By News-Register staff • 

Football Friday: Oct. 3, 2014

Sheridan at Dayton, 7 p.m.

Dayton football has handled its share of adversity in its past, though the recent past may not show it -- five consecutive seasons appearing in the OSAA Class 3A semifinals.

This season, however, the Pirates have struggled under the strain of injuries to experienced leaders and skill position players, with the win-loss record bearing the strain.

"Two weeks and two losses, some of these boys haven’t lost that many games ever," Dayton coach Greg White said.

The latest of those two occurred on Sept. 26 when the Pirates fell to Santiam Christian, 28-7, in Adair Village. Dayton quarterback Darren Ashley left the game in an abulance with a concussion, it is unknown when, if at all, he will return this season. The Pirates lost another valuable contributor in junior running back Oscar Rosas, who suffered a concussion late in the game.

Ashley and Rosas have been added to a growing list of players missing multiple games: junior wide receiver/linebacker Jarred Ashley (broken wrist), senior tight end/defensive end Tony Alvarez (torn ACL), junior running back/linebacker Zach Spink (shoulder), junior running back/linebacker Jeramie Castillo (knee ligament damage) and sophomore lineman/.long snapper Chase Capener (ribs).

"I feel like we’re getting a little gun-shy about somebody getting hurt again," White said. "It’s been one a game. It's been pretty significant things."

Dayton stands at 2-2 overall and 0-2 in the Class 3A West Valley League entering tonight's contest against Sheridan at Gubser Field. The Pirates are off to their worst start since 2008; they have not lost their first two West Valley League games since 1981, when Dayton went 0-9 under Dewey Sullivan.

It's a heady position for White, in his first year as the Pirates' head coach after a number of seasons as an assistant, to be in. 

"I’m sure there’s other years that they’ve probably experienced something similar but in my time, the last seven years, this is the worst," he said.

The injuries have led to week-to-week changes, with backup personnel learning the roles of starters and occasionally being shift around after a week. White said that has hurt continuity, which has led to struggles -- Dayton has turned the ball over 18 times in its first four games.

"I just know that the boys have high expectation of themselves," White said. "They want to meet that expectation. Two losses isn’t what they envisioned they’d be at at this point in the season."

The Pirates entered the season with strong numbers, and players continue to emerge. Senior wide receiver D.J. Flowers, a transfer from Texas, has shined in relief of Ashley. White also mentioned tight end Matt Shouldis as a player exhibiting week-to-week improvement.

A Dayton team that envisioned competing for the WVL title finds it competing with a banged-up Sheridan squad (2-2, 0-2 WVL) for its first league win. The Spartans have had injury woes on the offensive line to such an extent that coach Brice Ingram has plumbed his running back depth to fill the gaps.

Regardless of health, White is expecting a tough contest tonight at 7 p.m.

"There’s still plenty of kids out here that want to play football," he said. "They're showing up, they want to be coached, they want to compete. (This season is) probably not what they hoped for, but we’ve got someone to play Friday night."

McNary at McMinnville, 7 p.m.

Jesse Medley may have lost McMinnville's starting quarterback battle to Wyatt Smith before the season began. Nevertheless, the 5-foot-11, 185-pound junior has carved out a niche as a go-to receiver and consistent safety for the Grizzlies. 

Medley didn't record a catch for McMinnville in the first two games, but the injury of Grifin Williams against Sprague led to unexpected opportunity. Smith has completed four passes to Medley on the season for 17, 16, 35 and 26 yards. 

The Grizzlies have struggled to run the football, but Smith is growing increasingly comfortable with passing targets like senior running back Tanner Scanlon, senior wide receiver Walter Stahl, senior tight end Colton Heidt and others. No winless team in Class 6A has scored more points (103 in four games) than McMinnville; with enough defense, a victory over McNary tonight at Wortman Stadium could be in the cards.

Yamhill-Carlton at Stayton, 7 p.m.

The Tigers (1-3, 0-1 OWC) will be looking to bounce back from last week’s home drubbing at the hands of the Huskies, and Stayton (1-3, 0-1 OWC) could be the team to do it against. The Eagles have combined for four touchdowns in their last three contests, including a road shutout against Newport in their league opener. But the Eagles defense is sturdier then it looks; the only opponent to score more than thrice against them was undefeated Molalla, and the 41 points the Indians hung on Stayton was their lowest-scoring outing of the year. If Y-C wants to bag a league win, the offense needs to be hitting on all cylinders.

Taft at Amity, 7 p.m.

The Warriors will have a test on their hands tonight in their  Class 3A West Valley League visitors from the beach. Taft (4-0, 1-0 WVL) has scored 50 or more points in three of their first four games, including last week’s 55-34 drubbing of Horizon Christian that saw senior quarterback Peter Lahti throw for more than 400 yards and rack up seven aerial TDs without a single pick. After graduating their best receiver last year, Taft has quickly developed new targets for the passing game. Amity (3-1, 1-0 WVL) has been stingy on defense so far this season, allowing two scores or fewer in all but one game this year, but they’ll have the test of the year across the field from them tonight. The Taft defense can be scored on, but they have a track record of making drive-killing plays in key spots. To come out with a win, Amity will have to shut down the passing game and force the under-sized Tigers to run the football. With Taft ranked third in the OSAA Power Rankings and the Warriors listed as ninth, this could be the game of the year in the WVL.

Willamina at Horizon Christian, 7 p.m.

The Bulldogs suffered a key loss when senior Keegan Davis, a strong defensive presence at linebacker, left Willamina's game at St. Paul on Sept. 26 with a broken leg. Davis' loss adds difficulty to a challenging stretch for the young Bulldogs (1-3, 0-1 WVL): tonight's game against Horizon Christian in Tualatin (2-2, 1-1) is the second of three straight games away. The Bulldogs then play host to Taft and Amity (the second- and third-place teams in the WVL) before traveling to rival Sheridan on Oct. 31 to conclude the first season for Willamina head coach Rob Shader.

Perrydale at Dufur, 7 p.m.

Dufur (3-1, 2-0 Class 1A Big Sky League) has made a habit of steamrolling opponents. With a neutral-site loss to Adrian as the only blemish on their record, the Rangers pulped their first two league opponents by a combined  score of 118 to 50. Perrydale’s defense showed its flaws in last week’s home defeat at the hands of Sherman, and how the Pirates’ D bounces back from the loss will be a crucial factor in Friday’s contest. Perrydale is, as ever, potent offensively, and Dufur’s 32.5 average points allowed per game suggests that this game could be an outright shootout, even by eight-man standards. If the Pirates can get a few stops in critical junctures, they could come home victorious.