Dallastown out to prove it's still Division I contender
Most programs in the York-Adams League would rebuild after graduating nine all-stars from the previous year. But, due to depth, experience and leadership, Dallastown reloads.
- Dallastown graduated nine Y-A League All-Stars from 2015.
- The Wildcats are searching for their fourth straight nine-win season and third straight Division I crown.
- Dallastown opened up the 2016 season with a 17-13 win over Hempfield, a playoff team in 2015.
Dallastown head football coach Kevin Myers wasn't pleased with how his team performed in its two preseason scrimmages.
Knowing that the Wildcats had a lot of holes to fill from 2015, the scrimmage struggles provided some uneasiness heading into last Friday night's Week 1 contest against Hempfield. Facing a Black Knights squad that was a District 3 4-A playoff team a year ago, Myers knew he didn't have that one playmaker, as he did in years past that would lead his team through adversity. After falling behind in the second quarter vs. Hempfield, Dallastown was provided with its first challenge.
What Myers got in that moment was an answer to his still unresolved question. He didn't have one player step up to lead the Wildcats back to their 17-13 victory. What he got, instead, was a complete team effort that could ultimately be the defining trait for this year's team.
"We played as a team," Myers said about Friday night's win. "After our two scrimmages, we really sat down and talked to the guys and one of our big things was we had too many individual efforts out there and we really honed in on playing as a team."
With nine York-Adams League All-Stars lost to graduation from last year's 9-2 team, including Division I Player of the Year Jake Jansen and quarterback Cade Gold, a step back seemed inevitable for Dallastown. After three consecutive nine-win seasons, a fourth nine-win campaign didn't look like a possibility for the 2016 Wildcats. Instead, a rebuild of sorts seemed in store, with graduation finally catching up to Myers' program.
And yet, after one week of action, Dallastown already has a signature win under its belt. Sure, last Friday may have just been the first of at least 10, but if recent Dallastown teams demonstrated anything, it's that no matter who or how much was lost, the Wildcats can never be written off.
So how has Dallastown constantly churned out winners? It all starts before the varsity level.
Developing depth: The Wildcats utilize their junior varsity program as a feeder system to the varsity ranks. It isn't something that is looked down upon just because it's not varsity football. At Dallastown, playing JV is an opportunity to get in-practice and in-game reps under the same systems that the players will see once they do take the step up to varsity.
"We put a lot of time and effort into our JV players," Myers said. "If you go and look at our JV games and see how we practice, everyone's involved. There's no standing around. I can't stand looking and seeing players stand around, so we're always active, we're always involved."
That helps make the transition from JV to varsity much smoother for the Wildcats. It's also a primary reason why losing nine all-stars to graduation doesn't impact them nearly as much as it would other teams. Every year, Dallastown has a crop of seniors who take on huge responsibilities within the team, but following behind them are juniors and some sophomores who are also seeing valuable reps, meaning that when the year ends, it's their time to step up.
Last year, as a dual-threat quarterback, Gold led the team in rushing. However, right behind him in rushing for the Wildcats were Dillon Callahan and Zion DeVane, who were both juniors in 2015. Together, they'll be expected to pick up much of the workload in the running game this season, along with fellow senior Rodney Scott. The three-headed rushing attack garnered 186 yards last Friday and should only become more dangerous as the season progresses.
Senior leadership: Dallastown, as a 6-A school, has more depth than most local programs. There's also a year-round commitment that the players have to the team. Myers said he routinely has 30-40 kids taking part in offseason workouts on an annual basis, and senior center Ben Ferree echoed that sentiment. He also went further, complimenting the leadership that the seniors take on from a year-to-year basis, a responsibility that the underclassmen anxiously await for their own senior campaigns.
"We always have guys here all through the winter lifting," Ferree said. "And then in the spring and summer, everybody's working hard on the field just to get better and just good leadership. ... Since I played last year, to make sure that we continued our success and just to show some of the young guys what it's like at the varsity level so when they're seniors, they can continue what we started."
Most teams and coaches can point to a year or two when they know they'll have all the pieces in place to really do something special. Usually, those teams are comprised of mostly seniors who have been playing together for years. But, after that, a rebuild might be in order.
Not with the Wildcats.
After graduating nine Y-A League All-Stars from 2015, Dallastown wasn't using this season as a rebuild for the future. It has simply reloaded for a possible third Division I title run in 2016.
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at firstname.lastname@example.org