SPARKS — Sparks High School’s season opener at home Friday night against Dayton played the part.
The stands were full. The band, combined with the Sparks and Dilworth Middle School bands, was loud. And the Railroaders bounced around on the sideline.
Then the game started.
Dayton (2-0) scored the first touchdown of the game 15 seconds into the contest and proceeded to smack Sparks, 50-6. The loss extended the Railroaders’ losing streak to 23 games dating back to the 2011 season.
“It is nice to get a league win. It’s nice to start 2-0. I don’t know if we’ve done that since I’ve been the head coach,” Dayton coach Rob Turner said.
Senior running back Skyler Berntson had a monster day for the Dust Devils, finding the end zone five times while racking up 136 yards on the ground.
Berntson’s first score of the game, 15 seconds in, came on the first play from scrimmage after Sparks fumbled the opening kickoff. After a Sparks three-and-out, Berntson found paydirt from 20 yards out to wrap up a brief three-play drive.
Sparks responded with another three-and-out only for Dayton to march 32 yards in another three-play drive capped by Davis Winebarger’s 21-yard touchdown pass to Jaret Reed to put Dayton in front 21-0 with just under six minutes left in the opening quarter.
“It (fast start) is huge against any team,” Turner said. “We’ve played Sparks here for many years and if you don’t jump on them, you can’t let them think they’re going to have the game. It was hugely important. It kind of got set up for us a little bit and it turned out alright.”
Berntson stretched the lead to 28-0 with more than nine minutes to play in the second quarter. Dayton’s stud had his own misstep of the day on the Dust Devils’ next possession with a fumble in Sparks territory only to respond with another 1-yard touchdown dive.
Trailing 35-0, Sparks quarterback Sylis Sanchez led a Railroader drive and connected with Gilbert Hernandez from 31 yards out to put the hosts on the board with 2:30 left in the first half.
Hernandez grabbed two passes for 86 yards and the touchdown while Sanchez was 9-of-16 through the air for 135 yards.
Dayton started the second half just like it did in the first half, scoring almost immediately on a four-play, 45-yard drive ending with Quinn Santana’s 38-yard touchdown run.
With a safety at the start of the fourth quarter, Berntson concluded the scoring for the night with another 1-yard touchdown run with 9:06 to play.
“We put a lot of pressure on him (Berntson) to perform on both sides of the ball,” Turner said. “He is our guy.”
Sparks’ offense did not do its defense any favors in the loss. Of Dayton’s seven scoring drives, six of them started in Sparks territory. The Dust Devils ran the ball 31 times for 218 yards while Sparks was held to just 46 yards on 34 carries as a team.
After scoring 28 points in the first 15 minutes of the game, Turner said his squad got a little complacent as the game went on but made note the second- and third-string players all saw significant time, particularly in the second half.
“The first quarter, I thought we played as good of ball as we could possibly be playing right now,” Turner said. “Then we kind of pulled the foot of the gas pedal a little, not that we wanted the kids to but they just kind of did it.”