Connellsville preparing for 'statement game' against Penn-Trafford
As the weather begins to turn colder, the WPIAL football playoff picture is starting to come into focus. A quick look at the standings reveals there's a lot on the line in Friday's homecoming game between Penn-Trafford and host Connellsville.
“It's a big game for us,” Connellsville coach Dave McDonald said. “We're looking for the community to pack the place. It will be one of the bigger games that has been played at our stadium in a while.”
Heading into this week's games, the Falcons (2-3, 2-2) sit in fourth place in the Quad East, two games behind the Warriors (4-1, 4-0), who are alone in second place. The top two teams in the conference are guaranteed a first-round home playoff game.
A win by the Falcons would go a long way toward tightening up the race for one of those coveted postseason home games.
“It's a statement game for us,” McDonald said.
Connellsville is coming off its strongest offensive performance of the season, a 44-29 win over Norwin. Darrell Ross and Jimmy DeMarco had touchdown receptions from Jade Maher, and Maher also had two rushing touchdowns. Jordan McCrae and Zach Cree each had a rushing touchdown as well, and kicker Ben Kisiel delivered a 30-yard field goal.
“I think it had to do with confidence,” McDonald said of his team's performance against the Knights. “We played like we have the ability to play on offense, and it was a much better vibe in our preparation for the game. We were physical, and that's one of the things we preached all week in practice. And our backs ran hard.”
While McDonald was pleased with the way the offense performed, he did note that the defense still needs to work on making some corrections.
Defense has been a strong suit for the Warriors this season. After an opening week nonconference loss to North Hills, Penn-Trafford has responded with four straight conference wins. In those victories, the Warriors have not surrendered more than two touchdowns in any game, including last week's 34-7 win over Latrobe.
“They are very good defensively,” McDonald said. “They play their defense, and they believe in it and they execute it very well.”
The Warriors also have players who can execute on offense. Senior quarterback Dorian Stevens and sophomore running back Devin Austin have been productive. Stevens threw for two scores and Austin rushed for 112 yards and a touchdown in the win over the Wildcats.
Although the Warriors are undefeated in conference play this season, their four victories have come against teams with a combined record of 5-15. Still, don't expect the Falcons to take that into account as they gear up for Friday's game.
“Are we ready to play with a team that is undefeated in our section? We'll find out Friday,” McDonald said. “We have to have a good week of preparation.”
Jason Black is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-626-3534.