Fernley brought its “A” game to Dayton Friday night, running up 38 points in the first half en route to a 52-21 win.
In a game with playoff implications for both teams, the Vaqueros were efficient on offense and took advantage of Dust Devil mistakes. It didn’t help Dayton’s cause that four of Fernley’s five first-half touchdowns came off of Dayton turnovers.
“They’re good,” said Dayton coach Rob Turner, tipping his hat to the Vaqueros. “We thought we matched up pretty well with them. Good teams turn you over and score off of those turnovers, so good job Fernley.”
The loss ends the Dust Devils season at 4-5 in league and 4-6 overall. Fernley, 6-3, will play on the road in the opening round of the 1A playoffs.
The Vaqueros had just four possessions in the first half, scoring on three as Dayton had a difficult time defending against Fernley’s passing game. Senior quarterback Skylar Williams scorched the Dust Devil secondary for 161 yards and a touchdown in the first two quarters. He also ran for two scores in the opening half.
At one point in the second quarter, Dayton appeared to be making a charge. On fourth and inches on its own 30-yard-line, the defense forced a Williams fumble that was recovered by Julio Meza. The Dust Devils drove across the 50 to Fernley’s 44, including a fourth-down conversion before disaster struck. Meza carried on a sweep around toward the home sideline for a good gain, but the ball was knocked free and linebacker Tanner German plucked it out of midair in full stride returning the fumble for a score and a 19-point Fernley lead.
Things would get worse on Dayton’s next possession. On the second play, quarterback Davis Winebarger was hit in the back as he tried to roll out to his left. The ball popped out and defensive lineman Tyler Roemer picked up the ball cleanly and scored from 28 yards out for a 26-0 lead.
Dayton’s biggest highlight came on an exciting 74-yard kick return by Skyler Berntson in the third quarter that would set up the Dust Devils’ first score, a 6-yard run by Austin Fletcher. At that point, Fernley led 45-7.
Dayton also scored on two passing plays in the second half. The first was a 10-yard slant from Winebarger to senior Steve Thompson. The Dust Devils’ last score was one for the highlight reel. Meza caught a ball that was nearly intercepted, but bounced out of the grasp of the Fernley defender and into the arms of the waiting receiver who scampered 57 yards to pay dirt. Unfortunately for the Dayton cause, it proved too little, too late as Fernley held a 52-21 lead with 2:14 left in the game.
“It’s important to me on Senior Night, win or lose, to make sure our seniors get some time on the field,” Turner said. “We got Steve Thompson in the end zone on that slant route and he’s a first-year player. So, some positives moving forward.I love these kids.
“Of all the teams I’ve coached, this year was the most fun.”
Fletcher, who became the Dust Devils’ single-season rushing record holder last week, gained 145 yards on 19 carries to boost his season total to 1,635 yards.