HS FOOTBALL: Dallas Players Able To Deliver When Called Upon
The first time Dallas played Berwick this year in Week 9 at Crispin Field, a 13-10 Dallas victory, Rich Mannello talked after the game about how it wasn’t until the Wednesday before that meeting when he felt the Mountaineers were at 100 percent health. He went so far as to say that it was the first time since summer workouts he had everybody together.
On Saturday afternoon when the two teams squared off again, this time in the Class 4A district playoffs, the Mountaineers were down to their third-string quarterback in Michael Lukasavage.
Michael Starbuck, the starter, is out. The backup, R.J. Wren, is out as well. That left Lukasavage as the next man up. Lukasavage said he learned last Sunday that he will be starting.
But as much as things changed for the Mountaineers, they remained the same. A junior, Lukasavage had never attempted a pass or rushed the football this season prior to Saturday. Against Berwick, he attempted 17 passes, tied for the most attempts in a game by the Mountaineers in a game this season. Starbuck attempted 17 passes in Week 2. The next most was 16 passes in Week 4, and in the first game against Berwick this season, Starbuck put the ball up nine times.
Lukasavage’s performance, not in ideal weather conditions considering the cold and wind, exemplifies the confidence Mannello has in his team, and the team has in him. The Mountaineers didn’t change anything. Luksasavage did more than just manage a game; he put his team in position to win one. And that is exactly what happened.
Two for two
When his 24-yard field goal sailed through the uprights to give Dallas the 3-0 overtime win over Berwick, Fisher had been in that situation before. Not so much with the weather conditions, but making a field goal under pressure.
It’s the second time this year a kick by Fisher gave the Mountaineers a win over Berwick. In Week 9, Fisher kicked a 26-yard field goal with 3:54 left in the game to give the Mountaineers a 13-10 win.
On the year, Fisher has kicked 41 extra points and four field goals, with a long of 27 yards.
They have their number
For the second consecutive year, Hazleton Area traveled to Delaware Valley with the District 2 Class 6A title on the line. And for the second consecutive year, the Cougars lost.
With its 35-14 victory over the Cougars on Saturday, Delaware Valley will advance to the state playoffs. The Warriors have now defeated Hazleton Area the last 11 times the teams have met. The last time Hazleton Area defeated Delaware Valley was in 2009.
It’s been awhile
With the weather conditions as they were on Saturday, Berwick coach Frank Sheptock figured defense was going to win the day. He was right. But when Dallas held Berwick scoreless, you have to go a long way back to find the last time Berwick failed to score in a game.
You would have to go back all the way to the 2006 season when Dallas beat Berwick 28-0 to find the last time Berwick was shutout in a game.
In case you missed it
Hazleton Area quarterback Sparky Wolk ended one of the best careers in Wyoming Valley Conference history on Saturday when the Cougars lost to Delaware Valley.
Wolk came on the scene during his freshman season, ironically against Delaware Valley, and will go down as one of the best passing quarterbacks in conference history.
Though he only threw for 72 yards in Hazleton Area’s loss, he ends his career on a list of elite quarterbacks to have come through the conference.
Wolk finished his career with 6,403 passing yards which ranks him third all-time. Wolk finished behind former Tunkhannock quarterback Ryan Crispell (6,493) and Berwick’s Ron Powlus (7,342).
Had to end sometime
Let’s face it, Wyoming Area was not going to win a state title this year. There was never a guarantee the Warriors were going to win a district title if they advanced that far, especially with the chance of running into perennial district power Scranton Prep. It was never a sure thing the Warriors were even going to get out of District 2.
Eventually, the conversation of Wyoming Area’s strength of schedule was going to come into play. It is a legitimate argument. When you look at the schedule from Week 1 through Week 10, the Warriors were never tested. The most points they allowed during a regular-season game was 14. They allowed that many in the first half against Lakeland on Saturday night.
But it is how you handle defeat that tells the real story. What fans will remember most of the 2018 Wyoming Area football season is how it came to an end.
One player being ejected. Another charging into the Lakeland kicker on the extra point after the game clinching touchdown, and two more being sent to the locker room by the coaching staff because the staff believed more ejections were coming.
It was not a good look for the Warriors. But one that was going to be immediately addressed by head coach Randy Spencer after the game. You can bet assistant coach/athletic director Joe Pizano was going to weigh in, as well.
The Warriors finished the year 11-1 and fell one win shy of tying the program record for wins in a season with 12.
They are the champions
A trio of champions were crowned this weekend, none of them from the WVC. Lackawanna Trail won the District 1-2 subregional championship and will face Tri Valley on Friday night at 7 at North Pocono High School. Dunmore won the Class 2A title and will play West Catholic on Saturday afternoon at 1 at Northern Lehigh High School. Delaware Valley, the Class 6A champ, will play State College on Friday night at 7 at Hazleton Area’s Harman-Geist Stadium.
Who stole his playbook?
Obviously, Mannello had to adjust on the fly with having to play a new quarterback on Saturday in the district semifinals. But as a coach who sticks true to the run game, it was interesting to see Dallas lineup in the wildcat formation.
While Mannello will always stay with the run game, it was fun to watch him lineup running back Lenny Kelley take the direct snap from center.
The Mountaineers ran eight plays out of the wildcat formation against Berwick, and Kelley even threw a pair of passes out of the set, completing one for 16 yards.
But what proved to be more amusing about the day’s events was when Dallas was faced with a fourth-and-nine from the Berwick 24-yard line. The fans in the stands were yelling to kick the field goal, which at that point would have been at least from 41 yards out. Dallas went for it and came up short. At the end of the day, it was a great learning tool where fans may actually have some faith in the guy that is calling the plays and is engaged in the game as opposed to what they think is best from their view from the bleachers, or the coach from above who is talking in the fans’ headset.
Putting a cap on it
Berwick’s Owen Shoemaker ended the season with 1,546 yards rushing and 21 rushing touchdowns on the year. He averaged 7.3 yards per carry. Hazleton Area’s Damon Horton ended the year with 1,448 yards and 23 rushing touchdowns. Wyoming Area’s Corey Mruk, who did not play on Saturday due to an injury, ends the year with 1,081 yards rushing. Wolk ended the year with 2,166 yards passing and 18 touchdowns. Wyoming Area’s Dom DeLuca threw for 871 yards and 16 touchdown passes.
Hazleton Area’s Jacob Hunsinger closed the year with 49 catches for 988 yards and 11 touchdowns. Berwick’s Teagan Wilk finished his junior year with seven interceptions.