Around this time a week ago, Dallastown coach Kevin Myers felt a bit unsure about his team heading into the season opener vs. Lancaster Catholic.
Of course, there were concerns about how the Wildcats were going to replace departed skill players Andrew Henry, Robert Catchings and Malik Lewis, a trio that led Dallastown to the District 3-AAAA semifinals last fall.
But Myers, now in his 10th season as head coach and 18th overall as a coach in general, wasn't worried about that. He knew who the players were who would be able to step in and move the program forward. What he didn't know, though, was if this calm group would flip a switch and turn on their aggressive side come Friday.
"I had no idea what to expect. I knew we had talent. I knew we had quickness. Are these guys gonna show up? Are they gonna go out there and rock and roll?" Myers said. "I had no read on this team."
Then the Wildcats made their debut on Dallastown's new turf field by dismantling a respectable Lancaster Catholic program,35-14.
"I don't want to jinx it, but for the opening game it's probably the best opening game we've played since I've been here," Myers said. "Not that we didn't make mistakes, but just looking at all three phases of the game — offense, defense, special teams, we had glitches, we had hiccups — but watching film we attacked the ball."
When the game ended, though, his players returned to their business-as-usual approach.
"Even after that win you wouldn't have known they won," Myers said. "Not that they weren't happy and stuff. Our student section rushed the field, whatever. I pulled them in and they were looking around like 'I'll see you Monday, coach.' I've never coached a group like this. Ever."
Perhaps Dallastown has now reached a point where lopsided wins over good teams are no longer a surprise but an expectation. Lingering around .500 each season is no longer acceptable following an 11-win campaign in 2010 and 10-win campaign in 2013. Either way, the Wildcats appear to have set their bar high this fall, which makes this Friday's trip to cross-division opponent West York all the more intriguing.
As most know by now, the traditionally strong Bulldogs are considered the team to beat in York-Adams Division II this fall and are expected to again do damage in district competition come November. A win here by Dallastown would put the Wildcats at the front of the line of contenders in a wide-open Division I race.
Matchup: Both teams present challenges. West York went for 332 rushing yards in its Week 1 win, 41-20 at Central York, with quarterback Ross Campbell accounting for 101 of those yards. But Campbell, who totaled 1,070 passing yards last fall, can also toss the rock, if needed.
"We definitely want to stop the run first, but we're aware they take the ball deep," Myers said. "We have to not only get pressure on the quarterback but we have to contain. That makes it a little harder when you have a quarterback you have to contain. You can't let him open up and run and get yards as your guys are dropping in coverage."
Dallastown will counter with a defense featuring end Kris Phennicie (6-foot, 1-inches tall, 200-pounds), tackles Tray Noye (6-2, 200) Justin Tindull (6-4, 245) and Zaire Willis (6-5, 340), two returning defensive backs and speedy linebackers, including Dez Jones, who recovered three of Dallastown's four forced fumbles last Friday.
"Last year that was a huge issue for us, is getting pressure on the quarterback," Myers said. "Last year it would be one guy but this year it's all four guys up front who can collapse the pocket."
Most of those linemen mentioned above also start on offense, steering the way for a Dallastown ground game that put up 234 rushing yards a week ago. First-year starting quarterback Cade Gold, a junior, went for a team-high 117 yards.
Gold's comments on his plan of attack vs. West York goes along with the simple, get-it-done approach Myers has felt from this group of Dallastown players.
"We just have to be prepared. I don't know what else to say really," Gold said. "We work hard at practice. We hope to come at 'em and smack 'em in the mouth early and get up and continue with that lead and don't let off."
— Reach John Walk at firstname.lastname@example.org.