Dillon Dallas was enjoying a brief holiday break as a third-grader when he persuaded his mother, Sheri, to drive him to Indiana University so that he could gaze starry-eyed at the school’s football trophies.
Center Grove football coach Eric Moore happened to be on campus that day learning a new strategy or two from some of the Hoosiers’ coaches when word got back to him about Dallas. Even then Moore found himself marveling at the enthusiasm the young man had for the sport. Dallas’ dad marvels, too.
“Dillon has been a football fanatic his whole life,” said his father, Dave. “He still watches that Carmel film from last season one or two times a week, usually before games. I think he watches it for motivation.”
The Greyhounds’ come-from-behind 21-17 victory in last year’s Class 5A semistate remains a tender spot for many within Moore’s program. Dillon Dallas, who estimates he’s watched the film from opening kickoff to final buzzer no less than 100 times since last November, appears unrivaled in this department.
THE DALLAS FILE
Name: Dillon Dallas
School: Center Grove
Family: Parents, Dave and Sheri; brother, Derek, 21; sister, Mandy, 14
Favorite TV show: “Friday Night Lights”
Favorite food: Steak
Favorite movie: “Rudy”
Favorite athlete: Tim Tebow
Favorite teams: University of Florida football and Oakland Raiders
He won’t allow time to heal the pain he felt that frigid night in Hamilton County. And so Dallas reminds himself. Over and over and over again.
“The one thing it did for me was make me more determined,” said Dallas, the Trojans’ 6-foot-1, 230-pound defensive end who is enjoying a sensational junior season with a county-leading 13 quarterback sacks and 48 total tackles. “After that game, I’m thinking, ‘What do I have to do to not let that happen again?’”
Whatever it is, it’s working.
In last week’s 58-34 regional conquest of No. 3 and previously unbeaten Castle, Dallas recorded four solo tackles, including two behind the line of scrimmage. He’s everywhere, that No. 4, and every bit worth the wait if you’re Moore, who can’t help but smile when thinking back to that day eight years ago.
“Dillon is one of the most passionate players I’ve ever coached. He’s just physically superior to everybody and is very versatile, which allows us to use him in different ways,” said Moore, whose sixth-ranked Trojans (12-1) host No. 1 Lawrence Central (13-0) in Friday’s semistate. “He could play both ways for us, but I need his motor going 120-percent on defense.”
As the postseason stakes continue to rise weekly, there’s no guessing how many times Dallas will study every down of last year’s loss to the eventual Class 5A state champions. Three times. Five. Maybe more.
Whatever the case, Dallas has his work cut out. The Bears, coached by former Center Grove assistant coach Jayson West, average 39 points a game and are coming off a 49-21 regional beatdown of No. 8 Pike.
Moreover, Lawrence Central balances the run and pass extremely well behind senior quarterback Drake Christen, who has passed for 1,604 yards and 17 touchdowns and rushed for 1,174 and nine scores.
In addition, the Bears have three players who have exceeded the 1,000-yard plateau this season on the ground, senior backs Alex Rodriguez (1,239) and Isaiah Townsend (1,124) being the others.
It’s a challenge like no other. Dallas knows and appreciates this, which is why he’s likely seeing a lot of Carmel blue this week in order to see red.
“I set my goals high, and I like to achieve my goals,” Dallas said. “I’ve achieved some of them, but not all of them. I’ve got good work ethic, good speed and great teammates around me. There is a brotherhood throughout the team. We all stick together.
“We all push each other.”
Dallas has his sights set squarely on a different trophy these days. Center Grove is two wins from him being able to see it every day.
STATE FINALS BERTHS ON THE LINE SEMISTATE MATCHUPS
Merrillville (11-2) at Fort Wayne Snider (13-1),
8 p.m. Friday
Lawrence Central (13-0) at Center Grove (12-1),
7 p.m. Friday
at Concord (11-2),
7 p.m. Friday
Cathedral (8-5) at Columbus East (13-0),
8 p.m. Friday
Mishawaka Marian (10-3) at Hamilton Heights (12-1), 7 p.m. Friday
Chatard (11-2) at
Gibson Southern (11-2),
5:30 p.m. Saturday
Fort Wayne Luers (9-4)
at Andrean (11-2),
7:30 p.m. Friday
Ritter (13-0) at
Evansville Mater Dei (11-2), 8 p.m. Friday
Lafayette Central Catholic (12-1) at Sheridan (9-4), 7 p.m. Friday
Scecina (10-3) at Linton (13-0), 7:30 p.m. Friday