Connellsville falls short of postseason
ALTOONA — Host Altoona ended Connellsville's playoff hopes by dropping the Falcons, 27-12, on Friday night at Mansion Park Stadium.
Altoona finished 4-4 in the Foothills Conference and 4-5 overall to earn the wild card in the WPIAL Class AAAA playoffs. Connellsville finished 2-6 in the conference and 2-7 overall.
Connellsville took the opening kickoff and marched to the Altoona 27 before turning the ball over on downs when quarterback Jade Maher's fourth-down pass was tipped at the line of scrimmage.
“We had that first drive and had a decision to make,” Connellsville coach David McDonald said of the fourth-and-2 call. “We had a guy wide open in the flat, and the ball was tipped. If we had gotten that first down and gone on to score, who knows what would have happened?”
Altoona took over and marched 73 yards on nine plays for its first score, a 2-yard burst by fullback Mante Barnes.
The Lions scored twice in the second quarter, on passes from Brennan Luciano to Avery Howsare (14 yards) and Jeff Hancock (24).
“They played a really good first half,” McDonald said. “They were pretty physical against us. Give them credit. They played well.”
Barnes' 6-yard run hiked Altoona's advantage to 27-0 in the first minute of the fourth quarter. Connellsville scored twice against the hosts' reserves in the final six minutes.
“We threw really well the first half,” Altoona coach John Franco said. “We figured they'd be loosened up, so we were able to pound the ball on the ground in the second half. Our offense did a really nice job the entire game.”
Backup quarterback Jimmy Cellurale scored on a 3-yard run and later scooped up an Altoona fumble and raced 27 yards for the Falcons' other TD.
McDonald, in his second year as coach, said the Falcons played several underclassmen.
“We graduated 22 seniors from last year,” he said, “so we were starting from scratch again, but I was really proud of my kids. ... We've got a lot to look forward to.”
Jim Lane is a freelance writer.