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Sparks runs by Dayton to spoil Eck’s home opener

Emerson Marcus
For the Nevada Appeal
Sparks running back Rod Po'oi makes his way through Dayton defenders during the Railroaders 48-0 win at Dayton. Po'oi rushed for three touchdowns in the game.
Emerson Marcus / For the Nevada Appeal |

DAYTON — After losing 48-0 on Friday to Sparks, Dayton head coach Tom Eck said he was headed home to watch film and prepare for the next week.

“My wife ordered pizza,” he said. “You want to come over?”

It was a typical response from the animated and dedicated first year head coach.

But after two games on the season, Dayton’s yet to score its first point. It’s been outscored 86-0 in that process.

“It’s definitely not easy, but we’re getting better,” said Dayton senior running back Jesse Schmidt.

Dayton (0-2, 0-1 in Division 1A) lost its home opener Friday primarily because Sparks bullied the Dust Devils on the line. The Railroaders (1-1, 1-0) rushed for 353 total yards. Dayton rushed for 12.

“The difference was up front,” Eck said. “It was our inability to stop the push up the middle. We couldn’t identify it.”

Sparks junior Nick Van Patten started the Railroaders in the first half with a 52-yard punt return to the Dayton 9-yard line. Eventually, Van Patten got the ball again on a handoff and scampered into the end zone for the first of seven Railroaders’ touchdowns Friday.

But Dayton also hurt itself.

On one play in the first quarter and the game within reach, Sparks lined up on fourth and two at its own 25-yard line.

“They don’t respect us,” Eck yelled to his players from the sideline. “Get out there and stop them.”

A Dayton offside penalty gave Sparks a first down on a gutsy call early in the game by head coach Rob Kittrell, which continued a drive that ended in another score.

The score was 35-0 at halftime.

“We could have eaten ourselves alive and turned on each other (at halftime),” Eck said. “I asked them not to do that. I told them not to do that. It’s brotherhood. This was our thing this week. I had tackles (in the second half) who volunteered to play quarterback at the end of the game. I had the effort. I began to tear up because I was proud of them. I haven’t been more proud of a team because they responded to such great adversity. I know we got a long ways to go. I’m embarrassed. I should be embarrassed from the product I’m putting out there, but these kids aren’t going to give up on it.”

Dayton’s best scoring opportunity came in the third quarter with junior Tayton Watson at quarterback. The Dust Devils started possession at its 45-yard line when Schmidt recovered a Van Patten fumbled punt return.

“It was a really quick play,” Schmidt said. “He dropped it right in front of me and I bent over and picked it up.”

Watson then connected on a 10-yard pass to running back Blake Fletcher, who also has taken several snaps behind center this year. At 3:28 left in the third quarter and Sparks leading 48-0, the completed pass was Dayton’s second first down of the game and the team’s first time in Sparks territory.

However, as most things Friday night, the drive ended poorly for the Dust Devils.

After a Sparks personal foul penalty moved Dayton to the Railroaders’ 14-yard line, Watson threw backward to receiver C.J. Wilhite, who couldn’t hold on to the ball. Sparks recovered the fumble and ended Dayton’s longest drive of the night.

With the win, Sparks equaled its win total of last year.

“We knew we didn’t play our best game last week (at Spring Creek),” Kittrell said of his team’s 47-13 opening game loss. “We really challenged our defense to step up. We knew we had this in us.

“We have a really good line. We’re very physical.

The Sparks coach complimented Dayton’s players.

“I think the kids are playing hard,” he said. “I see them trying to install a new offense, and it’s the triple option. That’s hard. I think they got better this week. It just takes time. They’ll get there.”

Dayton’s next game is 7 p.m. this Friday at Spring Creek.