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Dallas edges Valley View on late touchdown run

Written by: on Saturday, November 18th, 2023. Follow Mitch Rupert on Twitter.


DALLAS — Needing a touchdown like a fish needs water, Dallas coach Rich Mannello didn’t go to any new wrinkles with his offense. He went to his tried and true way of winning football games.

He dotted the Mountaineers’ I-formation backfield with bulldozing running back Dylan Geskey and just had him run right at the Valley View defense. No matter how much Mannello’s offense has evolved since the last time Dallas won a District 2 championship, at his heart, he’s still a smashmouth football kind of guy.

And trailing the defending district champ Cougars in the fourth quarter, Mannello went to Geskey and his bread-and-butter offense. Geskey ran through the Valley View defense, scoring from 3 yards out with 4 minutes, 42 seconds left in Friday’s District 2 Class AAAA final to hand the Mountaineers its first district title in 4 years, 21-18, over Valley View.

The Mountaineers avenged a loss to the Cougars in last year’s title game, and overcame a game where it faced more adversity than it has seen in more than 10 weeks. Geskey ran for a game-high 94 yards and three touchdowns, and Gavin Lewis came down with a game-clinching interception to send Dallas to next week’s PIAA quarterfinals. The Mountaineers will host the winner of Saturday’s game between Pope John Paul II and Bonner-Prendie.

“I’m going to be an I-formation guy until they put me in the box,” Mannello said. “I love off-tackle football.”

Dallas established a physical style of play early in Friday’s district title game, running right at a Valley View defense with a punishing push from an undersized offensive line, and a tempo which left the Cougars little time to recoup from body blow after body blow. And when Valley View took its first lead on the penultimate play of the third quarter, Mannello and the Dallas offense got back to that physicality and tempo.

He trusted his offensive line to create space. He trusted Geskey to find that space. And it led to a go-ahead touchdown which put the Mountaineers back in the state tournament for the first time since 2019 when they advanced to the state final.

“We knew they were going to be pumped up, but we wanted it more,” Dallas center Dan Sabulski said. “We came out and punched them in the mouth. I think that set the tone and got us those early touchdowns and ultimately was what won us the game.”

Dallas opened the game with a 10-play, 74-yard drive which was capped by a Geskey 2-yard scoring run. A sensational 29-yard catch from Lucas Tirpak set up the touchdown run, and the Mountaineers ran six time for 39 yards on the drive to take a 7-0 lead.

Dallas scored its second touchdown on a seven-play, 79-yard drive with Geskey scoring his second touchdown less than a minute into the second quarter.

“They surprised me a little bit with their aggressiveness,” Valley View coach Scot Wasilchak said. “I thought we were a physical football team and they took it to us a little bit.”

The only thing that kept Dallas from making it a lopsided game early on was an inconceivable two-play stretch which saw The Valley View defense stonewall Dallas from the 1-yard line on fourth down and then turn that stop into a 99-yard touchdown pass from Dominic Memo to Kyle Rupp on the very next play.

But Valley View missed the PAT on that touchdown and chased down that missed point the rest of the game. Ultimately, the Cougars’ three missed conversions made the difference in the score.

“When they started taking it to us like they did, we had to have something to ignite us and I think that did it,” Wasilchak said of the stop and long touchdown pass. “They took it to us a little bit early, and by the time we got up to their speed, we had to play catchup all night.”

Dallas ran up 202 yards of offense in the first quarter as it set the tone for the football game. But that’s when the Valley View defense settled in and the Mountaineers were plagued by bad field position and consequential penalties. Dallas had just 8 yards of offense in the second quarter and just 16 more in the third quarter.

That defensive shift allowed Valley View the opportunity to work itself back into the game. Memo hit Chris Savkov to set up Preston Reed’s 2-yard touchdown run to get the Cougars within 14-12. And they took the lead in the third quarter when 22-yard pass to Nick Kucharski set up Memo’s 1-yard quarterback sneak to give Valley View its first lead, 18-14, with just 2 seconds left in the third quarter.

Memo completed 12 of 24 passes for 215 yards Friday, the most passing yards for a Cougars offense since they threw for 192 yards against Western Wayne on Oct. 21, 2016. Memo’s completions and attempts were both season-highs for the Cougars’ offense.

“Dom’s a seasoned vet,” Wasilchak said. “He’s been here before. We know we can count on him to make big throws.”

But after Dallas took the lead on Geskey’s third touchdown run, Valley View couldn’t get deep into Dallas territory to tie the game or take the lead, not even after a post-play unsportsmanlike conduct penalty turned a third-and-16 into a third-and-1 which the Cougars capitalized on.

And that’s because Memo’s final pass of the night was an underthrown deep ball down the right sideline which hit Lewis directly in the chest for a game-clinching interception.

Dallas will carry an undefeated, 13-0 record into next week’s state tournament opener, which it will host.

“Our last district title was in 2019 and that came after a 20-year gap. That’s how hard it is to win this,” Mannello said. “To win two district titles in four years is an incredible feat, and it really means something. And now that record really means something. Now we can be excited about the undefeated record. Without this, it’s just a good season. Now it’s something they can all tell their grandkids about.”

Dallas 21, Valley View 18

Valley View 6 6 6 0 – 18
Dallas 7 7 0 7 – 21

First quarter
D—Dylan Geskey 2 run (Rowan Laubach kick), 8:58
VV—Kyle Rupp 99 pass from Dominic Memo (kick failed), 1:31

Second quarter
D—Geskey 2 run (Laubach kick), 11:03
VV—Preston Reed 2 run (pass failed), 2:37

Third quarter
VV—Memo 1 run (pass failed), :02

Fourth quarter
D—Geskey 3 run (Laubach kick), 4:42

VV Dal
First downs 15 14
Rushes-yds 37-92 43-158
Com-att-int 12-26-2 6-16-0
Pass yards 215 133
Total yards 307 291
Fumbles-lost 1-0 1-1
Penalties-yards 6-53 9-95

Rushing—Valley View,
Preston Reed, 9-35, TD; Nick Kucharski, 10-27; Cam Higgins, 8-18; Dominic Memo, 10-12, TD. Dallas, Dylan Geskey, 24-94, 3 TDs; Brady Zapoticky, 11-33; Zach Paczewski, 4-29; Nate Malarkey, 1-5; Team, 3-(-3).

Passing—Valley View, Dominic Memo, 12-24-2, 215 yds., TD; Nick Kucharski, 0-1-0; Team, 0-1-0. Dallas, Brady Zapoticky, 6-16-0, 133 yds.

Receiving—Valley View, Preston Reed, 4-28; Kyle Rupp, 3-115, TD; Nick Kucharski, 3-39; Chris Savkov, 2-33. Dallas, Zach Paczewski, 3-58; Lucas Tirpak, 1-29; Nick Farrell, 1-25; Gavin Lewis, 1-21.

INTERCEPTIONS—Dallas, Paczewski, Lewis.
RECORDS: Dallas (13-0); Valley View (10-3).

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