Mountaineers Ready And Able To Air It Out
DALLAS — No longer is Dallas a team that will throw the ball just to keep a defense honest. The Mountaineers have a legitimate passing game, and if teams are going to dare them to throw the ball, then Rich Mannello has proven he is not afraid to put the ball in the air. Make no mistake, Mannello still wants to establish the run. But, when a defense loads the box as Valley West did on occasion Friday night, Michael Starbuck is going to make it pay. Starbuck threw three touchdown passes, and the Dallas defense added a score as the Mountaineers picked up a 42-6 victory at home. With the win, Dallas is now 5-0 on the year. The loss, the second in a row for Valley West, drops the Spartans to 3-2. “They made us throw the ball,” Mannello said. “The kids really executed. There were a lot of guys packed in that box. We just took what they gave us and the kids executed well.” The first opportunity for Starbuck to take a shot down the field came on the second play of the game. That’s when he hit Matt Maransky on a 61-yard catch-and-run connection that helped the Mountaineers set the early tone. Starbuck wasn’t quite yet done. On the second play of the second quarter, he connected with Nikolus Gashi on a little flare out of the backfield near the left sideline. Gashi made the catch and went 50 yards for the touchdown to put the Mountaineers up 14-0. “It looked like we were kind of stuck in quicksand out there,” Valley West coach Pat Keating said. “They hit a couple of big plays. It was stuff we were prepared for, we just didn’t make plays. They hit a couple quick plays early on. It wasn’t like they were grinding things out. We let them get some big plays and we just kind of got caught up with it there. I don’t think we came out 100 percent mentally focused out of the gate.” Dallas put together its longest drive of the night after taking over on downs at its own 13. Despite losing 15 yards on the drive because of a personal foul, the Mountaineers regrouped and drove the ball down to the Valley West 10. With two seconds left in the half, the Mountaineers set out to what was supposed to be a 27-yard field goal attempt by Ryan Fisher. Keating called a pair of timeouts to ice Fisher. And when the Mountaineers lined up for the kick, they went with the original play call. It wasn’t a field goal, but a fake. That is when Maransky hit Jack Farrell for a 10-yard touchdown pass as the half expired increasing the Dallas lead to 21-0. “We were doing that from the beginning,” Mannello said of the fake. “We stayed with it, we didn’t change our minds. We practiced it. After that play, the kids went in the locker room ready to keep playing. “ With Valley West getting the ball to start the second half, the Spartans had plenty of time to try and retake the momentum of the game. They advanced the ball to midfield but were forced to punt. Following the punt, Lenny Kelley took the second play from scrimmage 78 yards for a touchdown. Farrell returned an interception for a score on the ensuing possession as Dallas raced out to a comfortable 35-0 lead. “We just had some mental busts early on,” Keating said. “There were things that put us in long situations. When you play good defenses we have to put ourselves in positive situations. We just didn’t do that. Some of them were uncalled for, like lining up wrong. We just need to be better at those types of things.” Contact the writer: email@example.com; 570 821-2062; @CVSteveBennett on Twitter.