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Connellsville looks to rebound from 0-2 start with win at Latrobe

| Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015, 8:54 p.m.
Steph Chambers | Trib Total Media
Connellsville's Dylan Harshman (1) is pressured by Penn-Trafford's defense during a Quad East game Friday, Sept. 11, 2015, at Falcon Stadium in Connellsville. Penn-Trafford won, 62-14.

Coming into the season, Connellsville's football team featured at least a half dozen players who had not started a varsity football game.

Those Falcons got quite the introduction against McKeesport and Penn-Trafford. Two of the upper-tier WPIAL Class AAAA squads that cruised past Connellsville by a combined 111-21 margin.

“We have seven guys on offense and eight guys on defense that their first two games were McKeesport and Penn-Trafford. That's a tough start. We have to focus on ourselves,” Connellsville coach Dave McDonald said. “They have two games of experience against great teams. We've been looking for the positives and understanding there are going to be negatives. We are excited to play this week.”

The Falcons (0-2, 0-2) hope to get back on track this week when they visit Latrobe (0-2, 0-2) in a Quad East Conference battle.

“I am sure they are very happy we are coming to town since we lost our first two games. They are going to be excited to play at home. I think we have a big challenge in front of us,” McDonald said. “We just have to focus on ourselves and doing the things we can do well and execute better. I look forward to a good matchup.”

The Wildcats, too, have struggled in their first two games. They dropped a 31-0 decision to Norwin to start and suffered a 49-7 setback last week at Kiski Area.

“Being 0-2 isn't the ideal situation, but we're continuing to work. It's still a pretty fast game for some of our young kids now. We're hoping with each practice and game things start slowing down for them,” Latrobe coach Jason Marucco said. “We need to have some success early in a game so we can start building that confidence and not have to play from behind all game.”

Turnovers hurt the Falcons in both of their losses. They fumbled away the ball three times against the Tigers and had five interceptions — including three for touchdowns — last week.

“The first half against McKeesport, we went toe-to-toe with them. We were inside the 10 three times and scored only once. The game kind of got away from us in the second half when we had turnovers,” McDonald said. “The Penn-Trafford game started off with three turnovers, and it was 21-0 before you could blink.

“We continued to make improvements. We got better through camp. We were much better our second scrimmage than our first scrimmage,” he continued. “We've played two very good teams, and we feel like there are some good things we did against those very good teams. We feel like there are some good things we can carry over even though the scores might not indicate it.”

Connellsville is looking for more consistency out of the quarterback position. Juniors Derek Orndorff and Dylan Harshman have split duties under center. Both will see some action this week as well.

“I think Derek played better in the first week, and Dylan had a better game the second week. We'll go with both again and take a good, long look after this week and see how we're going to go forward,” McDonald said. “Both have strengths and weaknesses, and we'll give it one more week to see how it plays out and go from there.”

Last year, the Falcons started off 0-2 and rebounded with two wins and eventually earned a playoff berth. McDonald hopes for a repeat of that.

“Latrobe is a young team just like us, and we'll be fighting each other for that last playoff spot,” he said. “One of our goals is to get in the playoffs and we have to win this game.”

Joe Sager is a freelance writer.

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