Trib HSSN football player of the week for 2023 Week 1

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Monday, September 4, 2023 | 6:58 PM


Following back-to-back winless seasons in 2020 and 2021, Connellsville ended a long losing streak with a win over Albert Gallatin in Week Zero last season. They could not follow up that win with another victory though to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the last time the Falcons started 2-0.

This season they did.

For the first time since 1997, Connellsville is 2-0 after wins over Albert Gallatin (48-13) in Week Zero and an impressive triumph over Hempfield on Friday, 28-7.

The Falcons matched their win total from 2022 thanks to a huge performance on the ground by senior running back Bruce Giles.

“He was mentally and physically prepared,” Connellsville coach Chad Lembo said. “He knew his opponent and was patient with his cuts. He trusted his blockers and had great vision.”

Lembo is one of three head coaches at Connellsville, along with Jace McClean and Mick Lilley. This is the second year for the unique triumvirate of coaches for the blue and white.

Giles rushed for 221 yards in the victory over a Hempfield team that beat Connellsville in Week 1 last season, 49-0.

Lembo has been impressed with his senior running back for what he brings to the team on and off the field.

“Bruce is a vocal leader, as well as leading through effort,” he said. “Sometimes we have to pull the reigns back. He has a ton of heart. He was 110% committed in the offseason. He set his own expectations high and his spirit is contagious.”

The Connellsville offense is showing some diversity with quarterback Anthony Piasecki throwing for 175 yards and four touchdowns in Week Zero, followed by Giles’ performance in Week 1.

It’s been 32 years since Connellsville won WPIAL gold in 1991. While the Falcons may not be ready to compete for a championship yet, the positive signs of a 2-0 start are real, and for Falcons fans, it is spectacular.

“It feels great,” Lembo said. “The kids are becoming a team and learning how to play a full game.”

WPIAL Week 1 honorable mentions

Keegan Smetanka, Shaler

Last season, Shaler missed the playoffs by one game in the Class 5A Northeast Conference. This year after beating Butler, the Titans blew by Hampton in Week 1 thanks in part to senior quarterback Keegan Smetanka, who completed 14 of 20 passes for 276 yards and two touchdowns of 63 yards to Joey DeSabato and 33 yards to Brandon London, along with a 1-yard quarterback sneak in a 43-8 victory.

Devin Harris, Shady Side Academy

Sophomore quarterback Devin Harris threw for a lot of yards on Friday, but he needed each and every one of them to secure a 2-0 start for Shady Side Academy with a win over North Catholic. Harris connected on 24 of 42 passes for 361 yards and four touchdown passes of 27 yards to Deacon Durham, 1 yard to Cam Mallory, 5 yards to Carter Bonner and a game-winning 10-yard strike to Bonner in overtime that helped the Bulldogs edge the Trojans in overtime, 34-28.

Spencer Petrucci, California

It’s hard to tell what has been more impressive thus far this early season, the California offense which has scored 84 points in their first two games, or the Trojans defense, which has yet to give up a point in one-sided wins over Frazier in Week Zero (37-0) and Charleroi on Friday (47-0). Senior tailback Spencer Petrucci carried the ball 17 times and nearly averaged 17 yards a tote as he gained 287 yards and scored three long touchdowns on runs of 59, 37 and 68 yards in the win over the Cougars.

2023 HSSN Players of the Week

Week Zero – Cameron Epps, South Allegheny

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