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Connellsville surges past Norwin

| Saturday, Sept. 29, 2012, 12:56 a.m.

Connellsville-Norwin games are becoming a must-see matchup for fans of high-scoring football.

The Falcons jumped to an early two-touchdown lead and managed to hang on in a back-and-forth contest as Connellsville spoiled Norwin's homecoming with a 44-29 victory Friday night in Quad East Conference play.

Jordan McCrae had 173 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries, and quarterback Jade Maher had 142 passing yards and accounted for four touchdowns — two passing and two rushing — for Connellsville (2-3, 2-2).

“It was one of those games we had to have,” Connellsville coach Dave McDonald said. “We didn't play great on defense, and we made some mistakes that were self-inflicted, and we'll have to clean up for Penn-Trafford next week. But it was great effort on offense, we hung in there on defense, and we had some guys step up and make plays.”

For Norwin (1-4, 1-4), freshman quarterback Nick Amendola finished 16 for 26 for 269 yards and three touchdowns, the bulk of which went to Casey Rebosky. He finished with eight catches for 170 yards, including touchdowns of 57 and 55 yards.

“We made some big plays on offense, but defensively our inexperience hurt us in some of the things we were doing,” Norwin coach Art Tragesser said. “(Connellsville) has some speed and some good runners. I'm sure, after their loss last week, they were determined to have a good effort, and they did.”

The Falcons finished with 378 rushing yards, of which the biggest play was McCrae's 72-yard touchdown that gave Connellsville an early 14-0 lead.

Norwin battled back before halftime with a late safety caused by a Maher fumble. On the first play after the free kick, Amendola found Rebosky down the sideline on a wheel route to cut the lead to 21-15.

“They keep inviting us for their homecoming game, and we keep putting on an offensive show with them,” McDonald said. “That's a hell of a freshman quarterback over there, and they're well-coached and do a lot of good things.”

After halftime, Connellsville leaned even more on its running game to extend the lead to 28-15 on its first possession, which ended with a 13-yard TD run by Maher on a rollout.

The teams combined to score on the next six drives as Norwin cut the lead to 31-29 on a 12-yard reverse to receiver Kyle Baum. Connellsville answered with a 1-yard sneak by Maher, but a missed extra point kept it a one-possession game.

With a chance to tie, Norwin moved the ball to its 45, but on fourth-and-7 with 4:21 remaining, Amendola was forced to scramble and was brought down short of the first down despite breaking three tackles.

The Falcons again kept the ball on the ground to run time off the clock, and Zach Cree's 18-yard touchdown extended the lead with 1:30 to play.

“We can throw the ball but, down on the field, we started to feel like we were wearing on them,” said McDonald, whose team threw just five times compared to 27 runs in the second half. “We'd like to be balanced, but we decided to just get after them and start pounding the ball.”

Norwin put together one final drive to the Connellsville 3, but Amendola's final pass was intercepted by Jimmy DeMarco.

Matt Grubba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5830 or mgrubba@tribweb.com.

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