback. On defense, Benji Ply will move over to safety.

“Davis’ injury is a freak thing,” Turner said. “Never had that happen to a quarterback before.

“We moved Skyler there. We’re not going to tear pages out of our playbook, but we have put a few wrinkles in.”

Berntson is the best athlete that Dayton has, and just the simple fact he can run may be enough to keep South Tahoe’s defense honest, and open up other things at the same time.

The Vikings are a team who likes to throw the ball. Quarterback Mason Cain has completed 95 of 189 passes for 1,256 yards and 10 scores, but he also has thrown eight interceptions. That isn’t a great ratio. His favorite targets are Kirby David (29 catches, 390 yards, 4 TDs), Brandon Erickson (11 catches, 339 yards, 4 TDs) and Will Mori (27 catches, 311 yards. 1 TD).

“They throw like crazy,” Turner said. “They really like to throw the ball. He spreads the ball around to three different guys. We need to put some pressure on him. Their quarterback throws it well.

“They don’t have anybody over 100 yards rushing for the season (according to MaxPreps). We prepared last year for a lot of passing and they ran 30 to 40 times against us. They will spread you out to run at times.”

Quinton Ritter has 78 yards rushing to lead the Vikings, who average 18.5 points per game.