RENO - Dayton football coach Rick Walker didn't mince any words.
"We're not going to beat anybody giving up 51 points," he said after watching his Dust Devils give up 570 yards total offense in a season-opening 51-29 nonconference loss to North Valleys Friday night.
"We tried to simplify things; make it easier (for our defense)," added Walker, who lost several key players to graduation from last year. "We definitely have to go back to the drawing board. We just couldn't do the job. We weren't consistent in handling our assignments."
Indeed. North Valleys' Wing-T offense purred along nicely. Things went so well that the Panthers only had to punt twice and they scored on seven of 11 possessions. North Valleys ran at will, racking up 467 yards unofficially on the ground thanks to sophomore Chris Castellanos' 137 yards and 81 from senior Ronwil Gomes. Gomes scored three touchdowns and Castellanos scored twice.
North Valleys had three scoring plays of more than 40 yards, much to the chagrin of Walker and much to the delight of NV's first-year coach Jason Ehlen.
"Last week in our scrimmage, we started with a nice drive," Ehlen said. "We stalled on some drives Wednesday night when we scrimmaged. I think they realized they need to finish drives.
"I'm very happy for our players. To start the season 1-0 is nice. What's fun is that we start school on Monday, and they get to walk the halls feeling good."
Actually, Dayton started nicely, taking the opening kickoff and driving 78 yards on nine plays to take a quick 7-0 lead thanks to Travis Wood's 25-yard scoring pass to Las Vegas transfer student Jordan Stokes, who made a leaping catch in the left corner of the end zone.
Wood, Stokes and Erik Hopper were huge bright spots for an offense that chalked up 502 yards of its own.
Wood completed 18 of 39 for 330 yards and one score. It should have been a higher percentage, but he had at least five passes dropped. Stokes caught seven balls for 155 yards. Hopper stood out running and catching the ball. He carried 12 times for 164 yards and two scores (38 and 58 yards) and caught six balls for 103 yards.
"Our pass protection was really good," Walker said. "I think we missed one block. Our offense didn't surprise me. After watching our scrimmage, I think we're ahead of where we were last year."
That was the last lead Dayton would enjoy. North Valley scored 27 unanswered points to take control of the game.
The Panthers evened the score at 7 on their first drive, slicing through the Dust Devils' hapless defense for 65 yards on nine plays, all runs.
Justin Gomes carried 14 yards to the Dayton 48. Jose Rodriguez gained 26 yards on a second-and-5 play down to the Dust Devils' 17. Five plays later, Gomes slammed over from the 1.
Dayton moved the ball to the North Valleys 41 on its next drive, but Wood misfired on second and third down, forcing the Dust Devils to punt the ball away, and Jerry Trigueros put it out of bounds on the NV 5.
That might be enough to deter most teams, but not North Valleys. The Panthers drove 95 yards on nine plays, with Castellanos scoring on a 21-yard run to cap the drive and give NV a 14-7 lead with 10:58 left in the half.
Earlier, Castellanos broke loose for 26 yards. Quarterback Edgar Macias (5 for 75, 75 yards) completed a 20-yard pass and a 6-yard pass on the drive, the latter coming one play before the score.
A 19-yard punt by Trigueros gave the Panthers excellent field position at the Dayton 20, and they didn't waste it.
Macias rolled right and rifled a 20-yard pass to tight end Coty Weaver to make it 21-7.
North Valleys scored on its next drive as Archie Kovich scored on a 58-yard trap play to make it 27-7.
The Panthers got the lead to 32, 45-13, 58 seconds into the final quarter. Wood scored on a 1-yard run and Hopper dashed 58 yards for a score, but it was much too little and way too late.
n Darrell Moody can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling (775) 881-1281