DAYTON — The Dayton Bulldogs won their first game of the season, 14-6, over Riverside despite fumbling the ball five times and losing two to turnovers Friday night.
“We’ve been having trouble with turnovers all year,” Dayton coach Dean Bickelhaupt said. “(We have) a lot of young kids playing and they’re learning, but it has been a battle. Finally, we got the “W,” which is the most important part.”
Dayton (1-6 overall, 0-4 in Southeast 2B League play) got its star running back, Lowden Smith, hurt on the opening kickoff with a sprained ankle.
“Lowden was only about 50 percent throughout the game with the injury,” Bickelhaupt said. “We also lost fellow senior running back, Guy Spalinger, to another possible broken collarbone with 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter.”
The Bulldogs persevered, though, winning a defensive battle despite a lack of depth and several injuries.
Smith finished with a winning touchdown run of one yard with 4:34 left in the fourth quarter and a good 2-point run conversion. He ran the ball 10 times in the game for 41 yards — 26 yards coming on the winning drive of 51 yards.
“If he (Smith) had been 100 percent all game long,” Bickelhaupt said, “he may not have had a 100-yard game, but I was impressed with how good he did at the end.”
Dayton’s defense scored a touchdown right before halftime, a 35-yard fumble recovery and touchdown for linebacker Andrew Mendoza, to make it 6-0 going into the intermission.
Mendoza finished the game with two interceptions to go with the defensive touchdown.
With Lowden hampered, freshman Ben Kleck carried the load for the Bulldogs with 17 carries for 138 yards.
“Ben (Kleck) is only a freshman,” Bickelhaupt said. “He is going to be a really good running back. He has some speed and some good moves. I’m excited about him. I was happy with how he ran the ball. He has started lowering his shoulder and attacking a little more. He is improving throughout the season.”
Riverside tied the game at six apiece with 10:56 remaining in the game with a 15-yard Gregg Shimer quarterback dive.
Shimer finished the game with 32 yards rushing and 117 yards passing. The 6-foot-5, 200 pound senior also threw three interceptions.
“We had four freshmen starting tonight,” Bickelhaupt said. “We’ve been starting about that many all year. They’ve stepped up and done real well. These kids have really battled through a lot of adversity.
“It is tough to compete with so few guys,” he said. “We wear down mentally and physically by the fourth quarter. Some guys are playing every play of every game.”
The Bulldogs host Mabton Friday at 7 p.m. before taking on Lind-Ritzville in a state play-in game.
“If we beat Lind-Ritzville, we’d have a home playoff game,” Bickelhaupt said. “But first we have to play a tough Mabton team this coming week.”
Dayton 14, Riverside 6
Riverside 0 0 0 6 — 6
Dayton 0 0 6 8 — 14
Day — Mendoza 35 fumble recovery/return (2 point failed).
Riv — Shimer 15 run (2 point failed).
Day — Smith 1 run (Smith run).
First downs 6 12
Rushes/yards 14-42 42-244
Passing yards 117 25
Passes (att-com-int) 6-14-4 2-4-0
Punts 2-73 3-107
Fumbles-lost 5-2 3-2
RUSHING — River: Madrigal 1-5, Corpus 8-8, Shimer 4-32, Roberts 1-(-3). Day: Kleck 17-138, Spalinger 14-33, McHaffle 1-4, Warner 5-28, Smith 10-41.
PASSING — River: Shimer 4-11, 3 interceptions, 104 yards, Conlon 0-1, 1 interception, Hood 1-1 17 yards, Castillo 1-2, -4 yards. Day: Warner 2-4, 25 yards.
RECEIVING — River: Corpus 2-23, Roberts 3-64, Conlon 1-30. Day: Smith 1-7, McHaffle 1-18.