MILLCREEK TWP, Erie County — Seneca Valley seemed to be on the verge of salvaging victory following a very frustrating first half in its season-opener Friday night at McDowell.
A pair of touchdowns in the third quarter vaulted the Raiders to within seven points of the host Trojans.
It was a short reprieve, however, as the game soon reverted back to McDowell dominating on both sides of the ball.
The Trojans' balanced attack set up the final two scores as McDowell posted a 35-14 victory at Gus Anderson Field.
“McDowell is a good team and they are going to win a lot of games this year,” said SV coach Ron Butschle, “but between penalties (7-65) and (three) turnovers, we stopped ourselves tonight. We moved the ball, but were just too undisciplined.
“We did things you can't do and expect to win.”
After a first half which saw the Raiders get outgained 281-130 and outscored 21-0, SV mounted scoring drives of 81 and 80 yards. Quarterback Gabe Lawson and Matt Stanger capped the drives with short scoring runs.
But McDowell responded with a 70-yard drive of its own. The biggest play was a 16-yard pass from Chris Juchno to Braeden Soboleski on a 3rd-and-11 from McDowell's 29.
The same connection worked later in the drive for a 6-yard scoring strike that put the Trojans back up by two scores.
“We don't want to have to throw the ball late,” said McDowell coach Brad Orlando, “but that one near the goal line was huge.”
The Raiders were unable to recapture the momentum that had given them hope. Two incompletions were followed by a Trojans' sack of Lawson (McDowell's fourth of the game).
After a punt, McDowell rolled down the field, with Danny Blue icing the game with his 8-yard scoring run with 1:22 left.
Things did not look good early for the Raiders. They committed a personal foul penalty that kept McDowell's opening drive alive. Five plays later, Juchno hit Soboleski for their first 6-yard touchdown of the game.
Two turnovers helped keep SV off the scoreboard in the first half, including Mitch Curran's fumble in the red zone.
McDowell's ground attack also had something to do with SV being held scoreless.
Elijah Lopez and Blue combined for 160 yards on 16 carries in the first two periods. They both scored in the first half. Lopez's jaunt was especially agonizing for the Raiders — a 36-yard scoring run on 3rd-and-21.
Lopez ended the game with 152 yards and Blue rushed for 80.
“Elijah is a kid who really came on for us late last year as a sophomore,” said Orlando. “He and Danny, that's two guys we want to get the ball to.”
SV's passing attack showed glimpses of what it is capable of this year.
Though Lawson was intercepted twice by McDowell defensive back Gage Miller, he threw for 247 yards on a night when the team's ground game sputtered.
Lawson's 66-yard bomb to James Sprentz helped set up Stanger's scoring run on the final play of the third quarter.
“The one interception was on Gabe, but I don't think the other one was his fault,” said Butschle. “Overall, I was pleased with his performance.”
The Raiders host Central Catholic Friday.
Seneca Valley 0 0 14 0 — 14
McDowell 14 7 0 14 — 35
M —Braeden Soboleski 6 pass from Chris Juchno (Lenny McLaughlin kick), 8:49
M — Elijah Lopez 36 run (McLaughlin kick), 3:17
M — Danny Blue 5 run (McLaughlin kick), 1:12
SV — Gabe Lawson 1 run (Adam Davies kick), 4:10
SV — Matt Stanger 3 run (Davies kick), :00
M — Soboleski 6 pass from Juchno (McLaughlin kick), 7:40
M — Blue 8 run (McLaughlin kick), 1:22