Falcons hope for fast start against Cavaliers
There will be no easing into the season for the Connellsville and Kiski Area football teams on Friday night. In the Quad East, every game is important, particularly for those clubs vying for one of five playoff positions. The Falcons and Cavaliers certainly fall into that category.
“It's a huge game,” Connellsville coach Dave McDonald said. “When you look at both programs, we kind of fall into the same pot. Both teams will be fighting for one of those playoff spots, and you have to start fast.”
When the teams met last year, it was the Cavaliers who picked up an important 22-14 victory. Not coincidentally, it was the Cavaliers that snuck into the WPIAL playoffs, not the Falcons.
“Last year, we got off to a bad start,” Connellsville senior quarterback Jade Maher said. “We talk about that a little bit and we know how important a fast start is going to be. Hopefully, we can get off to a good start, and it will steamroll from there.”
When the season begins, Connellsville's initial challenge will be trying to slow down a strong Kiski passing game. The Cavaliers can move the ball through the air with sophomore quarterback Chad Kuhn. Senior tight end Shane Kuhn and senior receiver Joey Brungo are top targets.
“Kiski has very good skilled players,” McDonald said.
The job of slowing down Kiski's attack could fall on Connellsville's secondary, which will feature starters Evan Onusko, Dylan Knopsnider, Steven White and Derek Brubacher.
“Our secondary has to step up,” McDonald said.
Kiski's secondary likely will be tested as well. Maher will be starting his third season under center, and Connellsville will feature experienced wideouts Nate Norton and Darrell Ross, plus tight ends Caleb Pittsment and Jimmy DeMarco. Knopsnider, White, Michael Parlak, Josh Cree, Chris Russell and Anthony DeMarco will be coming out of the backfield.
Connellsville comes into the game high on confidence, particularly after a strong camp that featured scrimmages against Fox Chapel and Laurel Highlands.
“I think we had a great camp,” McDonald said. “We came out healthy. We found some depth, and I was pleased with our two scrimmages. I am a little concerned though because the level of competition in the scrimmages wasn't great and the level of competition we'll see on Friday will be drastically different.”
With the season at hand, the Falcons won't spend too much time dwelling on last year's season-opening loss to the Cavaliers. But, according to McDonald, it is something they can learn from as they push into the new season.
“We were right there, but they made the plays at critical times,” McDonald said. “That was the difference between a win and a loss. It was a game we had the ability to win.”
For Maher, what has happened in the past can't be changed. Instead, he and his teammates are focusing on the task at hand.
“I feel like we prepared very well, and we had a good camp,” Maher said. “We did the things we needed to do and we're ready. We just want to go out and play.”
Jason Black is the local sports editor of the Daily Courier. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.