Homecoming showdown for first place

Steve Puterski

Steve Puterski

Perhaps the most unexpected unbeaten team in the Division I-A rolls into Fallon on Friday for a first-place showdown.

The Dayton Dust Devils are riding the legs of Sky Berntson and a bruising running game. But their biggest test to date will be the explosive Fallon squad, reveling in its second straight blowout win after thumping South Tahoe, 48-22, on Friday.

The Greenwave are the league’s best team and is finally becoming a fully healthy and suspension-free club. While Dayton is known for its running game, Fallon’s ground attack is just as ferocious with a trio of horses in the stable.

Nathan Heck, Charles Fulks and Trae Workman each provide coach Brook Hill with a speed or power or both.

Dayton, though, has long been on the outside looking in for the playoffs. The Devils pulled an upset over rival Fernley to make the postseason dance in 2010.

Since then, it’s been a lot of losing and near misses for the Devils. This year, though, the league is more open than the past two to three seasons.

Lowry is struggling, Fernley is small and only Fallon and Elko have been convincing in league play leaving a golden chance for Dayton to make a run for the postseason.

But a green wall of toughness and skill stands in front of Dayton. And it’s homecoming for Fallon, too.

Fallon cannot overlook the Devils in anticipation for next week’s showdown at Elko.

Bernston is averaging 9.3 yards per carry, leads the league with 730 yards on the ground and nine touchdowns. He’s the horse pulling the offense.

With such an emphasis on the run game, Dayton will aim to shorten the game by keeping the clock in motion and the chains moving.

Fallon’s defense, though, is the most athletic and the best in the league, which presents a set of new challenges for Dayton. Fall behind early and the Devils must throw the ball, not an area they are threatening.

Keeping the game close or taking an early lead, and the game plan falls in favor of the Devils and gives them hope.

The past two games Fallon has been quick to strike early and often and not allowing its opponents an opportunity for belief.

Wave quarterback Joe Pyle is settling into the starting role, while his stable of running backs are thrashing defenses.

The defense, meanwhile, has been equally impressive holding league opponents to 15 points per game. The unit is a mix of speed and power and paired together makes for the toughest and deepest defense in the league.

Friday’s game, though, provides Fallon its first big test in its chase for a second straight crown. Get the win, then turn to Elko and the game of the year.

Steve Puterski is the sports editor for the Lahontan Valley News and can be contacted at sputerski@lahontanvalleynews.com.


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