Dallas’ Michael Starbuck leads the Wyoming Valley Conference with nine touchdown passes through four games. - Aimee Dilger | Times Leader
Wyoming Valley West and quarterback Jake Shusta face another tough challenge tonight against undefeated Dallas. - Sean McKeag | For Times Leader
Upon entering the Dallas football stadium, concessions and restrooms are to the right.
To the left is what Dallas coach Rich Mannello referred to a few weeks ago as “the room on the left.” (He was actually referring to the left side of the fieldhouse, not the stadium entrance, but it works either way).
Inside “the room on the left” is an array of weightlifting equipment designed to make the Mountaineers as strong as possible. The Wyoming Valley West Spartans have a similar setup a short walk from their high school.
But when the two teams meet at 7 p.m. Friday at Dallas in a Wyoming Valley Conference interdivisional game, sheer brawn will be just one avenue to victory. Brains will play a huge part as well.
Because the team which makes the fewer mistakes could end up the team with the most points.
Valley West (3-1) has developed a reputation in Pat Keating’s 10 years as coach as a very tough offense to defend. It’s not a smoke-and-mirrors scheme loaded with gimmick plays. It’s crafted to continually challenge the defense to recognize and react differently on nearly every down.
“You’ve got to get aligned,” said Mannello, whose team brings a 4-0 record into the game. “I know it sounds like an over-simplification, but it isn’t. They’ll get you outflanked quickly. Once they figure it out, you got to get that cork back in the bottle or you have an issue. They just keep coming at it.
“It’s something we have to handle and that’s a whole process. It takes a full right through Thursday night of preparation for all the sets they throw at you.”
Berwick found that out last Friday. Valley West controlled the ball in the first half, running 40 plays to Berwick’s 16. The Spartans also scored 17 points in the first two quarters, the same Berwick surrendered in its first three games combined.
“They’re a tough team to defend,” Berwick coach Frank Sheptock said. “They give you so many shifts and motions and they’re unbalanced. You have to recognize all of those things.”
Dallas does a lot of things nicely on offense as well. The play-action was very effective in a 44-21 win against Hazleton Area in Week 3. Receivers Matt Maransky and Luke Delgaudio turned short passes into touchdowns of 46 and 56 yards, respectively.
Despite the play-ratio disparity against Berwick, Valley West trailed 27-17 at halftime. A key turning point came late in the second quarter when the Spartans had a second-and-goal at the Berwick 10-yard line and were behind 20-14. Quarterback Jake Shusta was injured and left the game. A third-down pass failed and the Spartans had to settle for a field goal.
“We were executing. We were able to make some plays and execute our schemes,” Keating said. “I think that couple injuries at the end of the first half really stalled our drive. We had three plays in a row in the red zone where we had to replace a guy. One time it was our quarterback on third-and-goal.
“It’s hard to do that stuff and it kind of screws up your rhythm of calling (plays) and what you want to do.”
Berwick went on to win 40-24 as horrible field positions hampered the Spartans in the second half. Prior to the game being handed over to the reserves, they started drive at their 5-yard line twice, their 13, 18 and 20.
Dallas defeated Pittston Area 41-21 last Friday and will now try to win five in a row for the first time since 2012. However, there is a concern defensively, one Mannello acknowledged and is working hard to repair.
The Mountaineers defense has been susceptible to the pass. Opponents have completed 55 percent of their passes for 751 yards. Meanwhile, the run defense has allowed 328 yards and 2.8 per carry.
Dallas’ Michael Starbuck leads the Wyoming Valley Conference with nine touchdown passes through four games.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/web1_TTL091518PAvDAHS6-6.jpgDallas’ Michael Starbuck leads the Wyoming Valley Conference with nine touchdown passes through four games. Aimee Dilger | Times Leader
Wyoming Valley West and quarterback Jake Shusta face another tough challenge tonight against undefeated Dallas.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/web1_TTL091518WVWBerwickFB1-1.jpgWyoming Valley West and quarterback Jake Shusta face another tough challenge tonight against undefeated Dallas. Sean McKeag | For Times Leader