He can cut on a dime, spin past a would-be tackler without sacrificing critical balance and pull away from all 11 players chasing him in the open field.
Don’t be fooled, however. Bald Eagle Area running back Dakota Bartley’s game isn’t limited to razzle-dazzle.
Despite his 5-foot-8, 165-pound frame that would suggest otherwise, Bartley can hammer and smash with anyone. He’ll throw a stiff arm and use a linebacker’s shoulder pads and the resulting pushoff as leverage to gain an outside running lane. When out of room to run, Bartley won’t hesitate to lower his shoulder and plow forward for that extra half-yard or two.
“He’s unreal,” Bald Eagle Area’s Ryan Dyke said of his teammate. “He hits the hole hard. He does his assignments correctly all the time and he’s got unbelievable shiftiness. He can break ankles anywhere, secondary, linebackers, anywhere.”
For one last time, Bartley’s full skillset will be on display. The Lezzer Lumber Classic at Mansion Park at 7 p.m. Friday — co-sponsored by the CDT — will be the final time Bartley will strap on a football helmet.
For a young man who’s put so much into the most brutal of games for so long, the impending end of a career is tough to talk about.
“It’s kind of a touchy subject to talk about,” Bartley said. “Football has been the main sport that I’ve always loved and it’s kind of hard to think it could be my last one.”
Bartley was approached by members of Westminster College’s coaching staff about potentially joining the team. But offers to play football ended there for the Eagles’ star. He hasn’t closed the door completely on college in the future, but for now Bartley plans on working for a local landscaping company after high school. He’s on his way to making peace with the fact that his football career is likely over.
While it will be hard for him to say goodbye to his favorite sport, it’s will be hard for Eagles fans to contemplate a BEA backfield without No. 5, too.
For the last three years, Bartley was a mainstay — a constant presence and emotional leader — for the Eagles.
He burst on the scene as a sophomore and picked up a workload not typical for a youngster. Bartley carried the ball 17 times for 119 yards.
His role grew exponentially as a junior. He teamed with Dion Barnard to form one of the Mountain League’s best one-two punches in the running game. Then, Bartley carried the ball 100 times for 695 yards and eight touchdowns. He added 125 carries for 848 yards and 10 touchdowns as a senior.
Bartley averaged just under seven yards per carry for his career.
Bryce Greene, along with twin brother Bryan, are close friends of Bartley’s. They, along with lineman Tanner Cramer, will join their friend as BEA’s representatives in the Lezzer Lumber Classic. Both Greene brothers will continue their football careers in college — Bryce is headed to Lock Haven for football and Bryan is still deciding between Lycoming for football and Juniata for football and baseball.
They were able to extend their athletic careers with Bartley when the trio teamed up — along with Nathan Styles — to win the PIAA District 6 Class AA 4x4 relay despite only having run together in the event a handful of times. Bryan handed the baton to Bartley who passed it to Bryce who gave way to Styles to win the event.
Now, with a solid season of baseball behind them, the Greenes and Bartley have teamed up again after school to catch passes from BEA football assistant Donnie Burns in preparation for the Lezzer Lumber Classic.
“It was great having him on the team,” teammate Bryce Greene said of Bartley. “He’s a great teammate and always got us all going. Whenever we needed an extra yard he’d always get it for us.”
Follow Travis Johnson on Twitter @bytravisjohnson.