DAYTON - The fireworks show before Dayton's homecoming game against Tri-Cities Prep Friday presaged the fireworks that came later in the game.
Only, not how you might imagine fireworks in the usual football metaphor.
No, this night the Bulldogs' defense was lighting the sparklers as Dayton held the Jaguars to a startling 1.02 yards-per-play in the 30-0 victory.
To carry the metaphor a step further, the game - like the firework show - was slow going early on. The Bulldogs didn't manage to score until there was only 5:52 left in the first half and it was turnovers and drops galore for both the Jaguars and Dayton. That was when diminutive junior running back Isaiah Lambert (5-foot-8, 160 pounds) brought out the mortars and started the shelling.
A blocked punt set the Bulldogs up with the ball on T-C Prep's 14-yard line. Lambert got a great push from the offensive line and then proceeded to bruise his way into the end zone.
One three-and-out later and Dayton again took possession, this time on the Jaguar 40-yard line. Junior Kane Hackett had a carry for three yards before Lambert was again given the rock. Three runs of 10, 11 and finally 17 yards later and Lambert again found the end zone. In just over two minutes the Jaguars found themselves in a 12-0 hole going into the half.
"He (Lambert) stepped up and played a heck of a ball game," Dayton coach Dean Bickelhaupt said. "I gotta compliment him, he really stepped up into that running back role, and defensively too - both sides of the ball"
"The game ball goes to Isaiah there," he said.
Lambert's touchdowns proved to be a catalyst for the Bulldogs, waking Dayton from its early game slumber.
"I knew that if we could play our game, we could get the ‘W,'" Bickelhaupt said. "They had me kind of nervous for about a quarter and a half there, and I was like ‘Whoa,' but then we started to wake up and play some football."
But wait - that was just the offense.
T-C Prep's first play from scrimmage ended before it began with a false start. Next, T-C Prep's Chris Yakawich rushed for a modest three-yard gain before being stuffed in the backfield for a six-yard loss.
A play later, Dayton linebacker Joey Schlachter, playing in his first game since a severe ankle injury in July, came off the edge and nailed T-C Prep quarterback Evan Whitsett for a sack and a 10-yard loss.
It was his first of four sacks Schlachter joined in on the night.
"Getting him (Schlachter) back is such a big factor to our offense and our defense," Bickelhaupt said. "He played a phenomenal game. He's just been chomping at the bit to get back.
"He's just a big factor on both sides of the ball," said Bickelhaupt. "It's really, really good to get him back."
When Schlachter wasn't making cornmeal out of Whitsett, somebody else was.
Andrew Mendoza, Kroft Sunderland and Chris Conley all got in on the sack action at one point or another. In total, Whitsett was left picking turf out of his face mask seven times on the night - and that doesn't include hurries or knockdowns.
"The defense was phenomenal tonight," coach Bickelhaupt said. "I don't even know if they (T-C Prep) had much for positive yards, but that defense really stepped up and played the game tonight.
"I'm proud of each and every one of those kids, they all worked hard," he said.
Bickelhaupt said part of the reason Dayton was able to get so much pressure on the quarterback was the Bulldog secondary.
"I just knew I had to put the pressure on them because they threw the ball and that's what I did all night long," Bickelhaupt said. "I trusted my defensive backs because they're good athletes and so we just man'd up and took it to them."
Dayton's offense was plagued by more errors in the third, but the way the defense was playing it didn't need to be great.
A false start and then a sack of the Jaguars' own set the Bulldogs back 11 yards to start the half, negating a 10-yard run from Lambert. An incompletion from quarterback Colton Bickelhaupt ended that drive.
A high snap on the next drive sent Bickelhaupt scrambling back 18 yards, effectively ending that drive.
"We're still not quite at full strength and we have a few new guys playing different positions still," coach Bickelhaupt explained. "That throws your offense out of sync a little bit. But once we got going and just figured it out we were fine."
It wasn't until Dayton's third drive in the quarter that Bickelhaupt started making plays with his arm.
Bickelhaupt marched the Bulldogs down the field, going 48 yards in only five plays. He completed 3-of-3 passes and capped the drive with a 20-yard touchdown strike to senior receiver Garett Turner.
It was off-to-the-races from there, and the Bulldogs swaggered to two more touchdown drives, both capped with runs from Bickelhaupt.
"Colton is a great team player," coach Bickelhaupt said. "He's smart and he sees things out there that we don't see. It's like having another coach out there on the field."
The Bulldogs take their defensive talents to take on undefeated Waitsburg-Prescott next Friday.
Dayton 30, Tri-Cities Prep 0.
Day 0 12 6 12 - 30
TCP 0 0 0 0 - 0
Day - Lambert 14 run (pass failed).
Day - Lambert 17 run (run failed).
Day - Turner 20 pass from Bickelhaupt (kick failed).
Day - Bickelhaupt 3 run (pass failed).
Day - Bickelhaupt 11 run (kick failed).
First downs 4 8
Rushes/yards 20-(-)53 35-154
Passing yards 80 42
Passes (att-comp-int) 9-35-3 6-14-0
Punts 5-150 6-123
Fumbles-lost 1-0 3-2
Penalties-yards 7-57 2-10
RUSHING - T-C Prep: Yakawich 6-8, Whitsett 10- (-)65, Rudolph 4-4; Day: Lambert 15-102, Bickelhaupt 11-33, Hackett 3-6, Hays 2-2, Hayes 3-9, Sanchez 1-2.
PASSING - T-C Prep: Whitsett 9-35-3 80 yards; Day: Bickelhaupt 6-14-0 42 yards.
RECEIVING - T-C Prep: Rudolph 1-0, Rivas 3-19, Pederson 2-26, Schidt 3-36; Day: Lambert 4-21, Turner 1-20, Schlacter 1-5.