NORTH MANCHESTER – Dylan Dowling had been a quarterback as a freshman. He'd been a linebacker as a sophomore.
Now he's a junior running back and, based on his performance in Thursday night's 38-21 victory over Manchester, a potentially very good one.
Dowling rushed for 92 yards and three touchdowns on 24 carries, as Trine improved its record in the annual season-opening game against the Spartans to 12-2, including victories in the last five meetings.
“I'm still trying to take it all in,” said Dowling. “I just love my teammates. I've obviously played freshman and sophomore year, but I didn't really play. So, it's just next man up the totem pole. Guys were just doing our thing and it was fun.”
The Thunder totaled 244 rushing yards – Xaine Kirby had 53 yards and a receiving touchdown; Darrell Banks had 30 yards; and quarterback Brandon Winters rushed for 32 yards – and it may have been a statement that Trine will be OK in the post-Lamar Carswell era.
“Absolutely,” Dowling said. “We have a lot of young guys stepping up in new positions, and it's out with the old and in with the new, keeping it moving and doing our thing.”
The biggest problems for the Thunder on Thursday were fumbles by Kirby and Banks that helped the Spartans battle back late from a 24-point deficit.
“If we want to be a great team, we have to stay away from the penalties and the turnovers that we had in the second half,” said coach Troy Abbs. “If we can clean those up, we can be a really good football team.”
Abbs discovered what Dowling could do as a running back during practice in 2017, when he needed a big player to simulate a player from Hope.
“We thought, 'Do we have anybody in our program who can simulate that running back?' And we had this freshman quarterback that could simulate it,” Abbs said. “We put full pads on him. And we ... couldn't tackle him. He'd get 4 or 5 yards.”
Dowling, 6-foot-2, 205 pounds, had played running back in high school – he's from Alexandria – so it wasn't totally unfamiliar territory.
“After that Hope game, (my teammates) told me I had been running harder than their running back and I prepared them so well for that week,” said Dowling, who for now looks like the primary running back in a committee replacing Carswell, who led all of college football last year with 2,294 yards.
Winters completed 13 of 19 passes for 206 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions.
Manchester's Austin Roberts completed 9 of 22 passes for 128 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions, and he rushed 15 times for 79 yards and a touchdown. Donavan Henderson Jr. rushed 13 times for 38 yards and one touchdown.