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Falcons face tough test in conference favorite Gateway

| Thursday, Sept. 6, 2012, 12:20 a.m.
Valley News Dispatch
Connellsville's Shawn DeWitt (10) and Jimmy DeMarco (20) will try to help the Falcons' defense slow down Gateway on Friday. Bill Shirley | for the Daily Courier
Valley News Dispatch
Connellsville runner, #3 James Stevenson, runs through Kiski defenders, during action Friday night action at Davis Field in Vandergrift, August 31, 2012. Bill Shirley | For The Valley News Dispatch

With a number of new players in Connellsville's starting lineup to begin the season, it's safe to say that last week's season-opening 22-14 loss to Kiski Area can be classified as a learning experience for the Falcons.

“When 15 of 22 (starting) kids are playing in their first varsity game in a new system, we made mistakes that are common to that situation and Kiski made a couple more plays than us,” Connellsville coach Dave McDonald said. “It's going to be a process, and we're going to get better as the year goes along. It's about us taking care of the things we can control.”

McDonald and the team had a film study session Monday.

“After we watched the film and seeing the things that hurt us, we know these are things that we can get better at,” McDonald said. “We lost to a good team, but we were right there with a good team.”

This week, a very good team comes to town as Connellsville prepares to battle Trib Total Media Class AAAA No. 2 Gateway.

“Gateway is outstanding across the board,” McDonald said. “They look like they could play on Saturdays in college football.”

The Gators have high goals for 2012, and they certainly seem to have the players to reach those goals as a number of experienced athletes return on both sides of the ball. Senior quarterback Thomas Woodson, along with senior running backs Darin Franklin and Andre Martin, lead the Gateway attack.

Last week, Woodson threw for two scores and ran for two more in a 61-6 drubbing of Latrobe. Martin finished with 138 receiving yards on 12 catches. He also rushed for three touchdowns.

McDonald acknowledged Gateway's high talent level, and said he's anxious to see how his own team bounces back against a great team after a tough loss.

“You only get so many opportunities to play against the best, so let's go out and play and see where we are at,” McDonald said. “We're focused on us getting better.”

The Falcons have some positives coming into the game. Junior quarterback Jade Maher was able to move the Connellsville offense, particularly in the early portion of the game against Kiski Area. Maher scored on a short run and also found senior running back Jordan McCrae on a short scoring pass. McCrae, a transfer from Greensburg Central Catholic, had a positive impact in his first game with Connellsville.

McDonald noted that some personnel changes may be forthcoming for the Falcons, especially on the offensive line. Sophomores Christian Stefl, Gunnar Lynch and Kevin Koontz could all get a chance at cracking the starting lineup along the offensive front.

In last season's meeting between the teams, Gateway blanked Connellsville, 40-0.

Jason Black is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at jblack@tribweb.com or 724-626-3534.

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