Coach (season, record): Mark Soboleski (8th season, 38-35)
2011 overall record: 8-3
2011 conference record (place): 4-2 (tied for second)
2011 playoff results: Defeated McKeesport 42-7 in the District 7 first round before losing to Upper St. Clair 21-14 in the quarterfinals.
Top players lost: Greg Garmon, Luke Lecce, Mason Giacomelli, Paul Kemper, Anthony Raucci, Anthony Szymczak, Zach Baker
Top returning players: James Conner, Khyre Drayer, Jarrett Koper, Scott Augustine, Tyree Spearman, Joel Masharcka, Ethan Stark, Riley Warren, Tim Hess
Assistant coaches: Joe Magorien, Todd Strasenburgh, Tim Cacchione, Aaron Slocum, Kareem Carson, Kim Parker, Andrea Bridgett, Joe Wanson
Outlook: McDowell went through plenty of transition in the offseason. District 10 passed a policy that forces every school to return to D-10 for the playoffs if they play their regular season in another district. This set off a domino effect that ended with McDowell rejoining District 10 for the regular season and postseason. The Trojans aren’t happy about it but they will be in Region 6 for at least the next two years. McDowell is currently appealing the new policy but their status won’t change for the current PIAA cycle. The Trojans have some holes to fill, including Iowa-bound Greg Garmon. The all-conference first-team running back carried the ball 137 times for 1,050 yards and nine touchdowns and he led McDowell with seven catches for 180 yards and three touchdowns. Also, the Trojans will have to replace four offensive linemen for the second straight year. Mason Giacomelli, Paul Kemper, Anthony Raucci and Anthony Szymczak have graduated. Giacomelli and Kemper were second-team offensive linemen, while Raucci was named an honorable-mention offensive lineman. Szymczak, who is now playing for Youngstown State, was a first-team defensive lineman. McDowell also graduated quarterback Anthony Lecce, who threw for 177 yards and three touchdowns last fall, and Zach Baker, a first-team kicker who connected on 41 extra points and three field goals. Luke DeHart and Khlique Harris leave big holes to fill on the defense. DeHart, a first-team linebacker, led the Trojans with 121 tackles, while Harris, a second-team linebacker, had 56.
McDowell definitely has some work to do in replacing all-star players but the Trojans have a solid group back. Quarterback Jarrett Koper starting taking over under center last year and threw for 268 yards and two touchdowns. He ran for 681 yards and seven touchdowns on 101 carries and was voted to the all-conference second team at defensive back. Koper is a leader along with Division I recruit James Conner. Conner, a second-team defensive lineman, racked up 12 sacks, a school record. He has offers from several MAC schools and Pitt. Conner also ran for 267 yards and three touchdowns on only 41 carries. Khyre Drayer adds depth in the backfield. The running back, who was voted to the all-conference honorable mention team, ran for 498 yards and eight touchdowns on 95 carries. Drayer also had two interceptions last year and could be a defensive force along with Tyree Spearman, a second-team defensive back. Scott Augustine, Joel Masharcka, Ethan Stark, Riley Warren and Tim Hess are back for the Trojans and could have a big-time impact on the season.
McDowell put together one of the toughest schedules in the state and might almost be better off than the past two years. The Trojans play four Ohio powerhouses, the PIAA Class AA champion from last year which is now AAA, and five region games, including Cathedral Prep, General McLane and Strong Vincent. There won’t be a week McDowell can take off and cruise to a win this season which should get the Trojans ready for the PIAA playoffs. The District 6-9-10 subregion expanded to include District 8 over the next two years. The eight teams in the subregion have the option to play in the playoffs at the end of the season and the winner moves on to the quarterfinals. McDowell opens its wild season with a tough game against Mentor, one of the biggest schools in Ohio. Mentor’s quarterback is headed to North Carolina after also receiving offers from Ohio State and Alabama. Week 2 should also be interesting as General McLane runs a very similar system to McDowell. Of course, the one game every Prep and McDowell fan have circled on their calendars is Oct. 5 at Veterans Stadium.
31 Mentor (Ohio) 7
7 at General McLane* 7
15 at Lancaster Catholic 5
21 St. Ignatius (Ohio) 7:30
28 St. Edward (Ohio) 7:30
5 at Cathedral Prep* 7
12 at Cardinal Mooney (Ohio) 7:30
19 East* 7
26 at Strong Vincent* 7
2 Central Tech* 7
*Region 6 games
– Tom Reisenweber