DALLAS TWP. — He stood on a make-shift platform around the 50-yard line with the Most Valuable Player trophy gripped tightly in his hands.
With his Dallas teammates chanting MVP, sophomore quarterback Michael Starbuck let out a small grin, and followed it up by patting the shoulder pads of his offensive linemen.
Those boys in the trenches physically dominated Lake-Lehman as Dallas steadily built upon its lead as the Mountaineers rolled to a 37-6 victory Friday in the Battle for the Old Shoe.
Starbuck, voted as the game’s MVP, finished with almost 200 yards of total offense and three touchdowns — passing scores to Chris Murray and Luke DelGaudio, and a third-quarter 37-yard rushing TD.
“The offense was working, and the defense was really amazing,” Starbuck said. “Our offensive line was great all game. Those holes for Lenny (Kelley) and Danny (Meuser) were pretty big. This is such a great win for all of us.”
Really, the game belonged to the boys in the trenches. The offensive line — Matt Ferrara, Dalton Simpson, James Hunter, Michael Andersen and Taylor Bolesta — opened up massive holes for backs Kelley and Meuser to run through.
Kelley finished with 104 yards and two scores, while Meuser clawed his way to 54 yards on 11 rushes. As a team, the Mountaineers amassed almost 400 yards — more than 250 of those on the ground.
“We wanted to control the line of scrimmage and use the weight room to our advantage,” Andersen said. “We came into the game, knowing that we can do that. We just wanted to keep it at the highest level possible and come into every game ready. This win was for the seniors.”
And it was all the boys in blue from start to finish as Starbuck capped off a three-play series on the team’s second possession of the opening quarter by finding Murray down the middle of the field for a 49-yard score and an early, 7-0 lead.
Dallas gave itself all the cushion it needed in the second, scoring on all three of its offensive possessions — a 40-yard Kelley score following a Lehman fumble, another Starbuck passing TD, this one to Luke DelGaudio, and a 31-yard Nate Maransky field goal.
“These guys all stepped up,” Dallas head coach Rich Mannello said. “It’s Year No. 3 in the weight room, and these kids have bought into it. They have totally bought into that part of the process, and they understand how important it is. We are going to do those squats and we are going to power-clean.”
While Dallas’ offense was rolling in the first half, Lehman’s rushing attack couldn’t get moving.
The Black Knights had five possessions in the opening 24 minutes. Two of them went three-and-out. Another resulted in a fumble. And the fourth was stopped by the halftime whistle after three plays.
Lehman (6-4) was held to just four first downs in the opening half and 57 total yards.
“A year ago at this time, we only had one win,” Mannello said. “We just build on each week. We really just gauge ourselves on ourselves. Every day is the same, and we will prepare for another week. But until we find out who we play next week, we are going to hold onto this one for a little bit.”
Dallas increased the lead to 30-0 with 1:08 left in the third quarter as Starbuck capped off a short, four-play, 46-yard drive with a 37-yard keeper off the left side. And Kelley’s second touchdown of the night with 10:03 left pushed the game into the mercy rule.
Lehman picked up 80 of its 137 yards on its final drive of the fourth quarter, a 13-play series that resulted in a short 1-yard run by Chris Kaminski.
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