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Connellsville hopes to build on 1st playoff appearance since 2005

| Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012, 8:46 p.m.
Connellsville's Jade Maher photographed on Wednesday, August 1, 2012 at Falcon Stadium in Connellsville. Evan R. Sanders | Daily Courier
Connellsville's Jordan McCrae photographed on Wednesday, August 1, 2012 at Falcon Stadium in Connellsville. Evan R. Sanders | Daily Courier
Connellsville's Grant Witt (right) receives instruction from assistant coach Bobby Thompson photographed on Wednesday, August 1, 2012 at Falcon Stadium in Connellsville. Evan R. Sanders | Daily Courier
Connellsville's Chris Russell photographed on Wednesday, August 1, 2012 at Falcon Stadium in Connellsville. Evan R. Sanders | Daily Courier

Connellsville is hoping to build off a turnaround season in 2011, which included a 5-5 record and trip to the playoffs for the first time since 2005.

But meeting or surpassing last season's win total won't be easy. Connellsville has question marks, but there are plenty of positive factors as well.

“From an offensive standpoint, we have some very good skill players,” coach David McDonald said.

Leading the offense is junior quarterback Jade Maher.

“He is very coachable, but at the same time, he is very critical of himself,” McDonald said of Maher. “He's got a strong arm and a good head on his shoulders. We'll open it up and throw the football more this year and give him more responsibility.”

Split ends Nate Norton and Caleb Stevenson figure to be primary targets for Maher. Running backs Jordan McCrae, a transfer from Greensburg Central Catholic, and James Stevenson should provide the Falcons with an explosive backfield. Fullbacks Dylan Miller and Chris Russell will be getting carries and clearing lanes.

The biggest concern on offense might be the line. Several players graduated.

“Our biggest concern is piecing together the line because we need two tackles,” McDonald said.

Austin Brooks, Austin Heinbaugh and Robert Groff are expected to be mainstays along the line.

The defense should be solid with the return of all-conference players Nathan Earnesty (free safety) and Jimmy DeMarco (inside linebacker). Brooks will anchor the defensive line, and Grant Witt and James Stevenson patrol the secondary at cornerback. The special teams will get a boost from GCC transfer Benjamin Kisiel, a kicker.

The Falcons lost 21 players to graduation, but McDonald is confident in this team, which is dominated by underclassmen.

“We lost a nice group of seniors who will be hard to replace,” McDonald said. “But the kids stepping in have all the ability in the world.”

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