Dayton took a 25 minute drive westward tonight to play an old West Valley League rival, Sheridan, in a 7-on-7 flag football game. Any other year, that sentence would’ve peaked nobody’s interest. But in any other year, a Wednesday in October would’ve had both these teams in mid-season fully padded practices, not wearing masks that even 10 months ago would’ve never been seen out of a hospital.
Of course we went, so here’s some takeaways:
- Kaden Fergus looks better than he did 12 months ago. He looks sure of himself, he looks like he knows his reads and is confident in his throws. There were times last year, as an outside observer, that didn’t look to be the case. That’s a very promising sign.
- Gavin Arce will get a lot of touches. He has bounce and flair, there’s a natural athleticism that dictates he gets the ball. Maybe not a focal point per se, but he will have the ball in his hands consistently.
- Collin Watson, projecting as a quick guard type in the Wing T and inside linebacker in the 4-4, is a long term building block. In a game where tackling is done by pulling the ball carriers flags, rather than full contact due to lack of pads, Watson, probably out of just muscle memory, actually tackled a Sheridan player at one point. I asked Coach Peterson about him, and though his response was more detailed than this snippet, it sums it up: “When he told me he was a sophomore, I couldn’t help but just smile”. Watson, though he hasn’t played in two years, is a building block long term.
- Tight end Tyler Hoezee will be one to keep an eye on. The transition to pads will show just where he stands exactly, but he is already one of Dayton’s premier receiving threats. Similar to Arce, he’s an athlete. Rule number one of offensive football: get the ball into your best athletes hands.
- Dayton got better every possession. Started out bumpy, but as the night went on they got more in sync and were just flat out more crisp every snap, on both sides of the ball.
Less detail, less naming players specifically, less grandeur about their multi year outlook. There was really just one big takeaway from the Spartans today: their decades-long trek through being a perennial doormat and the occasional bright spot of mediocrity might, just might be over for good.
There’s talent on the roster, young and old. There is an energy and vibe about the program that hasn’t existed since…I don’t even know. The graduating class of 2017 from Sheridan won a total of 9 games in four years, never made the playoffs, and never really had a chance to. The graduating class of 2021, extrapolating a playoff birth (or whatever the format may be) coming this spring, will have made the playoffs three out of four years, a league title, and had four consecutive winning seasons to hang their hat on. That’s a seismic change in the trajectory of a football program; that’s how a culture of winning, outside the football program included, is created.
What happened today on the field for the team in blue was relatively insignificant when compared to what was happening on the sidelines and before in warmups: confident players, who are confident in their abilities, confident they can succeed. It’s a great turnaround story.
These teams come from drastically different backgrounds, have drastically different circumstances, and have drastically different paths ahead of them. But, for about two hours, they were the only show in town.
Literally, and figuratively. It’s not like much else is going on.