DAYTON — Skyler Berntson took the opening hand off, and the Dust Devils were off and running Friday night against Spring Creek.
The senior running back went 80 yards and Dayton had a 6-0 lead en route to its first 3-0 start to the season since 2009, when it started 6-0.
Berntson would add a fourth quarter 14-yard score as Dayton squeezed out a 27-20 Division 1A win.
“It sounds great,” coach Rob Turner said about his team’s 3-0 start.
In the end, the game wasn’t as easy for Dayton as the opening score or its workhorse running back. Berntson, who came into Friday with 41 carries for 360 yards through two games, carried 32 times for 344 yards.
“All the credit goes to my blockers,” Berntson said. “Without them I’d be nothing.”
“Skyler works his tail off,” Turner said, noting the captain even helps tape his teammates before practice. “We does everything for us.”
Spring Creek wouldn’t let Dayton run away and hide, tying the game at 6.
Braxton Williams returned a Berntson fumble 26 yards for a score with 11.6 seconds to play in the opening quarter. Berntson ran up the middle got tied up by a group of Spartans and that’s when Williams emerged with the ball running the other way for the score.
Dayton controlled the second quarter but was unable to put any points on the board until late in the quarter. That’s when Dayton took to the air. Quarterback Davis Winebarger overcame an interception earlier in the quarter and connected twice for 36 yards on the drive, including a 25 yarder to Julio Meza. Quinn Santana scored from the 5 with 11 seconds to play in the half. Benji Ply’s point after gave the Dust Devils a 13-6 lead.
Winebarger finished the game 5-of-9 for 73 yards and an interception, all in the first half.
Turner said Spring Creek made some adjustments to try and stop the Dayton run game after Berntson racked up 120 yards on his first five carries. That opened up the passing game for the Dust Devils in the later parts of the first half. Turner said Dayton made adjustments at halftime, which allowed the Dust Devils’ offensive line to push around the Spartans and for Berntson to rack up the yards.
“Our passing game is iffy — sometimes it can be great,” Berntson said, “but there’s always the run.”
After offensive halftime adjustments, Spring Creek controlled the third quarter but was unable to score. The Spartans, who were held to minus-one yard in total offense in the first quarter, started at their 9-yard line before going on a 13-play drive — kept alive by a fake punt. The drive stalled at midfield after the Spartans took almost six minutes off the clock.
Dayton looked to be in control after Berntson’s aforementioned second score of the game with 10:17 to play in the fourth quarter gave Dayton a 20-6 lead.
“Everything is on our blockers,” Berntson said. “I just help them; they score the touchdowns, I just get the points.”
But that wasn’t the case.
Less than 90 seconds later Spring Creek had drove 85 yards and cut the Dust Devil lead to 20-13. The main difference was the Spring Creek receiving core started catching the ball from quarterback Dillon Draper, who was 3-for-4 on the drive for 41 yards. Draper was just 2-of-10 in passing for 15 yards before the drive, but a lot of balls were dropped.
Running back Williams would score the touchdown for Spring Creek from 23 yards out making 20-13.
“We figured we would do a descent job of stopping their run,” Turner said. “We wanted to force them to pass, we felt it would play to our advantage.”
With less than five minutes to play, Dayton would seal the game on a 33-yard drive. The drive was set up by a Spring Creek penalty on a punt that gave the Dust Devils excellent field position. After Berntson carried the ball four times putting the Dust Devils at the 5-yard line with 2:16 to play, Winebarger would score on a quarterback scramble for the two touchdown lead.
Draper, who finished 9-of-21 for 131 yards, cut the lead to one score when he connected with Williams on a 60-yard pass, but the Dust Devils recovered the onside kick.
Dayton will host Truckee next Friday at 7 p.m. Truckee lost to Lowry 20-13 Friday night.
“It’s all about family,” Berntson said about the undefeated start. “I have been playing with these guys for 11 years, it creates a tight bond.”