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Connellsville looks to stay in playoff hunt against Latrobe

| Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2012, 11:26 p.m.
Zachary Cree and the Falcons need a win against Latrobe on Friday to keep their playoff hopes alive. Evan R. Sanders/Daily Courier

With two games left in the regular season, the Connellsville football team has exhausted all of its room for error as it hopes to qualify for the WPIAL Class AAAA playoffs for the second consecutive season.

Connellsville sits in seventh place in the Quad East Conference but still has a strong chance of qualifying for the postseason if it can win its final two contests, beginning with Friday's home game against Latrobe (1-6, 0-6).

“Our kids realize that it's been a bit of a trying year,” Connellsville coach Dave McDonald said. “But we're still right in it. If we take care of Latrobe, it comes down to (a Week 9 game at Altoona) where, if we win, we can probably get in the playoffs. We still have a lot to be excited about.”

The Falcons (2-5, 2-4) hurt their playoff chances last week thanks to a 40-27 loss to McKeesport.

“They didn't really stop us,” McDonald said, noting several special teams gaffes and a key turnover near the McKeesport goal line that contributed to the Falcons' defeat. “We had a lot of self-inflicted wounds.”

On Friday, the Falcons cannot afford another game filled with critical mistakes, and they don't expect to look past a Latrobe team that has struggled for most of the season.

“We're very wary of them,” McDonald said. “They play multiple fronts on defense, and they like to apply pressure. We have to execute at a high level from an offensive standpoint.”

Connellsville quarterback Jade Maher and wide receiver Darrell Ross have developed a strong connection this season, while running back Jordan McCrae continues to make plays on offense and in the return game. All could be key components this week for the Falcons.

The Wildcats are coming off a 34-23 loss to Altoona and have scored a conference-low 84 points this season. Junior quarterback Logan Carns is Latrobe's primary playmaker. He has rushed for 412 yards and two touchdowns and has completed 44 passes for 502 yards and two scores.

“Carns can run, and if he gets space, he can make big plays,” McDonald said. “They've moved the ball a lot of the time, but they've hurt themselves. They are a dangerous opponent.”

For the Falcons, improvement continues to be a focal point. And this week, the Falcons will need a big effort with their playoff hopes on the line.

“Our kids see themselves getting better,” McDonald said. “They have confidence in their ability. We feel like we have the ability to play pretty good football and be happy with the outcome. There's not a vibe of being a 2-5 football team. The kids are positive and they are enjoying this process.”

Jason Black is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at jblack@tribweb.com or 724-626-3534.

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