Connellsville football team hopes to grow from tough season

| Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2013, 10:27 p.m.

Sometimes things don't go exactly according to plan. This season, the Connellsville football team had high hopes of qualifying for the WPIAL Class AAAA playoffs.

However, some tough early-season losses put the Falcons in a hole in which they could never dig out. Connellsville was officially eliminated from the playoffs last week even though they were 19-0 victors over Latrobe.

What's left for the Falcons is one more game, a Friday Quad East home matchup against Altoona. On the surface, it may be just a game to round out the schedule, but Connellsville certainly has motivation to win.

“Obviously, this year didn't go the way we thought,” Connellsville coach Dave McDonald said. “But we're just focused on today, and I would like for us to be able to send our seniors off the right way.”

McDonald lamented some of the penalties and turnovers that proved costly in several of the Falcons' games early in the season. But he acknowledged that the win over Latrobe and a potential victory over Altoona would help to alleviate some of the sting of those mistakes.

“We've had a bad taste in our mouth all year with the self-inflicted wounds,” McDonald said. “But winning in the last two weeks would help to take some of the bite out of it.”

When the Falcons line up against the Mountain Lions, they'll see a team in a similar situation. Altoona is also out of the playoff race and has dropped seven in a row, including a 38-0 loss to Central Catholic last week.

The Lions, like the Falcons, will be looking to finish strong.

“They remind me a lot of us,” McDonald said. “They have a physical line and some skill kids that can make plays. They've also had some of the same problems we've had with tying a full game together. As the year has gone on, they have improved greatly. They're young, and they're learning.”

Devin Miller and Eli Mencer have each been productive from the quarterback position, and Sean Steave is a receiving threat. Kevin Givens is the primary rusher.

Containing these players will be key, especially after last week's standout effort in which Connellsville's defense forced six turnovers in the shutout victory over Latrobe.

“I think defensively we finally played a full game of football,” McDonald said.

Offensively, Connellsville will look to build on a strong second-half effort from last week's contest. Quarterback Jade Maher will lead the way with Christopher Russell, Michael Parlak and Dylan Knopsnider carrying out of the backfield. Receiver Darrell Ross played through a broken thumb last week.

McDonald is disappointed that this game has no playoff implications, but he continues to see a program that is trying to build.

“Three years ago, Connellsville hadn't beaten a Quad-A team in five years,” McDonald said. “In the last three years, we have three wins against Norwin, two against Hempfield and two against Latrobe. This senior class probably didn't win as many games as they had hoped, but we want to send them out the right way.”

A win this week would also be another against a Class AAAA foe. More importantly, it would allow the senior group to leave on a winning note.

“For what this group of seniors means to me, there would be nothing better for them to win their last high school football game at our stadium and for them to have that memory for the rest of their lives,” McDonald said.

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