Penn-Trafford lineman pops up on recruiting radar

Wednesday, July 21, 2021 | 10:14 AM

Declan Ochendowski knew he wanted to play college football, but it wasn’t that long ago that the incoming senior at Penn-Trafford doubted he would draw attention from Division I programs.

The size was there. Penn-Trafford will have one of the largest lines in the WPIAL this fall (more on that later).

But Ochendowski needed a confidence boost based on performance. He got it when he put together an impressive junior season, one that even impressed him. That is what started to trigger attention from larger schools.

One Division I program has come forward with heightened interest and more could follow.

Dartmouth offered the 6-foot-3, 255-pound tackle and defensive end an opportunity to play in the Ivy League.

Ochendowski first heard from Dartmouth in February. The academically-driven offer — the Ivy League does not give athletic scholarships — came last week.

“It was always a goal of mine that I’ve been chasing,” Ochndowski said of playing Division I. “Then last season went pretty well for me and I first realized that I had a chance to play.”

Ochendowski, who carries a 4.11 grade-point average, was first team All-Big East Conference last season and helped the Warriors reach the WPIAL Class 5A semifinals.

“I think our staff knew he had potential through the roof as a sophomore,” Warriors coach John Ruane said. “He is a very athletic kid who has become a prospect with a great work ethic. He’s a really high character kid who obviously gets it done off the field as well with an Ivy school offer. He has earned the opportunity.”

The covid shutdown last year gave Ochendowski extra time to work out and get his body in football game shape.

The newfound chance to play at the next level has inspired him.

“During quarantine, I got a lot more serious about getting myself stronger and faster, so I was working out six days a week at my friend’s house since all the gyms were closed,” he said. “Then, after everything opened back up, I got a lot more serious about working football. My gym, Alphalete over in Export, is run by a former Penn-Trafford and Seton Hill football player, Tyler Zimmer, and we worked a lot of pass rush and defense. That training definitely made me a lot better.”

Back to that size …

A pair of returning starters in junior Joe Enick (6-3, 280) and senior Garrett Moorhead (6-1, 260), both second-team all-conference players, are solid specimens for Penn-Trafford.

But some newcomers also will cast long shadows. They include senior Luke Jollie (6-7, 275), sophomore Zach Tomosovich (6-5, 310) and junior Michael Pantera (6-1, 255).

“I think we have a lot of potential and I’m excited to see how things go,” Ochendowski said.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at or via Twitter .


More Football

Armstrong’s Olsen, the 2022 winner, leads candidates for Thrower Award
Hempfield hires Nick Keefer as football coach
Westmoreland high school notebook: PIHL Class A final could feature 2 local teams
Hampton’s Benny Haselrig fulfills Division I dream with decision to walk on at Pitt
Longtime Beaver football coach, WPIAL Hall of Famer Pat Tarquinio dies