DALLAS TWP. — Two times, Wallenpaupack had its golden chance to steal a victory.
Both times, Dallas players were up for the challenge.
Matt Maransky blocked what would have been the go-ahead 29-yard field goal in the fourth quarter, and Dylan Schuster broke up a fourth-down pass in the red zone with less than two minutes left as Dallas rallied for a 21-20 victory over the Buckhorns Friday night at Mountaineer Stadium.
Dallas’ defense held ‘Paupack scoreless in the final 24 minutes as the Mountaineers got third-quarter scores from Bradley Adams and Lenny Kelley to rally back from a 20-7 halftime deficit.
“I kind of re-routed him and saw the ball go up in the air. I knew that if he caught it, I had to make the tackle and get the ball away from him,” Schuster said. “We knew that Wallenpaupack had a good team, but the coaches really got our confidence up at halftime. We did a better job of making tackles in that second half.”
Really, it was about defense and special teams.
Twice, the Mountaineers’ defense found itself in a predicament with Wallenpaupack on the Dallas’ side of the field in the fourth quarter — and fought off scores both times.
Like it’s done all season, the boys in blue stepped up on that side of the ball — holding the Buckhorns to less than 200 yards of offense, intercepting three passes and jumping on a fumble on ‘Paupack’s first offensive possession of the third quarter.
“Our defense was tremendous in the second half,” Dallas head coach Rich Mannello said. “Wallenpaupack came off the bus ready to play. Across the board, it was everyone. Our kids really bought in on special teams. We spend a lot of time on it, and it changed the game tonight. We’ll enjoy this for an hour and get ready for the next one because that’s what football demands.”
Wallenpaupack (3-4) had all the momentum. Joe Ingulli picked off Dallas quarterback Michael Starbuck and took it back 40 yards just two minutes into the contest. One quarter later with Dallas driving, cornerback Adam Haupt jumped in front of a Starbuck toss and ran 69 yards untouched down the right sideline for the second pick-six of the game.
The difference? Dallas (5-2) was able to block one of the extra-point attempts, leaving the Buckhorns up just 13 at the break.
“Dallas made some play. We just didn’t execute the way we were supposed to. Hats off to them because they played a good game in the second half, and we didn’t,” Wallenpaupack head coach Mark Watson said. “And that allowed them to come away with a win. That’s how it works. They were just better than us in the second half. I don’t know if we were too confident at halftime, but we just didn’t play the same way as we did to start the game.”
Dallas’ defense created its first big break on ‘Paupack’s first series of the second half as Michael Anderson jumped on a loose ball, giving the Mountaineers great field position on the Buckhorn 31. The Back Mountain boys needed just eight plays as Starbuck found Bradley Adams on an 8-yard hitch to cap off the scoring drive.
The Mountaineers took the lead on its next possession as Lenny Kelley rumbled in from 6-yard away, giving Dallas the 21-20 lead with 3:40 left in the third.
Kelley and teammate Danny Meuser combined for 177 yards on 31 carries.