First Posted: 11/18/2012
The Dallas passing attack was feared from the time football season started.
It wasn’t until the Mountaineers developed a running game that the passing game flourished.
Dallas started the season with a new offensive and defensive approach under first-year coach Bob Zaruta.
When the Mountaineers lost three games, further alterations were needed.
Zaruta altered practice routines, made minor personnel adjustments and often put the Mountaineers in different formations.
We went more from a single-back set to two- and three-back sets, Zaruta said. We went with the change in formations to complement the increased emphasis on running.
After the tough start, only one route remained to the postseason. Dallas had to win its final seven regular-season games in order to claim the last spot in the District 2 Class AAA playoffs, including beating Crestwood and Coughlin, two teams that had been ahead before ultimately occupying the next two spots in the standings behind the Mountaineers.
The streak started with a hard-fought 17-7 win over Coughlin and concluded with a 51-6 rout of rival Lake-Lehman. Along the way, Dallas was often dominant, posting shutouts of Pittston Area, Hazleton Area and Tunkhannock.
Zaruta said the ingredients for that success existed at the beginning, but the coaches and players needed to learn how to win together.
The Mountaineers wound up looking much different than the unit outscored by a combined 106-35 in the first three games against Wyoming Valley West, Abington Heights and Berwick.
We installed a new offense and new defense and it takes some time for that to start to gel, Zaruta said. You think you’re doing OK as you go through your summer practices. But until you get into competition, you really don’t know.
It took us three games to put that together and start looking for ways to improve. You put those things together and you add the fact that we started off with some very strong opponents.
Veteran quarterback Ryan Zapoticky eventually led Wyoming Valley Conference Class AAA quarterbacks in passing, going 89-for-162 for 1,439 yards and 19 touchdowns with just four interceptions. He also ran for 494 yards and five touchdowns.
Kris Roccograndi helped in that process, rushing for 879 yards and 12 touchdowns while finishing as one of four receivers in double figures in catches.
The two helped the Mountaineers finish 7-4, including last weekend’s 28-7 loss at top-seeded Berwick in the district semifinals.
Jason Simonovich caught 26 passes for 565 yards and eight touchdowns while Darik Johnson caught 24 passes for 401 yards and five scores while Ryan Kozloski caught 15 for 185 yards and three scores.
Kozloski represented the type of player Zaruta said he will continue to seek to add to the program.
A varsity wrestler and track and field athlete with a background in soccer, Kozloski did not play football until his senior year. He started as a slot receiver, as a cornerback who intercepted two passes and as the conference’s most productive kicker with three field goals and 30 extra points.
He came on as an impact player, said Zaruta, who follows the school’s other sports teams and hopes to make his program attractive to more athletes. He was a big part of our success.
Zaruta said the Mountaineers have a strong group of seniors to replace, but have many experienced players among those who will form next year’s senior class.
In addition to the sophomores who will also return to the program, Zaruta said a large group from the freshman team should increase the roster size.