DALLAS — A frustrating season finally found some fulfillment Saturday afternoon.
Justin Mucha scored on offense, defense and special teams in the second half as Dallas broke into the win column with a dominating 35-0 victory over Tunkhannock in a Wyoming Valley Conference Division 3A game.
Dallas (1-8) snapped a nine-game losing streak that dated back to a loss in last year’s District 2 Class 3A semifinals. Tunkhannock fell to 1-8.
“I’m so happy for our players,” Dallas coach Bob Zaruta said. “It goes to shows when you work hard, are determined and have a positive attitude, good things can happen. That’s been the character of this team all season long. I’m happy for them and certainly proud of them.”
Dallas entered the game as the WVC’s lowest-scoring team. The Mountaineers had just six touchdowns through their first eight games. They scored five Saturday, including an unexpected punt return touchdown by Mucha with 7:22 to play.
As the Dallas coaches were yelling to the return team to get away from the Tunkhannock punt, Mucha fielded it on a big hop near the right sideline. He got only a few yards when he had to start running parallel toward the center of the field. He then cut inside and showed some dynamic open-field maneuvers to finish off the 54-yard return.
“One word — special. That’s all I can tell you about Justin Mucha. He’s something special,” Zaruta said. “He actually said ‘I’m going to return this one. I’m going to return this one.’ He’s an amazing young man.”
Dallas needed some dazzle as it led just 7-0 at halftime on a 10-yard run by Matt Harrison. The Mountaineers dominated the first two quarters, limiting Tunkhannock to minus-10 yards of offense and one first down. And that first down came via penalty.
However, that first half was reminiscent of the Mountaineers’ season. The defense would be strong, while the offense struggled. Those concerns were eased with the Mountaineers’ first possession of the third quarter.
A 32-yard pass from Harrison to Logan Brace on the seventh play of the drive put the ball at the Tunkhannock 16-yard line. Mucha capped the 81-yard drive with a 16-yard TD run.
The defense did the job on Tunkhannock’s ensuing possession as Mucha weaved his way 44 yards with an interception — picking up a key block from Aaron Napkora — for a touchdown as a 21-0 lead. Harrison threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to receiver Omar Nijmeh late in the third quarter to boost the lead to 28-0.
Tunkhannock finished with its worst offensive performance of the season. The Tigers finished with 17 yards of offense and two of their three first downs came due to Dallas penalties. They had minus-7 yards of offense when Dallas scored its 35th point with 7:22 left.
“We knew Dallas is tough up front,” Tunkhannock coach Rod Azar said. “We knew that going in. Despite their record, they’ve been in a lot of games this year. That defensive front and those ‘backers are really tough. We couldn’t do anything against them.”
Dallas 35, Tunkhannock 0
DAL — Matt Harrison 10 run (Aaron Napkora kick), 8:50
DAL — Justin Mucha 16 run (Napkora kick), 6:37
DAL — Mucha 44 interception return (Napkora kick), 6:04
DAL — Omar Nijmeh 4 pass from Harrison (Napkora kick), 0:53
DAL — Mucha 54 punt return (Napkora kick), 7:22
RUSHING — Tunk, Shane Edmondson 3-(minus-2), Brian Beauchemin 22-25, Hunter Hopkins 1-(minus-9), Nick Thomas 5-0, Ryan Ell 2-(minus-4). Dallas, Logan Brace 9-48, Ryan Cheskiewicz 13-142, Mucha 2-17, Harrison 5-10, Mike Olenginski 1-6, David Simpson 1-12, Bill Gately 1-0, Jonny Ferris 1-(minus-5), team 2-(minus-2).
PASSING — Tunk, Ell 1-6-1-7. Dallas, Harrison, 5-9-0-56.
RECEIVING — Tunk, Edmondson 1-7. Dallas, Mucha 2-6, Olenginski 1-18, Brace 1-28, Nijmeh 1-4.
INTERCEPTIONS — Dallas, Mucha 1-44.
MISSED FGs — Tunk, 42 S.