ALTOONA, Pa. - James Conner's 2012 season was already off to a fantastic start for Erie (Pa.) McDowell - and he added on to it in a big way Saturday afternoon at Mansion Park Stadium.
Conner ran for 248 yards and three touchdowns on just eight - yes, eight - carries, as the Trojans whalloped Lancaster Catholic, 49-20.
The 6'2, 230-pound senior wingback/defensive end has proven to be one of the integral pieces of McDowell's lethal flexbone offense - through three games, he's scored seven touchdowns and piled up 539 yards rushing on 30 carries, an average of 17.9 yards per attempt. He also caught an 11-yard pass and recorded a tackle for loss of Crusader quarterback Aaron Springer in the first half. Conner's scoring runs spanned 73, 92 and 68 yards.
Conner was part of a Trojan defensive effort which limited Lancaster Catholic to 34 yards rushing on 23 carries and a mere seven points through three quarters. McDowell led at one point, 42-7.
The McDowell athlete said he will play defensive end in college, and actually flew under the radar with his commitment to the Panthers. He verbally committed to Pitt in mid-August, right around the start of two-a-days.
"I've been verbally committed to Pitt for several weeks now," Conner said. "I am looking forward to see how their season goes - they lost their first two but got a big win today (Saturday over Virginia Tech). Pitt moving to the ACC is a big thing to me because of the exposure and playing programs like Miami (Fla.) and Florida State. Having games broadcast on ESPN will be pretty cool."
Conner said he was recruited to play defensive end for the Panthers, but with his play on the offensive side of the ball, one can only wonder if any schools looked at No. 30 as a running back.
"Not really," Conner said. "There aren't many schools looking for guys my size to play running back."
McDowell head coach Mark Soboleski called Conner an "unbelievable" athlete.
"We asked him (as a coaching staff) to be more upright of a runner and more downhill this year, because once he gets rolling, he's unstoppable," Soboleski said.
Conner and the Trojans get a big test in their fourth game of the season - a date with Cleveland (Ohio) St. Ignatius, the Buckeye State's No. 1 team in the state's Division-I classification and No. 4 team in the nation, according to the USA Today.
"We opened Ohio's eyes by playing Mentor very tough in Week 1," Conner said (McDowell lost that game in the final minute, 34-27, after holding leads of up to nine points at two separate junctures of the game). "We have a big test coming up."