Connellsville football team loses season finale to Altoona
Usually when a team comes up on the short end of a score, there is plenty of blame to go around.
But Friday, after the Falcons dropped a 28-14 decision to visiting Altoona in a Quad East game at Connellsville Stadium, Connellsville coach Dave McDonald took all of the heat.
“We were not prepared to play, and that is 100 percent on me,” McDonald said after watching his team's fourth-quarter rally come up short. “I'm 100 percent responsible.”
McDonald, who has been dealing with a family health issue, has missed practice time with the team in recent weeks. However, he offered no excuses after the season finale.
“The kids tried to overcome me by fighting,” McDonald said. “But as a coach, I didn't get it done, and that's all on me.”
One thing the Falcons (2-7, 2-6) couldn't overcome was a strong running game by the Mountain Lions (2-7, 2-6).
Eli Mencer and Kevin Givens each rushed for a pair of touchdowns. Mencer was a force early, scoring twice in the first half on his way to 159 yards on 22 carries. Givens was strong late, scoring twice in the fourth quarter. He finished with 100 yards on 11 carries.
“We got our best offensive lineman (Jake Scheinberg) back, and that was key,” Altoona coach John Franco said. “Our offensive line blocked well, and Mencer and Givens ran hard, and that was a good combination.”
Altoona also played a strong defensive game. The Mountain Lions made a big play early, when Andy Akins recovered a fumble, which led to a three-play drive that culminated in a 34-yard touchdown run by Mencer to give the visitors a 7-0 lead.
Altoona extended its lead with a 12-play drive to start the second quarter. This one ended with a Mencer 10-yard run to make it 14-0.
Both teams bogged down offensively in the third quarter. Altoona's defense came up with two more turnovers; Mencer had an interception and Tylar Wray recovered a fumble.
Then in the fourth, the Mountain Lions seemingly put the game away, when Givens scored on an 11-yard run to make it 21-0.
However, Connellsville quarterback Jade Maher was starting to heat up. Maher led two long fourth-quarter drives, and each resulted in a score. Maher completed 16 of 25 passes for 223 yards and a touchdown.
Maher connected with Austin Puskar on a 23-yard scoring strike. Nathan Norton was Maher's favorite target, catching seven passes for 107 yards.
Trailing by two scores, the Falcons made a defensive stand. Maher completed a nine-play drive with a 1-yard run to make it 21-14.
“I think Connellsville is a good offensive team, and their quarterback is excellent,” Franco said. “We knew that's where they make their money. Connellsville battled and fought.”
However, Connellsville couldn't quite complete the comeback. Givens sealed the victory with a 45-yard touchdown run with just less than two minutes remaining.
It was a disappointing end of the season for the Falcons.
“They fought to overcome my coaching, and I'm proud of them,” McDonald said. “We had a great senior class, and I'm sad to see them go. It's disappointing that it ended this way.”
The Falcons do not plan to play a 10th game, but Altoona is hoping to complete the season with one more exhibition game against a team yet to be determined.
Jason Black is the Local Sports Editor of the Daily Courier. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.