Connellsville set to tangle with McKeesport in Quad East showdown
With the way the Quad East Conference is setting up, Friday's game between Connellsville and host McKeesport looms large with playoff implications.
The Tigers (3-2, 3-2) sit in fourth place in the conference while the Falcons (2-4, 2-3) are perched in sixth, one spot out of a playoff position. Needless to say, the Falcons could bolster their playoff hopes quite a bit with a big win this week on the road. But according to Connellsville coach Dave McDonald, standings and playoff implications are background noise for his team.
“We're really still focused on just getting better from week to week,” McDonald said, noting that in last week's 38-17 loss to Penn-Trafford, the Falcons had nine underclassmen playing on offense and eight underclassmen competing on defense. “We're still focused on executing and playing at our highest level. When we start to focus on what other teams are doing to us, that's when we compound problems.”
Last week, the Falcons were beaten physically, which is something that doesn't sit well with McDonald.
“What beat us in the Penn-Trafford game is something we can control, and that's part of this process,” McDonald said. “We have to get better at that. The strength thing is something we can control.”
This week, discipline will be the buzzword as the Falcons prepare for a McKeesport squad that has played much better of late. The Tigers started 0-2 but have responded by winning three of their last four, including a 34-2 victory over Latrobe last week.
“Coach (Jim) Ward has done a great job of steering them through some rough seas, and he has them where they need to be,” McDonald said. “They've endured some bumps in the road, but I think the team they have in Week 7 is the team they thought they would have in Week 1.”
Connellsville's defense will have to be disciplined against the McKeesport offense, which features an option-running senior quarterback in Ed Stockett, who will play football next season at Akron. Senior Hodari Christian is an option in the ground game, and senior Marqua Perdue is the team's top pass-catching threat.
“They're going back to the old McKeesport ways with running the option,” McDonald said. “Stockett is a great runner and thrower. We have to be disciplined and play assignment football. We have to stay focused on the phases we are trying to control. We have to stay disciplined.”
The McKeesport defense has played well of late, and it should present a challenge for the Connellsville offense. Last week, senior running back Zachary Cree rushed for 59 yards on 17 carries. Senior back Jordan McCrae has been a red-zone threat all season, and he also added a kickoff return for a touchdown last week.
The Connellsville special teams units have been solid, and they could play a key role if Friday's game is close.
“I'm happy with our kicking game,” McDonald said, noting the consistency of kicker Benjamin Kisiel. “We are averaging 37 yards per punt, and the kickoff team is always a work in progress.”
Discipline will be key for the Falcons and so will confidence. McKeesport has beaten Connellsville convincingly in each of the past four seasons, including a 58-21 victory last season. McDonald is hoping that the past doesn't play a role in what happens Friday.
“If we show up and play, we can compete with them,” McDonald said.
Jason Black is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-626-3534.