Coach: Mark Soboleski (9th season, 45-41)
2012 overall record: 7-6
2012 region record: 4-1 (second)
2012 playoff results: Defeated Perry 61-14 in a PIAA Class AAA subregional before beating State College 42-0 in another subregional. The Trojans then lost to North Allegheny 56-6 in the PIAA quarterfinals.
Top players lost: James Conner, Khyre Drayer, Tim Hess, Sean Gallagher, Joel Mascharka, Terrance Carr, Riley Dunbar, Riley Warren, Dylan Ukasik
Top returning players: Scot Augustine, Paul Carpenter, Eric Iavarone, Jamie Szymczak, Chris Larsen, Griffen Tevis, Ethan Stark, Tanner DeCrapio, Tyree Spearman, Jake Tarasovitch, Tayhjal Williams
Outlook: McDowell has showcased some of the top running backs in the area over the past few years and will need one or two to step up this year. The Trojans were hit hard by graduation, including the talented duo of James Conner and Khyre Drayer. The two were voted to the all-region first team after Conner ran for 1,680 yards and 21 touchdowns last fall and Drayer ran for 857 yards and 13 touchdowns. Conner, a Pitt recruit, also caught 13 passes for 168 yards and four touchdowns, while Drayer recorded 32 tackles. Conner, a first-team defensive lineman and all-district selection, led the Trojans with five sacks after recording 12 the year before, the current school record. The Trojans are also without Tim Hess, Sean Gallagher, Joel Mascharka, Terrance Carr, Riley Dunbar, Dylan Ukasik and Riley Warren. Gallagher dealt with injuries last year but threw for 153 yards and ran for 165 yards and one touchdown but his presence was felt more on defense as a lock-down, first-team defensive back. Ukasik is also a big loss in the backfield after rushing for 339 yards and two touchdowns, while Hess, Mascharka, Carr and Dunbar are losses on the line. Hess was voted to the all-region first team at offensive line, and Warren is a first-team linebacker. Mascharka was voted to the second team on the offensive line, while Dunbar (defensive line) and Mascharka (linebacker) were also second-team picks. McDowell seems to go through big graduation losses every year and the Trojans manage to recover with a strong program and plenty of players coming up from the lower levels. Scot Augustine, Paul Carpenter, Eric Iavarone, Jamie Szymczak, Jake Tarasovitch, Chris Larsen, Griffen Tevis, Ethan Stark, Tanner DeCrapio, Tyree Spearman, Jake Tarasovitch and Tayhjal Williams are among a group of experienced players back this season. Augustine is back to anchor the offensive line after being voted to the all-region first team and was named all-district. Larsen and Tevis are also back on the offensive line and DeCrapio on the defensive line. Tevis was voted to the all-region second team as a junior and DeCrapio to the second team on the defensive line.
Spearman is a big-time playmaker and rising D1 recruit. He was named all-district at defensive back and was voted to the all-region first team. He could play a big role on both sides of the ball this season along with Szymczak and Tarsaovitch. The two took turns playing quarterback and both along with Spearman could be on the field at all times in some fashion. Tarasovitch threw for 356 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 359 yards and four touchdowns, while Spearman ran for 203 yards and two touchdowns and Szymczak ran for 157 yard and two TDs. Spearman also caught eight passes for 93 yards and one touchdown and Iavarone had seven catches for 150 yards and one touchdown. Szymczak was voted to the all-region second team at wide receiver with six catches for 105 yards and one touchdown. Tarasovitch also played a big role on defense last year with a team-leading 63 tackles and Szymczak had 33 tackles and three sacks. Spearman collected three interceptions and Tarasovitch had two. McDowell also has a big weapon back in Stark. He was voted to the all-region first team at kicker and punter last year and connected on 48 extra points and five field goals. Start also averaged 58.6 yards per kickoff, including 47 touchbacks, while he averaged 40.3 yards per punt.
McDowell has a terrific trio of playmakers and an experienced line back this season. This is the Trojans’ final year in District 10 and they will be tough to beat in Region 6. McDowell has some holes to plug before the postseason but the Trojans could be on their way back to the PIAA quarterfinals for a showdown against the WPIAL champion. The Trojans certainly have the schedule to prepare them for a playoff run. McDowell plays one game at Gus Anderson Field in the first half of the season against General McLane. The first half also includes road games at Ohio powerhouses Mento, St. Ignatius and St. Edward along with a neutral-site game against Lancaster Catholic. McDowell won’t leave Erie over the final five games of the season, including a major rivalry game against Cathedral Prep. McDowell’s program is strong enough to reload instead of rebuild and with three outstanding playmakers, the Trojans will be a tough team to beat this season.
30 at Mentor (Ohio) 7
6 General McLane* 7
14 at Lancaster Catholic 4
20 at St. Ignatius (Ohio) 7
28 at St. Edward (Ohio) 2
4 Cathedral Prep* 7
11 Cardinal Mooney (Ohio) 7:30
19 at East* 7
25 Strong Vincent* 7
2 at Central Tech* 7
*Region 6 games