Scoreless but not defeated
For the Nevada Appeal
DAYTON — Seven games down.
Zero points scored.
That’s the dominant story of the Dayton football team (0-7, 0-6 in Division 1A) this season.
“A couple of the players have gotten to the point where they just want to give up, but for the most part the junior class has stuck together,” said Dayton running back Dylan Torgerson.
That junior class — most having played sports together since elementary school — has sustained the team through its season-long scoring drought.
The Dust Devils travel to Wooster (2-5, 1-5) at 7 p.m. today for a chance to end the drought.
Had it not been for the close bond among many of the team’s juniors, though, the season could already be over, players said.
“We’ve had a couple of talks with people about them not giving up on us because we need everyone,” quarterback Blake Fletcher, a junior, said.
For Dayton’s juniors, all playing their first year on the varsity team, a lack of continuity has added to the struggle. This year marked the third-straight year with a new head coach (this year under first-year head coach Tom Eck, an assistant football coach from Santa Barbara, Calif.).
Additionally, with the loss of about 18 seniors from a 25-player squad at the end of last season, Dayton primarily fields players from last year’s junior varsity squad.
On Wednesday, 25 players suited for practice, the vast majority juniors.
Even with nearly every starter returning next year, this season has given little reason to be optimistic about the future, but Dayton’s juniors remain upbeat.
“It’s been hard,” Torgerson said. “I don’t know how to explain it. It’s been hard because we’ve worked so hard the last few years, and the hard work is not showing up.”
“I don’t think we are doing it (this season) for winning anymore,” lineman Julian Gonzalez said. “I think we are doing it to not let each other down.”
Whether playing football or video games, camping at Lahontan Lake or eating at their favorite food joint in the small, rural Nevada town — Taco Bell — Dayton’s group of juniors are inseparable.
“It started with the Bandits, our DYFL (Dayton Youth Football League),” Torgerson said during a group interview Wednesday with 12 other Dayton juniors he called his “brothers.” “That was our first team. That’s where we met each other — in third grade.”
Receiver C.J. Wilhite and running back Jesse Schmidt are known as “the goons.” Torgerson, Fletcher and linebacker Jason Sandborn are the leaders.
But every player on the last remaining Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association team still seeking its first point this year possesses a noticeable amount of resilience.
And everyone is anxious about the scoreless drought.
When asked if they talk about it together as a team, the group of Dayton juniors joined in a loud chorus: “Oh, yeah.”
“We dream about it (scoring a touchdown),” lineman David Hernandez said.
One of the team’s only starting seniors, Colton Cabral, said: “We joke that if we score, we don’t care if we’re losing, 50-7, we’re dumping Gatorade on coach.”
Cabral, 17, the team’s center, also started playing with many of the team’s juniors in elementary school. He was moved up a grade because of his birthdate and was one of the few returning members from last year’s varsity team.
He said many of the returning seniors this year were apathetic about the prospect of a new coach and a heavy group of underclassmen. Many didn’t show up for summer practice, he said.
“We had eight or nine guys come out” for summer practice, he said. “They were all the same guys who’ve played with each other since elementary school.”
While many of the juniors are looking forward to next year, Fletcher said they play this year for the seniors who did show up, including Cabral.
“We play for them this year and next year play for ourselves,” he said.