Connellsville coach thrilled by players, community support
Although the Connellsville football team has just one win this season, it's difficult to imagine coach Dave McDonald being more proud of his team. The reason for that pride goes beyond what happens on the football field.
Several weeks ago, McDonald's 13-year-old daughter was admitted to Children's Hospital in Pittsburgh, where she is battling an illness. McDonald has understandably been forced to miss a number of team practices and functions to be by his daughter's side.
For McDonald and his family, the last few weeks have been tough. But on the football side of things, McDonald couldn't be happier with the way the players and coaches have continued to work hard in an effort to get better. Those same players and coaches, as well as the Connellsville High School faculty and staff and members of the community, have stepped up to offer assistance and support to McDonald and his family.
“The way the team has reached out and what the coaches have done has been unbelievable,” McDonald said. “The kids have been so resilient and the outpouring from the community has been unbelievable. It chokes me up just talking about it. That's why these last two games (in the regular season) are so important. Our kids deserve to win.”
The Falcons will be playing for their coach when they travel to Latrobe for a Quad East game Friday night, but they also still have an outside chance at qualifying for the WPIAL playoffs as the wild-card team in Class AAAA. The only likely scenario for the Falcons to gain entry into the postseason would be to win this week against Latrobe as well as next week at home against Altoona. Connellsville would also likely need Baldwin and Mt. Lebanon to lose their final two games of the season and have Butler and Fox Chapel each lose one game in the final two weeks.
“We haven't really talked about it,” McDonald said in regards to the possible playoff scenarios. “We're just trying to play 48 minutes of football. We did it against Norwin and we did it for three quarters against Hempfield and we battled Penn-Trafford. We're focused on putting a complete game together.”
Putting a complete game together against Latrobe won't be easy. The Wildcats are also fighting for the Quad-A wildc-card position and are coming off a 20-14 win over Altoona.
“Every game they have played has been a tight game,” McDonald said. “(Quarterback) Logan Carnes is one of the best players in our section, if not the best player in our section. He can drive them down the field, but he can also go 80 yards real quick, so we have to try to contain him. Defensively, they pressure you and they force you to make an adjustment.”
The Falcons will be missing at least one key piece to their offensive attack. Wide receiver Darrell Ross is out with a thumb injury. Quarterback Jade Maher is questionable with a lower body injury. If Maher cannot go, junior Derek Brubacher would likely get the nod under center. Connellsville running backs Christopher Russell, Michael Parlak and Dylan Knopsnider will likely be called upon often.
According to McDonald, Connellsville's main chance at success will be along the line of scrimmage.
“We have to establish the offensive and defensive line,” McDonald said. “I like our matchup there.”
Connellsville is coming off a 47-12 loss to McKeesport and the Falcons' playoff chances are hanging by a thread.
“It's not over for us,” McDonald said. “But we need to get help. We're not out of the picture.”
Jason Black is a local sports editor for the Daily Courier. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.