Connellsville hoping for strong start against Kiski Area
For many years, the Connellsville football team has had the luxury of starting the season with at least a couple of exhibition games, which can be used to refine techniques and work on flaws in preparation for the more important conference games.
This year, no such luxury exists for the Falcons as they will open the season on the road with a Quad East match-up against Kiski.
“This one is for real,” Connellsville coach Dave McDonald said. “We know how important it is to get off to a good start. It's critical for us to come out and play well.”
The Falcons will be trying to build on last year's campaign that saw Connellsville finish 5-5 and advance to the WPIAL playoffs for the first time since 2005.
However, an improvement is far from guaranteed considering the Falcons will have many new faces take the field.
“We've got eight new starters on offense and seven on defense,” McDonald said.
Despite the changes, McDonald is pleased with the way his team has prepared for the start of the season.
“I think we are right where we need to be, and maybe even a little ahead,” McDonald said.
Against Kiski, the Falcons will attempt to control the game on the ground. A stable of running backs — including halfbacks Jordan McCrae and James Stevenson as well as fullbacks Dylan Miller, Chris Russell and Zachary Cree — should get plenty of work. Connellsville still is trying to put together a cohesive offensive line, but that doesn't seem to bother junior quarterback Jade Maher, who is beginning his second season in McDonald's wing-T offense.
“I love the offense,” Maher said. “This year, it's like second nature for me. I'm more confident with it now.”
The Falcons will be staring across the field at a Kiski team that is trying to build confidence of its own, particularly after grabbing just one victory a season ago.
“They have a new head coach (Dave Heavner), and they look like a different team than the one we scrimmaged last season,” McDonald said. “They are physical up front, and they have a couple of skilled kids.”
The Cavaliers will be led by senior quarterback Ricky Carter, a transfer from Gateway. Junior Joe Brungo is a top receiving threat.
McDonald noted that his program is in a growing process, as is Kiski's.
“I think both of the programs are paralleling each other from that standpoint,” McDonald said.
The Connellsville coach expects a tight game to start the season, meaning that a mistake or two could be the difference between a win and a loss.
“We can't turn the ball over, and we have to play well on special teams,” McDonald said. “The team that turns the ball over the most is going to lose.”
McDonald expects his team to be ready to play at a high level from the start.
“The expectations have changed,” McDonald said. “It's not just nice if we win, we expect to win. We put those expectations on ourselves.”
Jason Black is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-626-3534.