PLYMOUTH – With new faces all around the backfield, Dallas will rely on returning linemen from a playoff-qualifying team for early stability during coach Rich Mannello’s second year running the program.
Division I prospect Michael Farrell and Jason Anderson lead the way for the Mountaineers as returning three-year, two-way starters in the line.
Stone Mannello, the coach’s son, is also back as a two-way starter, but he is undergoing a position change with the move from wide receiver to quarterback on offense. He also plays in the defensive backfield.
Boosting Farrell and Jason Anderson is Michael Anderson, Jason’s younger brother who started in the offensive line last season as a freshman.
“There’s going to be no secret here,” coach Mannello said. “Football pundits will tell you that it’s all won and lost up front. That is going to be especially true for us.
“We’re never going to hide the fact that that’s where we’re going to hang our hat – the O- and D-line.”
The lack of experienced runners behind them does not change the job, according to Jason Anderson.
“We know what we’ve got to do to get the job done,” he said. “We just pave the way up front for the backs. It doesn’t really matter how old they are.”
Anderson spent some time at center as a sophomore, but otherwise has been at guard. He went from nose guard as a sophomore to defensive tackle as a junior and now to defensive end.
Farrell is trying to prepare for a transition of his own. The 6-foot-1 1/2, 264-pounder is receiving attention from both levels of Division I college programs.
“Michael Farrell is as good as there is out there,” coach Mannello said. “ .. That evaluation is still going on. The first part of the season, all that film is going to go out so that’s going to be a big thing for him.
“He’s done a great job of balancing that whole part with what he does for Dallas High School football. That can be hard on a kid and he’s done a tremendous job with it.”
Farrell said an older team leader helped show him the way as he was breaking into high school football and let him know a college career was possible.
“It kind of occurred to me young because Ryan Monk kind of took me under his wing when I was a freshman playing varsity,” Farrell said. “Ever since then, he pushed me to get to that next level.”
Farrell knows that progress as a linemen often starts in the weightroom. He said the Mountaineers push each other there.
“Just the overall intensity in the weightroom the past year and a half has been incredible,” he said. “Every day, it’s awesome to look around and see everybody that fired up and ready to go.”
Jimmy Powell is one example. He has built himself into a likely starter at defensive end while Mannello finalizes what position he is likely to help the team most on offense.
Dalton Simpson is ready to take over at center.
Ron Ostrowski returns at kicker and was also a part-time starter at linebacker.
Chris Murray and David Schuster are likely to join Ostrowski at linebacker. Murray could also be a factor at tight end and Schuster at running back.
Among the others fighting for significant playing time are tight end Christian Sypniewski, running back Justin Hutchins and fullback Carl Markowski.
Dallas will compete in the Class 4A division of the Wyoming Valley Conference and District 2 after realignment of the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association into six classifications for football.
The Mountaineers open the regular season at home with Coughlin Friday night and close it at Lake-Lehman.
Aug. 26, Coughlin
Sept. 2, Berwick
Sept. 9, at Pittston Area
Sept. 17, at Scranton Prep
Sept. 23, Wyoming Valley West
Sept. 30, Meyers
Oct. 7, at Wallenpaupack
Oct. 14, Wyoming Area
Oct. 21, at Hazleton Area
Oct. 28, at Lake-Lehman