Teamwork is going to be the name of the game for the Dayton High School football team this season.
Just look at the team motto: "Together we can." It can be found just about anywhere around the Dust Devils.
"That's what we've talked about since last spring," said Butch Cattanach, now in his fourth season as head coach at Dayton. "Together we can. It says that on the back of our shirts and it says that on our helmet stickers. We can't sit back and rely on any superstars to carry us to victory. It has to be a 26-man effort. And like we told the kids back in the spring, it's started with words, now we've got to make them mean something."
Dayton kicked off the season with a 25-0 loss at home last Friday night to Delta (Clarksburg, Calif.), a team that advanced to the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs a year ago. Now the Dust Devils have another week to prepare for their Northern 3A opener next Friday, Sept. 7 at home against Rite of Passage.
Since Dayton opened its doors in 1983, no varsity football team at the school has ever posted a winning season record. The Dust Devils, 3-6 overall a year ago (2-6 in league), have no intentions of being pushovers on any opponent's schedule this fall.
"I think they have another thing coming at them this year," said senior Jory Eley, a second-team all-Northern 3A defensive back last year. "I think we can have a winning season if we stay together and play our best."
Eley, who split time between wingback and quarterback in addition to playing defensive back against Delta, is one of 10 seniors back from last season. He believes the team concept will pay off.
"I think this is the best team football program we've had since I've been here," he said. "We've all come together. I think our team leadership is better than last year. That's what our goal is, good team leadership. If you get leadership then you got guys looking up to you, then you come together as a team, and then you play better. And I think we can do that this year."
Among other things, the Dust Devils are still working on the offensive transition from power-I to wing-T. This is a difference from the last two years, when Dayton's offense was geared toward running back Shane VanZant, who is now at Butte College.
"This is going to give us an opportunity to mix things up. Before, you knew if our tailback took a step in one direction, that was where the ball would be going."
Junior Anthony Cupp started and played most of the way at quarterback against Delta, although senior Jory Eley played some during the second half on a night when the Dust Devils managed to gain 30 yards in total offense - all on the ground.
"I thought we would be able to move the ball better than we did," Cattanach said after the game. "We have two weeks to get ready for ROP and we're just going to have to get better."
Fullback Ivan Trigueros, along with Matt Sumsion and Eley at the wingback positions, round out the backfield in Dayton's misdirection-oriented offense. All three are senior returnees, as is Garrett Watkins, who will start at an end and also play some at wingback.
Watkins, a 6-3, 180-pound senior, is a prospect to become Dayton's go-to player.
"He's just explosive; definitely a guy we'd like to get the ball to because he's a real threat whenever he gets the ball in his hands," Cattanach said.
Dayton's offensive line is led by guards Josh May and Ryan Jacobsen. Both are returning starters from last season, although May has been switched from tackle.
"Josh is fast enough, he runs sprints with our backs in practice," Cattanach said. "Having two guys like Josh and Ryan is important because so much of our offense is predicated on the guards being able to kick out and pull."
The Dust Devils would like to go beyond having a winning season. For example, they are well aware that the top three finishers in the Northern 3A will qualify for the state playoffs come November. That will mean competing head-to-head against such established programs as Tahoe-Truckee, Bishop Manogue, Fernley, Spring Creek and North Tahoe.
"We want to make the playoffs," senior inside linebacker A.J. Owens said. "Last year's players are ready to step it up. We want to do good."