Last updated: February 16. 2013 7:27PM - 320 Views

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No high school football coach in Northeastern Pennsylvania has a tougher job than Bob Zaruta.

Because he's going to be judged hard at Dallas every day, every step of the way.

Some people already made up their minds about Zaruta, insisting he'll never be able to win the way deposed Dallas coach Ted Jackson did, because they believe nobody could.

But Zaruta may have already attained his greatest win long before the season even begins for Dallas this Saturday.

He won over his team.

That wasn't easy, because when the Dallas school board opened Jackson's job after 27 seasons, the school's players who showed up to support him were livid. Somebody from the crowd scorned the school board for killing the football program.

The community that grew so accustomed to winning was angry over losing a coach who experienced just one losing season in his 27 seasons.

"There were some rumbles that kind of popped up," Zaruta said, "some players not coming out, some going someplace else.

"None of that occurred."

It didn't happen because Zaruta wouldn't allow it.

Right after he was hired, he gathered the Mountaineers and explained his goals and philosophy during a 45-minute meeting. Then he had another one.

"After those two meetings, we were off to a good start," Zaruta said. "I don't think we ever had to look back after that."

Instead, they looked ahead to a new future at Dallas.

The team spent the preseason bonding together as a team by staying on campus through double-sessions, typical of an NFL training camp.

The kids loved it.

"It was a different experience here," said Zaruta, who has never been a varsity head coach before but guided the Dallas freshman team from 2003-08. "They've embraced the new stuff. It worked out well. We've got the commitment from the players right now."

With his warm personality and a wealth of football knowledge, Zaruta never gave his new team the option to become disenchanted with him.

Now he needs fans in the stands to give him a fair shot.

After the departure of Jackson, and the way it was handled, some fans swore they'd stay away from the program. Some long-time Dallas supporters said they'd come to root against their once-beloved Mountaineers.

And plenty of them are sure to be on the visiting sidelines for this season's opener.

You want to re-visit the school board's reasoning for dumping the sometimes-controversial Ted Jackson Sr. after a season where he stayed out of trouble?

Have at it.

But the guy who replaced him doesn't deserve to be disparaged for trying to implement his own system in hopes of finding his own success.

"I was one of 14 who applied for the position," Zaruta said. "If they want to put some blame on me, I don't understand that. I was selected to the position and that's what I look at."

The administrators at Dallas will be looking at how Dallas football players conduct themselves, an issue the school board expressed concern with when Jackson was coaching them. The fans will be looking for the kind of performances that made Jackson a 200-game winner and a state championship coach at Dallas once.

All Bob Zaruta is looking for is a chance.

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