DALLAS – Change has arrived at Dallas.
And it's not just those new white helmets and logos.
For the first time in 27 seasons, the Mountaineers will be led by a new head coach. Bob Zaruta takes over for Ted Jackson, whose extremely successful stint was punctuated at times with controversy.
Even the entire process where Jackson supporters packed school board meetings had its tumultuous moments.
"The players have gone through something most other teams won't go through, and that's an entirely new staff," Zaurta said. "That's some adversity with change right from the get-to. But we're pleased. They've responded to me as a head coach and us as a staff and we're excited about that."
Dallas advanced to the District 2 Class 3A title game last season and has the talent to make a similar run.
Ryan Zapoticky performed as expected in his first year as a starter, throwing for 19 TDs and 1,378 yards to earn Times Leader All-WVC honors as a junior. He'll have one of his favorite targets back, 6-foot-4 wideout Jason Simonovich. Simonovich caught 24 passes for 433 yards and five touchdowns.
After those two, the skill positions get a little dicey.
Senior receiver Kyle Zumchak, sophomore receiver Darik Johnson and junior tight end Mark Michno have some big shoes to fill to keep the passing game intact. Same goes for the running game, which will be in the hands of Kris Roccograni and Bill Gately. Matching last year's 370 yards per game and 46 touchdowns during the 2001 regular season will be a difficult task.
"We have to build that running game," Zaruta said.
The solace is there are talented veterans on the offensive line starting with returning bookend tackles Ryan Monk and Buddy Shutlock. Logan Bullock is back as a guard. Nate Vario will be the other guard. The center spot was up in the air during the preseason after two-time All-WVC selection F.J. Constantino graduated.
"We feel our strength is up front," Zaruta said. "We have four guys who are very important to our run game as well as our pass protection. That will help overcome some of the newness in the backfield."
This unit, because of the departure of so much talent, will be hard pressed to match its achievements of 2011. Only one opponent scored more than 20 points. Four were held to a single score.
Bullock, Monk and Shutlock will once again anchor the front. Roccograndi, Logan Brace, Zach Macosky and Mike Mihal bring some experience to the linebacking corps.
Zumchak, Ryan Kozloski and John Murray are all seniors, but didn't log much time in the secondary in 2011 because of the talented upperclassmen ahead of them.
The extremely successful – and at times controversial – end of Ted Jackson's 27 years as head coach bring a new era to Dallas football. That along with patching up some big voids by graduation will put pressure on Zaruta and his staff to maintain the Mountaineers among the WVC elite.
The schedule is also brutal, with no letup anywhere in sight.
So it's imperative for everyone to get on the same page quickly to keep Dallas on the perch with the other top teams in Class 3A of District 2.