It was supposed to be a struggle to start the season for the Dallas High School football team.
The Dragons started the season with a roster depleted due to transfers and three of the team’s starters being out with injuries.
Yet following Friday’s 20-13 Mid-Willamette Conference opening win against perennial state power Silverton, Dallas is 3-0 to start the season – the team’s best start since 2007 – and has risen to No. 1 status in the OSAA’s power rankings.
It’s a lofty perch on which Dallas hasn’t resided in a long time.
“We have hopes, we have aspirations, that’s for sure,” fifth-year Dallas coach Tracy Jackson said. “And it’s a nice place to be right now. I hope that we can maintain that level of play.”
Friday’s game was the first time a Jackson coached team had defeated Silverton, his alma mater, since his 1993 Woodburn team defeated the Foxes.
“It’s kind of one of those things that can grind at you,” Jackson said. “But really the fact is that they’ve played at a high level.
“The fact that we played at a high level against a team that’s playing at high level is the best thing for us. I think our kids matched their physical play snap for snap. That’s what we work for.”
Senior running back Tanner Earhart has been a force out of the single-wing offense this season.
He rushed for 426 yards and seven touchdowns in a 63-25 win against North Eugene Sept. 10.
Despite playing nearly every down at middle linebacker on defense, Earhart rushed for 155 yards and two touchdowns against Silverton.
Dallas had Silverton at fourth and eight in the final minutes and while the Foxes were serious during their timeout, Dallas’ players were enjoying themselves.
“Tanner Earhart, he’s a man of very few words but plenty of action, he was standing behind the group laughing out loud,” Jackson said. “Instead of being afraid, our kids encouraged each other.
“I think that’s the kind of stuff that gets you through. They’ve made it easier on each other because they take care of each other.”
There is some good news on the injury front for Dallas as the team gets back senior tight end Zach Wallace this week.
But senior lineman Justin Ingram and junior running back Treve Earhart aren’t expected back until the middle of October.
There have been a lot of new faces filling in roles and made an impact against Silverton.
Senior cornerback Jason Richey had the unenviable task of covering Silverton’s star receiver, Spencer Clements, and limited him to three receptions.
Senior guard Tim Hensley broke his hand on the fifth play of the game, but played through the rest of the game.
And senior nose guard Josh Wilden recorded the game-clinching sack of Silverton sophomore quarterback Levi Nielsen in the final minute.
Dallas next hosts 6A Glencoe (1-2 overall) in a non-league game at 7 p.m. Friday then plays at Mid-Willamette power Central (1-2) at 7 p.m. Sept. 30.
Not that things get easier for Dallas after that with league games against ranked teams Crescent Valley and Lebanon still ahead in league play.
“We tell the kids this: don’t be looking too far in the future,” said Jackson, in his 27th season as a head coach. “Experience has told me that’s something that could happen if you don’t attend to this.
“Enjoy the good things we get. Work through the tough stuff we get.”
Central senior Marlon Tuipulotu has been selected to play in the Polynesian Bowl to be held Jan. 21, 2017 at Aloha Stadium in Hawaii.
The team captains will be Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota and Ravens tackle Ronnie Stanley.
Tuipulotu previously had been selected to play in the Jan. 7 U.S. All-American Game at the Alamodome in San Antonio.
Dallas High School was fined $500 at the OSAA’s Executive Board meeting Sept. 12.
The school’s girls soccer coach worked with more than two students for 1.5 hours on two Saturdays. The coach, who wasn’t named, was suspended through the first contest of the 2016 season.
Dallas’ head girls soccer coach, Kirk Myrold was arrested Sept. 12 on charges of luring a minor and second-degree sexual abuse involving a 17-year-old student.
Also at the meeting Salem Academy was fined a total of $1,000 for violations of its football team by violating the three hour single practice session rule and for the football calendar being posted online listing available activities during the summer, including the Moratorium Week.
Willamette University’s baseball team will hold a baseball skills camp for high school players in the 2017 through 2019 graduating classes from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Oct. 9 at John Lewis Field at Bush’s Pasture Park.
The cost is $75. Participants can register at wubearcats.com/camps.
bpoehler@StatesmanJournal.com, 503-399-6701 or Twitter.com/bpoehler