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McLaughlin like coach for Lowellville

August 8, 2012


Tribune Chronicle correspondent

The era of the player-coach is long gone in sports, but for Jeff D'Altorio and the Lowellville Rocket defense, it seems like they have one in senior Drew McLaughlin.

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The outside linebacker will be an important piece for the defense this season, and D'Altorio said he knows that McLaughlin will control the unit on the field.

"(McLaughlin)'s like having a coach on the field," D'Altorio said. "He knows what's going on, and that's the most important thing you have to know what you're doing."

McLaughlin uses his understanding of the game in order to direct the defense.

He likes to communicate to his fellow defenders on the field. Whenever a player, especially a younger player, is confused about something, McLaughlin will help his teammate understand.

During a game, McLaughlin starts communicating to his teammates when the opposing offense breaks from the huddle and continues to the end of the play.

"The more you talk, the more people know about the formations or the coverages, they won't mess up," McLaughlin said. "When you're talking, it turns out good. Kids are ready to make the play and they're in the right spot."

Despite the communication McLaughlin does during the play, D'Altorio said that the senior linebacker leads more by example.

Younger players see the way McLaughlin plays and gain confidence in the fact that he doesn't hesitate on the field.

For the outside linebacker, this is what it means to lead by example.

"You got know what's going on," McLaughlin said. "You have to know what to do. By you knowing what to do and not asking questions, people see that. They learn from you doing that, and they pick that up easier. It's easier that way, I think."

McLaughlin wasn't always so sure of himself, though.

Entering his sophomore season, McLaughlin came in as a starter with very little experience. He started out nervous, not always sure of the flow of the game.

Eventually, with 20 games of experience under his belt, the two-year starter grew into the "coach" as described by D'Altorio.

"In my sophomore year, you're just so nervous," McLaughlin said. "You don't know what to expect. And then by your senior year, you know what's coming, you know how to react to a play."

Now, McLaughlin leads a linebacker core that still has questions going into August.

The outside slots are set in stone, but D'Altorio has yet to decide on who will start on the inside. As of now, a rotation of four or five is in the running for two spots.

Whoever shall start at inside linebacker for Lowellville this season, they can expect McLaughlin to point them in the right direction on the field.

"Say like a guard pulls - you got to tell (the inside linebackers) fill, so they know an iso is coming or whatever," McLaughlin said. "You try to help them out with their coverage also."

As for the defense, McLaughlin leads the unit that's looking to turn things around.

Lowellville went 1-9 in 2011, with its defense struggling to keep opponents from scoring. The Rockets allowed 27.4 points per game and kept only one team below 20 points (a 12-0 loss to Southern).

Along with an offense that averaged 7.6 points per game, McLaughlin and company spent the offseason trying to erase memories from last season.

"It's a new atmosphere here," McLaughlin said. "(The players are) coming in here for one goal- to do better than last year. Everyone is here, coming together. They want to win this year."



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