DALLASTOWN — Football is a complex game.
The 22 players on the field, the several coaches calling plays and the five referees officiating all combine for organized chaos — also known as football.
Dallastown’s game against Northeastern Friday night, however, wasn’t a normal football game.
It was simple.
Dallastown has Nyzair Smith, and Northeastern doesn’t.
Smith ran all over the Bobcats, totaling 321 yards and four touchdowns on 34 carries in the Wildcats’ 41-25 win.
“It’s not a hard game. Just give it to your best player and get him going,” said Dallastown head coach Ron Miller. “…Our offense is built around him. He’s one of the best players in the state of Pennsylvania, so we’re going to run him.”
Smith’s four touchdowns came from 1, 5, 47 and 53 yards out. The senior was unstoppable in the open field, breaking multiple tackles on his two longer touchdown runs and winning almost every one-v-one in space.
“I want to be patient and wait for the holes to open up and then explode. That’s the type of back I am,” Smith said. “The offensive line did a great job tonight. The holes kept opening up.”
Miller has coached football for 24 years, and he said Smith is one of the most talented runners he’s ever coached.
“He is right up there near the top,” Miller said. “He’s a very special player.”
Back-and-forth first half: The first half was a back-and-forth shootout, and Northeastern (2-3 overall, 1-1 in Division I play) struck first. After both offenses punted to start the game, the Bobcats gashed the Dallastown defense with a 68-yard touchdown pass from Zech Sanderson to running back Jordan Lagana, who was left wide open after his motion out of the backfield and ran untouched for the score.
Dallastown (3-2, 2-0) responded quickly by simply giving the ball to Smith in its fast-paced, no-huddle offense until he scored to tie the game at 7-7. The 5-foot-10-inch, 187-pound back ran for 4 and 7 yards on the first two plays of the drive before breaking free — and shedding three Northeastern defenders — for the 53-yard score.
“It’s new, but we adjusted to it throughout the summer,” said Smith about the no-huddle offense. “We did a lot of conditioning, and it’s been paying off throughout the season.”
Northeastern was forced to punt on its next drive, but a roughing the kicker penalty — one of several mistakes by Dallastown’s special teams unit — sustained the drive for the Bobcats. Sanderson, who was 9 of 15 passing for 186 yards and three touchdowns in the game, took advantage of the error, connecting with Kaden Hamilton for a 37-yard passing score to give Northeastern a 13-7 lead – the team’s last lead of the game.
Cook gives Smith a scoring break: Dallastown scored again early in the second quarter to take a slim 14-13 lead. Senior quarterback Jordan Cook ran for 27 yards and passed for 22 on the drive, capping it off with a 2-yard QB sneak.
The Wildcats gained possession shortly after a Northeastern ball carrier fumble was recovered by Matthew Asobayire.
Smith ran for 38 yards on the first four plays of the drive, which opened the 11-yard bootleg scramble for Cook into the end zone. The score gave the Wildcats a 20-13 lead.
“When they’re just keying on me, (Jordan) does a great job of being a playmaker in the open field,” Smith said.
Bobcats answer back: Northeastern didn’t take long to respond, though, as Troy Conway took the ensuing kickoff 96 yards for the score to put the Bobcats down 20-19 after another missed extra point.
Smith’s second touchdown of the game came on the Wildcats’ next drive. He carried the ball on five of the six plays on the drive, totaling 43 yards and finishing it off with a 5-yard score.
Dallastown had another chance to score with 1:22 left in the first half, but Cook’s downfield pass was intercepted by Dashon Brown and returned about 30 yards to Dallastown’s 12-yard line.
Sanderson found Hamilton in the end zone on the first play of the drive for the 12-yard score. The Bobcats failed the two-point conversion attempt and trailed 27-25 entering halftime.
Dallastown’s defense finishes strong: While the first half was a shootout, the second half was dominated by Dallastown’s defense.
The Wildcats allowed only 58 yards of total offense in the second half, forcing three turnovers (two fumbles and one interception) while sacking Sanderson three times. Dallastown finished the game with five sacks and four total turnovers.
“We didn’t tackle well in the first half at all,” Miller said. “We had an animated conversation at halftime, and we got the results we were looking for (in the second half).”
Both teams punted to start the half, but Dallastown’s return man fumbled the punt, allowing the Bobcats to take over across midfield with the chance to take the lead. A mishandled snap by Sanderson, recovered again by Asobayire, gave the ball back to the Wildcats.
“(Asobayire) is tough and explosive, and he gets around the football a lot,” Miller said. “We haven’t been doing a great job of getting turnovers, but we did that tonight.”
Smith broke four tackles two plays later for a 47-yard score to put the Wildcats up nine points.
Sanderson and Hamilton connected in the red zone on Northeastern’s next drive, but Hamilton fumbled after the catch to end the scoring threat.
Dallastown went up 41-25 early in the fourth quarter on a 1-yard plunge by Smith, his fourth and final touchdown of the game.
Look ahead: Dallastown is tied with York High and Red Lion atop the Division I standings. The Wildcats travel to York High next week to take on the undefeated Bearcats.
“We have to give it our all,” Smith said. “We can’t have the mistakes we had this week like giving up kickoff returns. We have to convert off their mistakes and not give them free plays. They’re an explosive team, but we’re explosive too.”
Northeastern 13 12 0 0 — 25
Dallastown 7 20 7 7 — 41
Northeastern: Jordan Lagana 68-yard pass from Zech Sanderson (Alexa Afata kick), 6:42 (N 7, D 0)
Northeastern: Kaden Hamilton 37-yard pass from Sanderson (kick missed), 2:27 (N 13, D 7)
Northeastern: Troy Conway 96-yard kickoff return (kick missed), 3:59 (D 20, N 19)
Northeastern: Hamilton 12-yard pass from Sanderson (Sanderson 2-pt attempt failed), 0:39 (D 27, N 25)
Total offense: 270 yards
Sacks: 1 for 7 yards
Total offense: 452 yards
Sacks: 5 for 20 yards
Zech Sanderson: 9-15 passing, 186 yards, 3 TDs; 8 carries, -15 yards (sacked four times for -17 yards)
Manny Capo: 20 carries, 82 yards, fumble; 1 reception, 7 yards
Jordan Lagana: 2 carries, 4 yards; 3 receptions, 91 yards, TD
Kaden Hamilton: 4 receptions, 72 yards, 2 TDs, fumble; 1 carry, 3 yards
Robby Elzinga: 2 receptions, 20 yards
Nathan Toomey: 2-5 passing, 13 yards, INT; 1 carry, -3 yards (sacked once for -3 yards)
Cawon Chatman: 1 reception, 9 yards
Jordan Cook: 5-11 passing, 53 yards, INT; 12 carries, 63 yards (sacked once for -7 yards), 2 TDs
Nyzair Smith: 34 carries, 321 yards, 4 TDs
Daron Brown: 4 carries, 1 yard
Isaiah Harrison: 2 receptions, 30 yards
AJ McDaniel: 1 reception, 9 yards
David Geppi: 1 reception, 5 yards
Malik Key: 3 carries, 14 yards; INT
Cashiss Day: 1 reception, 9 yards
Reach Jacob Calvin Meyer at firstname.lastname@example.org