Connellsville faces tough opening test with No. 5 McKeesport
One of the first objectives for any high school football team is to start the season strong. The Connellsville football team appears to have accomplished that objective.
“I think we got a lot done in two (camp) weeks,” Connellsville coach Dave McDonald said. “We improved from our first scrimmage to our second, and we solidified some positions. After camp, we came away healthy.”
One of the positions solidified was starting quarterback.
Senior Derek Brubacher, junior Jimmy Cellurale and sophomore Dylan Harshman were vying for the starting spot. The nod went to Brubacher.
“All three had great camps, but Derek seemed to be a little better in all areas and just having command of what we are tying to do,” McDonald said. “That's no knock against Jimmy or Dylan. Derek has been around a couple of years, and the kids believe he can do it.”
Brubacher's first challenge will be leading the team against host McKeesport in a Quad East Conference game.
McKeesport is coming off a 2013 campaign in which it won the conference title under coach George Smith. Despite some graduation losses, McDonald knows the Tigers will be a tough opponent.
“McKeesport scrimmaged Woodland Hills and Central Catholic, and both scrimmages looked like SEC football rather than high school football,” McDonald said. “Coach Smith does an excellent job. They are very athletic, and they play offensively and defensively as a unit.”
The Tigers lost quarterback David Queen and running back Mikell Moore to graduation, but will likely feature experienced running back Khaleke Hudson offensively.
The Tigers are just one in a gauntlet of early-season tests the Falcons must face. Through the first five games, Connellsville will play four playoff teams (McKeesport, Penn-Trafford, Hempfield and Central Catholic) from last year.
“I don't think anybody is playing three of the top five (McKeesport, Penn-Trafford and Central Catholic) teams in the WPIAL in the first five weeks of the season,” McDonald said. “It is what it is and so we've talked about embracing it. We're dividing the season into two halves, and we're focused on getting better from Week 1 to Week 5. Then, we'll see what we need to do to get ourselves in the tournament.”
Despite a tough early-season schedule, McDonald can't wait to get rolling.
“I'm excited about seeing how we compete against a top team,” McDonald said. “In the past, I don't think they believed they belonged, but that has changed in the last three years. Now we're trying to get to the point where we finish one of these games and get this done and take it to the next level.”
Jason Black is the local sports editor of the Daily Courier. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.