TRUCKEE — Dayton waited seven long years for this.
The visiting Dust Devils outplayed Truckee in every facet of Saturday’s Northern Division I-A football game en route to a convincing 35-14 win. It was Dayton’s first win over the four-time defending state champion Wolverines since the 2006 postseason.
“I am extremely proud of our guys. It’s not something that Dayton does very often, is come to Truckee and win,” said Dayton coach Rob Turner. “When you play Truckee you’re not just playing those 11 kids on the field; you’re playing against the Truckee tradition; they’ve got such a great program here.
“They gave us fits here and there, but we were able to adjust to it, and our play fakes were working well against them, and our kids were ready.”
Led by senior running back Austin Fletcher, who carried his team on his back with four touchdowns and 313 yards of offense — 208 rushing and 105 receiving — the Dust Devils struck early on a 61-yard touchdown run by Fletcher and never trailed in the contest.
The Wolverines matched the visitors’ first score with a quick strike of their own, but they struggled to move the ball most of the day.
Truckee’s defense, which graduated its entire starting unit from last year’s championship team, had an equally tough time. The new group could not come up with key stops when it needed them most, allowing the Dust Devils to piece together long scoring drives.
“We’re not used to this. I’m certainly not accustomed to losing,” said first-year Truckee head coach Josh Ivens, whose team is off to an 0-2 start after losing 48-0 at Lowry last week. Truckee had previously won 47 of its last 48 games, dating back to 2009. “It doesn’t sit well with me, our coaching staff or the kids...
“It’s just inexperience. We rep all week, and it’s just not happening. So obviously we as coaches have got to do a better job and get these guys better prepared. And the players have to do a better job too.”
In 11 total drives, Truckee¹s offense had two TDs, five three-and-out punts, a turnover on downs, a lost fumble, and two drives that were cut short on time. The Wolverines gained just 264 yards of total offense, which was their lowest output since Fernley snapped their 41-game win streak midway through last season (259).
“We need the offense to kind of lead the way and allow the defense to grow and get better, but we’re not getting consistency from the offense,” Ivens said. “They can’t be going three-and-out.”
Fletcher got straight to business. The hard-running senior set the tone on the Dust Devils’ opening drive, single-handedly driving his team down the field before bouncing a run outside and racing down the sideline 61 yards to the end zone. Jesse Garcia kicked through the extra point, and Dayton led 7-0 just 2 minutes in.
The Wolverines promptly responded, as senior quarterback Louden Smith hit Tanner Sawyer with a 25-yard strike on Truckee’s third play, and Sawyer broke away from his defender for a 62-yard touchdown sprint.
Smith’s extra point knotted the score, and for a moment a sense of normalcy returned to Surprise Stadium.
It didn’t last long.
Dayton marched down the field on the ensuing possession with a 10-play drive highlighted by a 29-yard pass from quarterback Davis Winebarger to a wide-open Julio Meza. Fletcher capped the drive with a 9-yard run up the gut as Dayton regained the lead.
After forcing a Truckee punt, the Dust Devils drove down the field again before stalling at the Truckee 13-yard line, where they attempted a field goal that was blocked early in the second quarter.
Truckee senior Mitch Harrity came up with a big sack on third down to force one of only two Dayton punts on its next possession. The next time Dayton had the ball, however, a well-protected Winebarger fired a deep ball to Meza, who was wide open again, for a 36-yard touchdown play. Garcia’s extra point gave the Dust Devils a 21-7 lead entering the half.
The second half didn’t get much better for the hosts.
Truckee fumbled the ball to Dayton on the first play and went three-and-out on its next possession. On the Dust Devils’ first play following the punt, Winebarger threw a short screen to Fletcher, who stiff-armed a defender on his way to a 54-yard touchdown up the Truckee sideline.
While its offense continued to sputter, Truckee’s defense came through the remainder of the quarter. Senior Sean Daniel laid a hard hit on Dayton receiver Jaret Reed just as he caught a pass, causing it to pop into the air for Thor Retzlaff to pick off. Gabe Deiro then blocked a Dayton punt near midfield.
The blocked punt led to a 10-play, 44-yard drive that culminated with an 8-yard touchdown pass from Smith to Daniel. Smith kicked through the PAT, and Truckee had cut the lead to 28-14 with 8:16 left in the game.
The Wolverines could not stop Fletcher and the Dust Devils, however, and they proceeded to march 80 yards in 12 plays to the end zone. Fletcher waltzed in on a 2-yard run for the game’s final score.
But it wasn’t over. With 3:31 remaining, officials suspended play for a half-hour due to lightning in the area. When play resumed, Truckee’s second-string offense drove the ball to the Dayton 42 in nine plays before the clock ran out.
“We kind of almost got back in the game. But then when we needed a stop — which we always used to get — we didn’t get it,” Ivens said, referring to the Dust Devils’ final scoring drive. “They stuffed it right down the field like a Truckee team would.
“But that was a good Dayton team. Number 10 (Fletcher) is a great player, and 1 (Skyler Berntson) is good too, and he didn’t even play.”
Ivens, a former Truckee player and longtime defensive coordinator, said the Wolverines need to pick up their intensity if they want to turn around their season, which begins at practice.
“Right now, to be honest, we’re practicing soft,” he said. “We don’t practice hard, and it’s evident when we come out here. They pushed us around and they were faster because we’re not practicing hard enough.
“But I will say that, regardless of the outcome, this team has got to stay together. We’ve got to be united, even though the Truckee community is not used to losing two in a row, and losing two in a row soundly.”