Struggling with drawing enough players for its football team, Dayton High School made the decision Wednesday night to officially cancel its 2019 season at all levels.
Dust Devils athletic director David Palmer told Nevada Sports Net on Thursday the school notified the NIAA the night prior it would not play football this season but would support some of its players transferring to Carson High so they could play.
"We've been looking at our situation since early August," Palmer told NSN. "We did have a bit of a rough season last year. We were going into this season hoping to be able to rebuild with our transfer to independent status for football. As we came into the season, we were a little light on our numbers. I believe we had 24 kids who ended up showing up for practices early in the season. For a variety of reasons, as we came into the season we had a couple of kids drop here and there. We got to the point where we were able to put together a team for a scrimmage with Yerington and through that scrimmage we got into the last series of that match and unfortunately at that point we had a couple of injuries in that scrimmage that put us in a position where we didn't have enough players to continue the game.
"So we forfeited that match and stepped back from that and took a look at where our numbers were and what our structure was and really took a long, hard look at the viability and safety allowing our kids to continue in the program with the numbers we had. Unfortunately, we came to the conclusion for the safety of our kids out there on the field, it was the best thing to pursue some other options for our kids and see if we can give them the best opportunities they can find out there and we discovered that wasn't here at Dayton High School."
Palmer said the NIAA has been "very open and receptive to our situation" and has allowed four Dayton seniors to transfer to Carson High due to the dissolution of the Dust Devils' program in 2019.
"They'll be transferring as students to Carson High School and will be able to take part in their athletic programs," said Palmer, adding one player considered transferring to Virginia City High before deciding against that.
Dayton's varsity team has posted a 1-39 record since 2015, the lone win coming in the 2017 season opener against Lincoln County, a 44-38 victory over the 2A school from Southern Nevada. Dayton has lost 19 straight games since then while being shut out in eight of those contests. The Dust Devils were out-scored 444-83 in 2018 while going 0-10. A coaching change was made in the offseason with the school hiring Steve McCarthy, who the school is hopeful will remain on as it attempts to field a football team in 2020.
"We are hopeful we'll be able to see it through and get some information from our student-athletes why we have the participation levels that we've had," Palmer said. "We're hopeful moving forward we can restructure something to where we have a team on the field next year."
Dayton plays in the Northern 3A, the second-largest classification in the state. The school has attempted to move to the 2A level in recent years without success. Dayton's enrollment of 670 students is the smallest in the 3A, Palmer said.
"We had petitioned to the NIAA over the past two years to participate at the 2A level because of a number of issues we had with our general athletic programs," Palmer said. "That petition was not accepted by the NIAA and the board of control but within that discussion we came to the conclusion there was an opportunity for us to take the football program into an independent status to hopefully put ourselves in a situation where we solve some of the competitive issues we've been having for some years within that program. We went ahead and moved over to that independent schedule. We had originally gone through and tried to put together a six-game season. We scheduled a couple of California schools and some other 3A league schools where we'd have a hybrid schedule. When we came in and started looking at where our numbers were, we did make a decision to restructure our program where we were going to play a JV schedule and had set up seven games this season."
Dayton was competitive in the 3A for a decade prior to its downturn starting in 2015. From 2004-14, Dayton went 57-55 while having a .500 record or better in six of those 11 seasons, peaking at 10-1 in 2006. The Dust Devils made it to back-to-back 3A state semifinals in 2005 and 2006. But the decline has been steep since.
"It's a number of things that we've seen over the past couple of years," Palmer said. "It's been kind of a strange road where we've seen declining participation from students, which has impacted our ability to be competitive on the field. It's been a little bit of a spiraling pattern with that, but we're hopeful with some of our decisions we're making right now we'll be able to inspire some kids to come back out and give it a shot and hopefully we'll be able to move forward in a positive fashion and hopefully get out in the community and get some community support for the reestablishment of football in Dayton."
Round Mountain, which plays in the 1A, also has announced it had to cancel its football season.