DALLAS — For anybody not familiar with the behind-the-scenes action that surrounds the Dallas football program, coach Rich Mannello, when he is standing on the field, often references that building on the left.
He is not discussing the concession stand or the restroom facilities. More to the point, Mannello is speaking about the weight room, a place that can be considered by any player on the team as a home away from home.
That building on the left paid dividends Friday night as Dallas controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball in a 44-21 victory over Hazleton Area. With the win, Dallas moved to 3-0 on the year. Hazleton Area lost for the second consecutive week and is now 1-2.
Dallas finished the night with 385 yards of total offense, while its defense allowed 295. More importantly, the Mountaineers, especially in the second half, were able to contain Hazleton Area running back Damon Horton. Though Horton did rush for 100 yards and three touchdowns, he managed just 12 yards in the second half.
“That is conditioning, that room on the left,” Mannello said. “That is football. You have to power clean and squat. The kids bought into it. (Horton) is going to be one of the best we see. These kids are just so resilient and mentally tough. They are mentally hardened.”
Though last year’s game was a decided by a three-point different, both offenses came to play in this one. The teams combined for 49 points in the first half, and when Horton carried over from the 1-yard line as the second quarter clock expired, Dallas held a 28-21 lead with Hazleton Area getting the ball to start the third quarter.
“I told the kids at the half I thought that was game-winning drive,” Hazleton Area coach Mike Brennan said.
But the Dallas defense had other ideas, as did running back Lenny Kelley.
Kelley finished the night with 155 yards rushing and four touchdowns, two of them in each half. But more importantly, the Dallas defensive front did not allow the Cougars to get anything going in the second half on the ground. The Cougars finished the night averaging 2.6 yards per carry compared to 6.6 for the Mountaineers.
“They clearly controlled the line of scrimmage on the offensive side,” Brennan said. “Tonight they appeared to execute flawlessly offensively. We took oursleves out of some things we our pressure. We had to defend the flankers and the waggle. When you run the defensive backs off, you have a lot of green grass.”
Dallas quarterback Michael Starbuck took advantage of some of the open green with a pair of first half touchdown passes. One of them went for 56 yards to Luke DelGaudio, with another going to Matt Maransky for 46 yards.
The difference though, was the way the Mountaineers kept Horton in check in the second half. Especially after Hazleton Area’s opening drive of the third quarter.
“I told the kids he is going to get his yards,” Mannello said. “We just had to limit the big plays and tackle. We had to stay in our lanes. We hoped to say a little bit up score-wise and stay on the field offensively so we weren’t dealing with him as much. We got the run game going.”
The run game was so effective that the Mountaineers only attempted five passes in the second half, with two of them going for more than 10 yards.
“They were pinning their ears back a little bit on defense,” Brennan said. “I thought they pinned their ears back when we sputtered in the second half. They sort of got a little energy defensively and we weren’t able to recover from that.”
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