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Connellsville looks to seize opportunity to move up in Quad East

Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review
Darrell Ross and the Falcons hope to make it two straight wins when they travel to Penn-Trafford for a Quad East game on Friday, Oct. 4, 2013.

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Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2013, 11:03 p.m.

It was without a doubt a very frustrating first four weeks of the high school football season for Connellsville. Four straight losses are tough to take, but the frustrating part was that the Falcons showed the potential to be better than their record indicated.

However in Week 5, the Falcons not only played to their potential, but also got the desired result in a 40-14 victory over visiting Norwin. It was a win that for the time being, saved Connellsville's chances of competing for a playoff spot.

“We've seen a lot of good things, but at the end of the day, it only matters if you win or lose,” Connellsville coach Dave McDonald said. “To put it all together and get a win gives them confidence. The kids can hold their heads a little bit higher.”

More importantly, the Falcons are a little bit higher in the Quad East standings as they prepare for another critical test this week at Penn-Trafford.

The Falcons sit in sixth place in the conference, just one game out of the fifth playoff position.

“Last week, we printed out the standings and we were at the bottom,” McDonald said. “Now, all of a sudden, we're one spot out of the playoffs.”

One of the five teams in front of Connellsville is Penn-Trafford. The Warriors are coming off a 28-8 win over Latrobe and are in third place in the Quad East.

When McDonald took over Connellsville's program, he wanted to build his program like Penn-Trafford's.

“I have a ton of respect for (Penn-Trafford head coach) John Ruane, and we have kind of looked at Penn-Trafford as a program we want to emulate,” McDonald said. “They are well-coached and they play great team football. They don't have superstars, but they play very well as a team.”

The Falcons will have their chance to see just how well they stack up against the Warriors.

“They look a lot like the team they've been the last two years, but they have a sophomore quarterback (Brett Laffoon), and he keeps getting better,” McDonald said. “Their offensive and defensive line is very stout. They're scoring enough to win, and they're playing really well on defense.”

Two of Penn-Trafford's top offensive weapons are running backs Devin Austin and Tom Stinnelli. Both scored in last week's win over the Wildcats.

“We've got to stop them and put pressure on their sophomore quarterback,” McDonald said.

The Warriors will be trying to stop a Connellsville run game that kicked it into high gear last week. Christopher Russell carried 29 times for 129 yards and four touchdowns, and Michael Parlak had seven carries for 110 yards. Quarterback Jade Maher completed 10-of-17 passes for 126 yards and a touchdown. Defensively, the Falcons forced five punts, recovered a fumble and had an interception in the win over the Knights.

“We did a lot of good things,” McDonald said. “We played great team defense. We tackled well. Our offensive line executed and we were efficient when we had the football.”

Establishing a foothold in the conference was critical for the Falcons in the win over the Knights. This week, they'll look to seize the opportunity to get firmly back in the playoff mix.

“We have one word, and that word is win,” McDonald said. “We have to do one thing, and one thing only, and that's win.”

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