A couple of firsts will be in mind when the Dayton High School football team runs out on Martin Field in Yerington tonight.
For one, Dayton's program has never qualified for postseason play. The Dust Devils will try to keep that dream alive, and at the same time, they will try to beat Yerington for the first time ever in a 7:30 p.m. 3A Division II contest between Lyon County rivals.
"I've been told Dayton has never beaten Yerington in a varsity football game. We've accomplished a lot of firsts this year, and we'd like to add another one to our list," Dayton coach Butch Cattanach said.
Dayton has won three straight division games and is third in the standings at 3-1 coming into the Lyon County rivalry. To have a chance at one of the division's two playoff berths, the Dust Devils would have to beat Yerington and then win their regular season finale next Saturday at Bishop Manogue in Reno.
"We control our own destiny, but we have to take it one step at a time, and right now, that means we have to beat Yerington," Cattanach said.
Yerington is 3-2 (3-4 overall) after losing its homecoming game to Pershing County last Friday night, 36-14. That loss eliminated the Lions from playoff contention, but coach Eric Bobrick hopes to finish the season on an upbeat note.
"We need to work on winning the next two games and go out with a winning record," said Bobrick, whose squad concludes its season next Friday with a non-division game against White Pine in Ely.
One key factor from Yerington's point of view will be converting opportunities. That wasn't the case last Friday, as the Lions turned the ball over three times deep in Pershing County territory, one of those a pass interception in the end zone shortly before halftime.
"We definitely need to work on executing our plays in the red zone," Bobrick said. "We did well between the 20s, then when we got down there, it looked like we weren't executing."
One of Dayton's goals is to keep the ball away from the Lions, according to Cattanach.
"We're starting to jell as an offense, I think," Cattanach said. "If we can put our offense on the field and put points on the scoreboard like we have the last few weeks, I think we'll be in good shape. The thing that worries me about Yerington is their ability to consume a lot of time on the clock with long drives.
"They are a big, physical team and against those types of teams, we haven't done as well as we'd like. It just comes down to getting off the ball and eliminating mistakes."
The Lions pin their hopes on a running game led by the backfield combo of Josh Allen and Jason Borsini and a large front line. Borsini missed last week as he recovered from an injury he sustained the week before against Manogue but the senior is expected to be ready for tonight.
"We've got to utilize our horses up front and be able to punch it in when we're down there. We need to stay focused on the task at hand."
Dayton counters with a option-oriented attack, led by tailback Shane Van Zant, a 5-foot-11, 195-pound junior who has rushed for 811 yards.
That yardage has come behind an offensive front that includes tackles Andy Gust and Bret Peart, guards Chris Viscarret and C.J. Padilla, center Michael Sampang and tight ends Bill Ingram and Clayton Friskey.