Dexter Gallishaw likes contact.
The Bellefonte running back prefers to start his runs by being physical, like he did on the final play of the first half last Friday, bowling over Jersey Shore defensive lineman Mason Sechrist to pick up five yards. He looks to finish his runs the same way, just as he did in the fourth quarter against the Bulldogs, driving forward through a pile of defenders to set up what proved to be the game-winning touchdown.
With that punishing running style, Red Raiders coach Shanon Manning describes his running back as an “old school throwback” at the position.
“I’m not going to sit here and tell you he’s the most talented running back I’ve ever coached,” Manning said. “But I will tell you he probably runs harder than any running back I’ve ever coached. His effort throughout a play is unbelievable.”
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Gallishaw’s effort and approach highlight how Manning built his program since taking over in 2013. Manning wants his team to be more physical than its opponents, and Gallishaw helps set the tone out of the backfield. The Red Raiders coach said this group doesn’t complain about playing time or point fingers after mistakes, adding that Gallishaw doesn’t get caught up in how many touches he gets each week.
Bellefonte needed Gallishaw to carry the load in the season opener last Friday as he accounted for 82 of the team’s 174 total yards (47 percent). After managing one first down in the first half, the Red Raiders put the ball in Gallishaw’s hands and ran right at Jersey Shore in the second half of the team’s 17-13 victory.
Gallishaw said he draws inspiration from his teammates to run hard, bringing his hand to his chest as he explained he feels that motivation build inside.
“Because of how hard our line is running, it makes me want to work harder than what they are,” Gallishaw said.
Gallishaw then tries to release that motivation on the field, looking to run over opponents on Friday nights. The Red Raiders aim to build that physical approach during offseason training. Senior left guard Dylan Houser said the team’s routine includes tire flips and sled pushes. Manning aims to make it rough on his players with conditioning — like rope swings — between lifting repetitions.
“We build a lot of brutal, brutal, brutal movements in the lift itself,” Manning said.
Houser said the Red Raiders linemen want the rest of the team to feed off of their physicality, and he appreciates the way Gallishaw runs the ball.
As the Red Raiders searched for an effective offensive approach against Jersey Shore, Gallishaw emerged on the final drive of the first half. The running back took a carry up the middle for 15 yards — the team’s first and only first down in the opening two quarters. Two plays later, he ran over Sechrist before the clock ran out to send Bellefonte into halftime trailing 13-3.
Red Raiders offensive coordinator Shawn Hale joked with Manning on the sideline — “Is that how we get first downs?” he said — as his team found its simple formula for the second half.
“We ran downhill at ’em a lot,” Hale said. “It seemed to start working, and we stuck with the game plan.”
Gallishaw’s powerful running style continued to generate first downs in the second half. That ability first grabbed Manning’s attention during his first season as the Red Raiders head coach when he watched the end of a ninth-grade game against Bald Eagle Area. Manning stood in the end zone as Gallishaw — an eighth grader — replaced ninth-grader Tyler Kreger at running back.
“They’re just trying to run the clock out, and two separate times, he went 60 and 70 yards,” Manning said.
Gallishaw broke off back-to-back big runs last Friday during Bellefonte’s comeback. With the Red Raiders down 13-10 with less than six minutes left in the fourth, Gallishaw took a handoff up the middle, spun around after taking a hit and jumped to avoid a low tackle for a 12-yard gain. On the next play, Gallishaw disappeared into a mass of Jersey Shore and Bellefonte players and received a push from his line on a 22-yard run to set up first-and-goal at the 1-yard line.
“Dexter basically just said, ‘I’m not going down on this play,’” Hale said. “And he took 15, 17 guys on his back.”
Said Houser: “He’s definitely special. He has the ability to run through people.”
Gallishaw smiled at the thought of his big run, which led to Nick Paloskey’s game-winning 1-yard touchdown run on the next play.
The running back kept his legs churning with his teammates in mind.
“That’s what keeps me running the way I do,” Gallishaw said.