Dayton spoils Hennessee’s South Tahoe debut
August 29, 2009
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE – A series of mistakes in a 49-second span late in the second quarter Saturday enabled Dayton High School to rally past South Tahoe 20-7 in the football season opener for both programs.
Dayton lineman Manuel Castaneda fell on a fumble in South Tahoe’s end zone to give the Dust Devils their first lead, 14-7, with 1 minute, 19 seconds remaining in the half.
The shift in momentum snowballed.
On South Tahoe’s ensuing play from scrimmage, Connor Conroy picked off a pass at the Viking 27, setting up a 19-yard touchdown reception by Conner Oliver with :30 to go in the half. Dayton missed the extra point, but its two-touchdown lead was more than enough to hold off the Vikings in the second half and ruin the STHS coaching debut of Kevin Hennessee.
“Our problem was that we had mental breakdowns. We hurt ourselves more than they hurt us,” Hennessee said of his team’s three turnovers, two of which led to Dayton touchdowns. “I’m not taking anything away from Dayton, it was more us not executing than them.”
Conroy, a senior, had the most productive game of his career, passing for one touchdown and running for another. He also picked off two passes. Oliver made the passing game go with six catches for 101 yards and a score.
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“This is one of the most complete games I’ve ever had,” Conroy said. “That’s a good win to start us off. Last year, we had a struggling year, so that’s what we needed to start the season.”
Both teams struggled to mount a consistent offensive attack in the final 24 minutes. A holding penalty stalled a STHS drive at the Dayton 15 midway through the third quarter, and Conroy ended it by picking off Thomas Eidam for the second time.
“Our defense kept us in it, for sure,” said Dayton coach Rick Walker, crediting senior linebacker Ricky Bodine with leading the defensive effort. “Offensively, when we executed, we looked pretty good. I think we shot ourselves in the foot as much as they stopped us.”
The Dust Devils ended the game by driving 46 yards to the Vikings’ 4. Aside from those two drives, the defenses dominated the second half.
“Obviously with the first game there are a lot of things we have to work on, but we’re happy with the win,” Walker said. “After that first big pass, they didn’t complete anything behind us and everything else was in front of us.”
South Tahoe opened the Hennessee era with a purpose. The Vikings stopped the Dust Devils’ first offensive series on three plays, then struck quickly on offense.
After a short gain by running back Monte Henderson, Eidam used a play-action fake and found a wide-open Matt Olivares-Laine for a 42-yard touchdown along the home team’s sideline.
“I didn’t have anybody within at least 25 or 30 yards. He threw the ball, and I said, ‘I better catch that,'” Olivares-Laine said.
But the Vikings weren’t able to come up with the big play the rest of the way, and penalties bogged down their offense when they did move the ball.
Meanwhile, Dayton, which was denied a first down in the opening quarter, finally got its Pistol offense rolling in the second period on a well-threaded pass by Conroy to Oliver for a 53-yard gain. Catching the ball in traffic, Oliver ran 25 yards after the grab, setting up the Dust Devils at the STHS 4.
The Vikings’ defense stiffened and looked as if it would limit Dayton to a field goal. But Walker eschewed the three-point attempt on fourth down and gambled at the STHS 3. Conroy misdirected most the Vikings’ defense with a well-executed bootleg and bulled his way into the end zone after taking a couple of solid hits from the Vikings.
“I was just thinking we needed that touchdown,” Conroy said. “That started our (momentum).”
Oliver’s extra point tied the score at 7 with 7:54 remaining in the half.
On its next series, Dayton again moved deep in STHS territory, but Olivares-Laine prevented another fourth-down conversion with a sure-handled tackle at the Vikings’ 21.
Mistakes began to take its toll on the Vikings during the remainder of the half. The offensive line gave up a third-down sack to Kyle Firestone, resulting in an 11-yard loss that put South Tahoe in a hole at the 16. It only got worse.
The snap from center went over punter Olivares-Laine’s head. He was able to scoop up the pigskin in his own end zone, but he still attempted to get off the punt in heavy traffic. His foot missed the ball, and Castaneda fell on the gift for six points.
“If I had another chance, I would have just fallen on it, or it kicked it out the back of the end zone because that’s only two points,” Olivares-Laine said.
Castaneda was so ecstatic about his unexpected score that he let out two screams of “I got a touchdown,” once he got to his sideline.
The Vikings tried to retrieve the points on their next possession and paid the price. Eidam’s pass in the flat was snared by Conroy at the STHS 29. After a 10-yard run by Kyle Onstott, Conroy and Oliver hooked up on a 19-yard touchdown play, making the score 20-7.
“We’re asking a lot. We have a lot of the same guys going both ways, so what ends up happening is as we are going there are some mental errors,” Hennessee said.
Hennessee is pleased with his team’s progress, especially since he put in a new offense only two weeks ago. The new coach estimates that he still has to teach 60 percent of his playbook.
“To be able to do that with 14 practices, it’s pretty amazing,” Hennessee said. “This group is an incredibly fast-learning group. We are way ahead of where I thought we’d be. It’s just going to be a matter of these guys continuing to buy in.”
South Tahoe will play Hug next Saturday, while Dayton plays its home opener Friday against Lovelock.
“We should stick together,” Conroy said. “I think this win will have us bust out on a good season.”
Notes: South Tahoe’s defense slowed the Pistol offense in the first half, allowing 72 total yards and twice stopping the Dust Devils on fourth down. Vikings’ sophomore linebacker Tyler Nesbitt picked off a pass. Dayton finished with four quarterback sacks.
SATURDAY’S PREP FOOTBALL STATS
DAYTON 20, SOUTH TAHOE 7
Dayton 0 20 0 0 – 20
South Tahoe 7 0 0 0 – 7
ST-Olivares-Laine 42 pass from Eidam (Olivares-Laine kick),
D-Conroy 3 run (Oliver kick)
D-Castaneda recovered fumbled punt attempt in end zone (Oliver kick)
D-Oliver 19 pass from Conroy (kick failed)
Dayton: Onstott 22-82, Berntson 4-13, Oliver 1-2, Conroy 3-1, team 1-(-15) . South Tahoe: Henderson 21-72, Olivares-Laine 1-14, Contaxis 5-(-6), Eidam 6-(-17), Team 1-(-21).
Dayton: Conroy 8-13-1 110 yards. South Tahoe: Eidam 6-15-2 98 yards.
Dayton: Oliver 6-101, Berntson 1-5, Smith 1-4. South Tahoe: Olivares-Laine 2-47, Tinlin 2-26, Garman 1-14, Contaxis 1-11.