DALLAS — The Dallas Dragons will always remember this year’s football seniors.
“I’ll never forget those kids,” coach Andy Jackson said. “They were absolutely awesome.”
The Class of 2022 set a tone for the program. Seniors Ashton Foster, Logan Person, James Partridge, Isaac Ostrom, Kole Johnson-Sallee, Demitri Harris, Zach Centanni, Justin Parnell and Kailyr Gibson led the Dragons to the Class 5A quarterfinals this season.
“As freshmen, they won three games,” Jackson said. “The next three years, they got better and better. We’ve made it to the playoffs three years in a row – two times and would have last year if they had had playoffs.
“Thanks largely to those kids, we can be really proud of our program and proud of the direction we’re going in. They worked extremely hard. I’m really appreciative of those seniors.”
Dallas entered this year’s playoffs as the No. 10 team in the coaches’ poll, then upset No. 6 Pendleton to make it to the final eight.
One of the season highlights came in the final game of the regular season – a 29-13 Homecoming victory over rival Central. It locked up Dallas’ position in the playoffs and was the Dragons’ second straight win over the Panthers. Dallas won 56-17 in 2019, and the teams weren’t able to meet in the shortened 2020 season. Before that, Central had won five in a row over Dallas, which posted sub-.500 records in four of those years.
Jackson, who has had five seasons as head coach, got the Dragons to 6-4 in 2019 and 5-1 in 2020. This year, playing in a conference that was extremely challenging and could boast of two state semifinalists (West Albany and Silverton), the Dragons finished 6-5.
“I’m proud of the resiliency my kids showed all season,” Jackson said, “the way they withstood adversity and found a way to have another winning season, the way they battled through the ups and downs. We were playing our best football at the end of the season, and we gave ourselves a chance to win at West Albany (in the quarterfinals).”
Jackson also gives credit to the rest of the coaching staff, led by offensive coordinator Matt Jackson, defensive coordinator Triston Ringhouse, offensive line coach David Flugum and defensive line coach/special teams coordinator Dean Munkers.
“We have good coaches who do a great job and put our kids in position, with what we have, to be successful. We’re one of the smallest 5A schools. We never play a game where we’re the bigger school, but I think our kids have a chip on their shoulder and want to prove that that doesn’t matter, that we have tough kids. So, we’ve come to embrace that.”
Foster passed for 1,304 yards and ran for 562 this season. Person ran for 1,362 yards and 16 touchdowns. Johnson-Sallee had 723 receiving yards, the most for a Dallas wide receiver in the last 10 years.
On defense, Person made 92 tackles and forced five turnovers. Ostrom had 10 tackles for loss and six sacks. Harris made 10 tackles for loss and five sacks. Centanni had eight tackles for loss.
And now it’s on to the planning for 2022, without those seniors.
The Dragons have some key pieces in place for next year’s squad, with four offensive line starters and a good number of D-line players in line to return, and with many other athletes on the verge of stepping into varsity spots.
“In practice, we build for the future and are always working on fundamentals,” Jackson said. “We like to play a lot of kids so we’re constantly developing them, and we play kids in every position and try to make sure we have a sophomore or junior playing at every position. And our frosh-sophomore team this year was a tough group.”
Specific standouts and starters will emerge through spring ball and fall practice. The Dragons’ potential leaders next season include Owen Hess, a junior defensive stalwart and 2021 backup quarterback to Foster. Hess was second in 5A in tackles (114) this year, with three interceptions. He made 15 stops in the 7-6 victory at Pendleton and finished the year with four forced turnovers.
Juniors Brock Dunkin and Emilio Miranda are in line for duty again carrying the ball. They’ve got big shoes to replace with Person’s departure.
“Brock is an absolute stud,” Jackson said. “He’s the essence of what a Dallas kid is, a blue-collar country kid who works and plays hard, who works his butt off.”
Emiliano Rocha started at tight end this year as a junior, and the list of linemen/linebackers returning for next fall includes Garrett Munkers, Treston Wilt, Cole Langford, Dominic Sobota, Kevin Rubio and Eli Nava.