The boundaries for Dallas and Wyoming Area meet, yet the two schools haven’t really established a neighborhood rivalry.
Perhaps because there’s a good amount of wilderness between the two. Perhaps because Dallas is too preoccupied with Back Mountain rival Lake-Lehman. Likewise, Wyoming Area just needs to look across the Susquehanna River to see its most-disliked foe, Pittston Area.
Those factors, though, haven’t prevented some memorable games. The two will meet for the 41st time on Friday when Dallas (5-2) heads to Wyoming Area (3-4) for a Wyoming Valley Conference Division 4A game — and carries with it District 2 Class 4A playoff implications. Kickoff is 7 p.m.
One memorable game was in 1995 at Dallas. The Mountaineers didn’t have lights or turf, and heavy rains moved the game from Saturday afternoon to Monday afternoon. Seemed like plenty of people called in sick to work as the stadium was packed for Wyoming Area’s 14-6 victory. In 1999, Wyoming Area led 14-0 after one quarter. Dallas led 21-14 at halftime. Final score — Dallas 21-20.
But last year’s District 2 Class 4A quarterfinal was perhaps the best. A two-win Dallas team nearly knocked off the top-seeded Warriors, who stopped a two-point conversion try with 19.6 seconds left to hang on for a 13-12 win. Just two weeks earlier, Wyoming Area trampled Dallas 42-10.
“It’s tough to play a good team twice,” Wyoming Area coach Randy Spencer said of the swing in the victory margin in three weeks. “Even though Dallas had the record they had, in the first game there were some splash plays that led us to being in a situation to finish the game with that outcome.
“In the second game, we came out and didn’t get those splash plays. It was more of a reflection of the type of team Dallas was. It was a very competitive game.”
Dallas coach Rich Mannello pointed to the playoff game as a watershed moment for his team. Freshman running back Lenny Kelley ran for 128 yards in that game, and was the main cog in the Mountaineers running attack this season until being sidelined with an injury. That allowed fellow sophomore Danny Meuser to get some carries. Now the duo forms one of the more formidable one-two punches in the WVC.
Sophomore Mike Starbuck started the playoff game as a freshman and has progressed. Junior defensive back Christian Motley has four interceptions for a defense that has picked off at least two passes in five of seven games.
While Dallas will have plenty of guys back from last year’s game, Wyoming Area is the opposite. Aside from big-play receiver Marc Minichello, the skill crew consists of newcomers. Senior P.J. Angeli was supposed to return at quarterback, but a knee injury in a season-opening win against Wallenpaupack put him on the shelf the rest of the year.
Sophomore quarterback Dominic DeLuca stepped in and has thrown for 836 yards and 11 touchdowns with just two interceptions. Minichello has 31 catches, but recently other receivers like Robbie Trottini, Shane Eslick, Brian Williams and Steve Yordy have been more involved. The running game, though, hasn’t functioned well against better defenses.
“We knew we had a young, in terms of experience, group up front that we’ve been working with throughout the year,” Spencer said. “To see us to get consistency and be productive the last two weeks from a playmaking standpoint was good to see heading to the stretch here.”
The stretch includes two more home games with Williamsport (5-2) and Pittston Area (3-4). One more win would cement a spot in the D2-4A playoffs where eight of 11 teams qualify. The Warriors might be able to get in with just three wins. After all, Dallas made it with two and Crestwood with three in 2016.
A playoff home game, though, looks unlikely for Wyoming Area. Not so for Dallas, which is second in the D2-4A standings. It’s doubtful, though, the Mountaineers will leap over Berwick for the top position.