DALLAS – High school football has been focused the past few months on the return of George Curry at Berwick. Meanwhile, the absence of another highly-successful local coach – Ted Jackson – has taken a backseat.
That changes starting today as for the first time in 27 seasons Dallas will begin double sessions with a new man in charge. And Bob Zaruta is ready for the challenge.
"What I've said to the players is it's not about yesterday, it's about today and tomorrow," said Zaruta, who was hired Feb. 6 after Jackson supporters rallied for a few months for the school to retain him. "For all the great tradition and all the great things that have occurred here in Dallas history, it's about going forward. All we can do is do our best.
"The community and school spirit we expect to grow as the transition continues."
Jackson had a 227-83-3 record at Dallas that included the Class 2A state title in 1993. But the program ran into some problems with the PIAA and the District 2 athletic committee in recent years. A school board vote to retain him in January failed 5-3.
"The players have gone through something most other teams won't go through, and that's an entirely new staff," Zaurta said. "That's some adversity with change right from the get-to. But we're pleased. They've responded to me as a head coach and us as a staff and we're excited about that."
Even more excited are the players, who get to put on the gear for the first time since November.
Teams can practice, participate in non-contact passing scrimmages and workout throughout the offseason. However, all must be on a volunteer basis. Today marks the first official practice date leading up to the Wyoming Valley Conference openers on Aug. 31.
"A lot of guys have been itching to put the pads on," said senior quarterback Ryan Zapoticky, a Times Leader All-WVC selection last year. "I know our linebackers are biting at the bit right now. It's going to feel great."
The first scrimmages for all WVC teams are Saturday.
Two other WVC programs will also be under first-year coaches. Kevin Choate takes over at Williamsport, while Pat Reece will be Holy Redeemer's fourth new head coach in as many years.
(10 a.m. unless noted; subject to change)
Abington Heights at Wyoming Valley West
Bethlehem Liberty at Williamsport, 11 a.m.
Central Columbia at GAR
Central Mountain at Berwick, 11 a.m.
Coughlin at Carbondale
Dallas at Dunmore
Holy Redeemer at Lackawanna Trail
Honesdale at Nanticoke
Meyers at Western Wayne
North Penn at Hazleton Area
Northwest at Mid Valley
Tunkhannock at Wyoming Area, 9:30 a.m.
Riverside at Hanover Area
Valley View at Lake-Lehman
West Scranton at Pittston Area