District Spotlight -- Harris-led Edinboro lives by the pass

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This isn't the Edinboro football team of your father or grandfather that featured a pounding ground attack generated by two running backs lined up in the I-formation.

These Fighting Scots operate from a spread offense, with the quarterback taking the snap from center in a shotgun formation and throwing the ball to a variety of receivers all over the field.

"It's different," said coach Scott Browning, whose unranked Fighting Scots (5-1), take a five-game winning streak into their Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference West showdown at No. 24 IUP (4-1) Saturday. "If we have to throw the ball 60 times a game to win, we'll throw 60 times."

More important than the national poll is the Northeast Region ranking because the top six teams in the region receive a bid to the NCAA Division II playoffs. The PSAC West has four teams in the region ranking -- No. 1 California, No. 3 IUP, No. 5 Slippery Rock and No. 9 Edinboro.

Browning, an assistant at Edinboro for 20 years before becoming the head coach last season when Lou Tepper left to coach IUP, can pinpoint the time and date of his team's transformation. It came about during the second half against Slippery Rock in the ninth game of last season.

"We were struggling. It was time for a change," Browning said. "We had a good feeling and decided it was time to unleash Trevor [Harris]. And we haven't looked back."

Harris, who completed 2 of 5 passes for 71 yards in the first half against Slippery Rock, was 18 of 24 for 187 yards and a touchdown after halftime. Although Edinboro lost in overtime, 24-21, the Fighting Scots found a new identity and a quarterback who would rewrite the school's passing records.

Harris passed for a school-record 437 yards in a 54-30 victory against Shippensburg the next week and continued with 353 yards passing in a win against Lock Haven in the season finale. Last season, he set school records with 192 completions, 313 attempted passes and 2,547 yards and was the PSAC West rookie of the year.

"We're not looking for 7-6 games," Browning said of the Fighting Scots, who are coming off a 70-19 victory against Lock Haven and lead the conference in scoring with 43.3 points per game. "You're going to see a lot of fireworks."

Browning was asked if the Fighting Scots still run the football.

"Sometimes," he said with a laugh.

Harris, a 6-foot-3, 205-pound redshirt sophomore who has added nearly 30 pounds since he entered school, completed 25 of 29 passes for 340 yards and three touchdowns against Lock Haven and has thrown three or more touchdown passes in five consecutive games. He set a school record for consecutive completions in a game by connecting on his first 15 passes, and the 340-yard total is the fifth highest in school history.

Harris' performance earned him co-offensive player of the week in the PSAC West.

For the season, he has completed 73 percent of his passes for 1,647 yards and 19 touchdowns.

Edinboro's leading receivers are Rich Cerro (26 catches, 289 yards, 2 TDs) and Ryan Rybicki (31 catches, 272 yards, 5 TDs).

Harris' numbers have skyrocketed and Edinboro's victories have increased dramatically since Browning changed the team's offensive philosophy.

Harris has thrown 30 touchdown passes and gained 2,828 yards in the past nine games after passing for 1,499 yards and nine touchdowns in his first eight games. Edinboro is 7-2 in the past nine games after going 4-4 in the previous eight.

"I guess you could say it's worked for us," Browning said. "The kids like this, it's fun. We're still adding a wrinkle here or there to the offense. As a coach, you do what's best for the personnel you have. Trevor studies the game more than any player I've been around. He's a football junkie."

Coaching against his former boss doesn't concern Browning, whose Fighting Scots have been soaring thanks to Harris since a 32-16 loss to West Chester in the opener.

"Lou will not recognize this Edinboro team," Browning said. "This is not the Edinboro team he knew. He still knows some of our personnel, but I don't think that will give him any kind of advantage."


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