Falcons, Vikings ready for WPIAL playoffs
The WPIAL didn't exactly welcome the Falcons back into the playoffs with open arms as Connellsville is paired up with second-seeded Gateway in the first round of the WPIAL Quad A postseason.
Gateway is the top team out of the Quad Southwest Conference. The Gators racked up an 8-1 overall record and went undefeated in the conference.
The Falcons will face a running back that has done plenty of damage to plenty of opponents this season. Justin King is ranked sixth in the WPIAL in rushing with 122 carries for 1,352 yards and 23 touchdowns.
"There is only one way you can stop speed," Connellsville coach Andy Robertson said in reference to King. "You have to surround it. If you miss and angle, he'll find it and turn it into a big run."
But King isn't Gateway's only weapon. Justin Colbaugh has carried the ball 49 times and has scored five touchdowns. Meanwhile, quarterback Aaron Smith has thrown for 940 yards and 13 touchdowns. David Williams has caught nine passes for 225 yards and four scores.
"Their quarterback has speed and running ability," Robertson said. "He also has a strong arm."
The Falcons (4-5) have picked it up a notch on offense of late as they posted a 42-21 win over Hempfield to close out the regular season. Quarterback Nate Feniello has thrown for 545 yards and seven touchdowns. Shane Gannon and Terrence McCrae have each stepped up as reliable receivers, but Connellsville's biggest strength has been its running game. Scott Jones leads the way with 120 carries for 480 yards and five touchdowns.
"Our offense has shown that we can take the ball and move it on the ground," Robertson said. "We have to be able to run the ball and make the game as short as possible."
As usual, the Falcons will look to keep it close by avoiding turnovers and penalties. And there is a definite sense of confidence with this team, despite being a heavy underdog.
"Why not us,?" Robertson said. "We're not intimidated. We feel we can play and we feel we can win."
The two teams did not play each other last season.
kickoff for Friday's game is 7:30 p.m.
MP vs. TJ
For Mount Pleasant, the road through the playoffs will hit a big-time obstacle as the Vikings travel to Thomas Jefferson to take on the Jaguars. Thomas Jefferson posted a 7-2 overall record and a perfect 6-0 mark in the Big 7 Conference. This team is playoff-tested, having advanced to the WPIAL finals in 2003 before losing to Pine-Richland.
The Jaguars can be explosive thanks to quarterback Brad Dawson. Dawson ranks ninth in the WPIAL in passing with 73 completions for 1,297 yards and 12 touchdowns. His go-to receiver is Adam Plantz, who has hauled in 26 passes for 437 yards and three scores. Evan Browne is also a playmaker, pulling in 15 catches for 414 yards and five touchdowns.
On the ground, Nate Nix carries the load. So far this season, Nix has rushed 86 times for 507 yards and five touchdowns. Josh Pauley has ran it 74 times for 447 yards and four touchdowns. Thomas Jefferson ended the regular season with a 17-7 win over West Mifflin.
Mount Pleasant obviously has a lot of weapons to neutralize if it hopes to have a chance at topping the home team. However, the Vikings have some big-time players as well. Quarterback Jeff Marker has had a strong season, throwing for 372 yards and two touchdowns. However, his main contribution has been with his legs as he has rushed for 620 yards and seven touchdowns on 120 carries. Marker may be called upon to run more often if feature back Tyler Gorinski is slowed or sidelined with a leg injury suffered in last week's 7-0 loss to Hempfield. Gorinski is the team's top ground-gainer with 725 yards rushing and eight touchdowns. Look for Donnie Ament to get some carries as well as Jack Snyder. Snyder is also the team's leading receiver with 12 catches for 120 yards and a score.
The Vikings finished the regular season with a record of 4-5 and a Keystone Conference mark of 4-3.
Mount Pleasant and Thomas Jefferson did not face each other in 2003.
Frazier at B'worth
While many teams are gearing up for the playoffs, Frazier and Bentworth have elected to round out the season with an exhibition game this evening.
The Commodores (4-5) will be looking to get back on the field as soon as possible after being hammered by Carmichaels 40-0 last week. Quarterback Tony Battaglini has been strong under center, throwing for 14 touchdowns. His top target has been Steve Erdely, who ranks sixth in the WPIAL in receiving with 39 catches for 610 yards and eight touchdowns. Running back Ryan Keebler has gained 417 yards on 98 carries. He has also scored three rushing touchdowns.
The Bearcats (2-7) have a strong passing game. Quarterback Andy Lauterbach is seventh in the WPIAL in passing with 84 completions for 1,409 yards and 20 touchdowns. Derek Donaldson has 36 receptions for 680 yards and 11 touchdowns while E.J. Werner has grabbed 12 passes for 247 yards and two scores. Werner has also rushed for 455 yards and six scores.
The two teams didn't play each other last year.