DAYTON — It was a tale of two halves for the Dayton Dust Devils against Spring Creek on Friday.
Dayton was in control with a 16-6 halftime lead, but injuries to key players and the Spartans’ sweep running plays got the best of the Dayton in a 30-16 setback in Division 1A action.
Dayton played a majority of the game without two-way starters Skyler Berntson (RB, DB), Jesus Castaneda (OL, DL) and Quinn Santana (RB, LB), who went down with injuries and were unable to return to the game.
“We had some key injuries; losing three two-way players hurt us,” coach Rob Turner said. “It really hurt us. (With only 26 players), we couldn’t recover from it.”
The worn-down defense was unable to stop the Spartans, who took advantage of great fourth-quarter field position, scoring 16 points in just over five minutes.
Spring Creek moved the ball throughout the game, totaling more than 280 yards of total offense — all but 12 on the ground.
The key difference between the halves was that Dayton was unable to come up with a key stop or turnover in the second, as it had in the first.
Dayton took advantage of the first-half mistakes, starting with the opening kickoff.
The Dust Devils kicked off and Spring Creek let the ball bounce at about the 15-yard line, but the Spartans were unable to come up with the ball as Dayton landed on it at the 14-yard line.
Five plays later, Austin Fletcher scored from the 2-yard line. Jesse Garcia’s kick missed, and the Dust Devils had a 6-0 lead before most fans were comfortable in their seats.
Dayton added a 25-yard field goal by Garcia on its next possession for a 9-0 lead. The Dust Devils had the ball at the Spring Creek 40 after a 28-yard punt. Fletcher had two carries for 29 yards to set up the kick.
Dayton would take advantage of a Spartan turnover three plays later when Jon Joyner intercepted a Dillon Draper pass and returned 25 yards for the score. Garcia added the kick for a 16-0 lead with 3:37 to play in the first quarter.
In the second quarter, the Dust Devils twice had chances to add to their lead, but were unable to capitalize.
Fletcher picked off Draper’s pass early in the quarter, but Dayton turned the ball over on downs. That allowed Spring Creek to score when Austin Campbell ran 30 yards for a touchdown on a third-and-four play. Draper ran in the two-point conversion to cut the lead to 16-8.
Dayton looked like it would match the Spartans’ score when it marched down the field in nine plays to the Spring Creek 19. After a Davis Winebarger incompletion on first down, he hit Fletcher in the flat. The senior turned the corner at about the 7-yard line, evaded a few Spartan defenders and reached the ball out for the pylon at the end zone. The ball came free at about the half-yard line and bounced into the end zone, where the Spartans recovered for a touchback.
Spring Creek marched back down the field before Draper fumbled and the Dust Devils recovered inside their own 5-yard line. Dayton was able to run out the half with the lead.
Spring Creek cut the lead when Draper hit Jacob Boulette for a six-yard pass play with 2:45 to play in the third quarter. The play was set up after Dayton turned the ball over at the Spring Creek 31. The Spartans used six straight running plays, including gains of 23 and 14 yards, to set up the touchdown. The conversion attempt failed, and Dayton had a two-point lead.
Dayton was unable to move the ball on its next possession as the third quarter ended. On the first play of the fourth quarter, a bad snap on punt gave Spring Creek the ball at the Dayton 21. Spring Creek was unable to capitalize, turning it back over to Dayton.
After another bad snap gave the Spartans the ball at the Dayton 12. Braxton Williams went in motion to the away side of the field as the Spartans looked like they were running a sweep toward the Dayton sideline. Williams took the ball from Draper and scored, giving the Spartans their first lead with less than seven minutes remaining.
Dayton turned the ball over and Williams, who gained 102 yards, was able to score again and add the two-point conversion for the final score.
“We played hard,” Turner said. “Their edge blocking on the sweep plays hurt us.”
The sweep play opened up the middle for Draper, who had some nice runs on quarterback sneaks, with seven carries for 42 yards.
Dayton, 0-2, plays at Truckee next Saturday.