Connellsville rallies past Hempfield
Connellsville's 14-10 win over visiting Hempfield on Friday may qualify as a signature win for the Falcons and second-year coach Dave McDonald.
Connellsville, in desperate need of a victory after starting the season 0-2, fell behind, 10-0, in the first half. But the Falcons rallied thanks to two touchdown passes from Jade Maher and a defensive stand in the final minute of the Quad East game.
“It was a heck of an accomplishment,” McDonald said. “I'm proud for the kids and the community.”
Hempfield, under the direction of first-year coach Rich Bowen, had several opportunities to take control but never could shake the Falcons.
“Obviously we are disappointed with the loss,” Bowen said. “We knew there would be potholes along the way, and hopefully this is just a little one.
“We made some mistakes, but I'm proud of the kids, and I give Connellsville a lot of credit. They were desperate, and they worked extremely hard.”
The first quarter was a field-position battle, and Connellsville seemed to win it after punting the ball and pinning Hempfield inside its 1-yard line.
But on the next play, Joey DeFloria, who rushed for a game-high 214 yards on 15 carries, raced around the right end and went 99 yards untouched to give the Spartans (2-1, 2-1) a 7-0 lead.
In the second quarter, Hempfield scored again thanks to John Domit's 31-yard field goal.
But Connellsville (1-2, 1-2) responded when Darrell Ross pulled down a 28-yard touchdown pass from Maher to make it a 10-7 game midway through the second quarter.
Maher completed 11 of 19 passes for 173 yards and two touchdowns. Ross hauled in six of those passes for 107 yards.
Both teams made mistakes that ended potential scoring drives in the second half. Hempfield's Lian Lewandowski recovered a Connellsville fumble in the third quarter before the Falcons' Dylan Knopsnider intercepted a pass in the end zone to thwart Hempfield in the fourth quarter.
But late in the fourth, Connellsville finally completed one of several promising drives when Jimmy DeMarco capped a 12-play series by catching a 45-yard touchdown pass with 2:50 remaining to give the Falcons the final margin.
“We moved the ball, but then something would happen,” McDonald said. “But we fought through it and just a lot of praise for our kids this week.”
Connellsville's defense stopped Hempfield on four consecutive plays from inside the 10-yard line.
Hempfield quarterback Ty George had a strong game, completing 16 of 38 passes for 211 yards, but the Spartans couldn't find a way to solve Connellsville's defense late. A fourth-down pass fell incomplete in the end zone in the fourth quarter.
Connellsville also blocked two field-goal attempts and recovered a fumble earlier in the game. But the stand at the end was the shining moment for the defense.
“It was a huge stand, and the defense was really good,” McDonald said. “We just battled, and we grew up a lot tonight.”
Jason Black is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-626-3534.