By Robert Husseman • Sports Editor • 

Dayton holds on long enough against Illinois Valley

DAYTON -- In a performance befitting a senior leader, Dayton quarterback Darren Ashley made the biggest plays when the Pirates needed him most.

Ashley carried the ball 15 times for 138 yards and passed for 102 yards and a touchdown as No. 5-ranked Dayton edged No. 12 Illinois Valley, 14-6, in Friday night's Class 3A state playoffs first-round contest at Gubser Field.

Sophomore Sabino Corona rushed for 64 yards on six carries for the Pirates (7-2), while Chance Bowlin added 56 yards on 13 carries. Senior Tyler Clark rushed for 47 yards and scored Dayton's first points on a five-yard touchdown run with 11 seconds remaining in the first quarter.

Ashley helped the Pirates convert a fourth-and-9 from the Illinois Valley 28-yard line in the second quarter by hitting Oscar Rosas for a 28-yard touchdown on a wheel route. Dayton led 14-0 by that point and looked to go up by three touchdowns when Ashley fumbled at the IV 1-yard line. Cougars junior James Jarrett picked the ball up and took it to the Dayton 40-yard line; three players later, Illinois Valley (5-4) was on the board when quarterback C.J. Manning snuck in from one yard out.

Fumbles were a constant issue on the evening, with the Pirates losing four and the Cougars losing two.

In the second half, the Dayton defense forced two punts and stopped the Cougars on downs in Pirates' territory. On the final possession of the game, Illinois Valley botched a handoff on fourth-and-1 its 47-yard line and Dayton senior Jared Tompkins recovered to put the game on ice.

The Pirates play at No. 4 Harrisburg on Nov. 14. Game time is to be determined.