"That group of young men were determined to go further than they did the previous year," former Connellsville head coach Dan Spanish said.
“We were focused from the get go,” quarterback Jason Baer remembers. “We were close to our goal in the 1990 season and we were focused in 1991. We knew where we wanted to go.”
The 1991 campaign was the perfect storm for Connellsville.
“It was a great time in our lives,” former Falcon wide receiver Geoff Snyder said. “You don't realize it at the time, but you look back and reflect.
"What a team we had with the cohesiveness, there were no superstars, we were just a bunch of kids that wanted to play football. We had a great staff. It was just a good setup.
“When you look back we either played together in booster league or against each other. We had been playing football a good solid seven, eight or nine years against each other or with each other. It just carried on. That group stuck together and we advanced through the grade levels and it worked out.”
The Falcons also benefited from great coaching from Spanish and his staff.
“I don't know if any other teams were better prepared,” former Falcon wide out Nick Tzan offered. “That's a credit to our coaches: Coach Spanish, Tom Dolde, Witt and Marciante."
The Falcons finished the regular season 10-0, and wound up with a 13-1 record and earned the school its first and only WPIAL championship. Along the way they picked up the nickname, "Country Boys."
“I think the nickname was more of the time and the music,” Spanish offered. “The Country Boys song and the schools that we played in the Pittsburgh area, the North Hills.
"We were country bumpkins to them, and they just thought we were kids from down in Connellsville and we had a variety. Part of the area is the mountains, and you had the city of Connellsville. But they all came together and they had one common goal to win.”
“It was a name that one of the newscasters in Pittsburgh called us and we owned it, we ran with it,” Baer said. “I joked at the Hall of Fame announcement social that most of us were from the city of Connellsville, but compared to the big city of Pittsburgh, we were country boys.”
“It's pretty cool because I actually have a plaque in my office, “ Snyder explained. “I'm a principal at Connellsville. I have a plaque from Hank Williams Jr. He actually sent us a little plaque congratulating us after the season. Because “Country Boys” became our theme song."
During the regular season the Falcons downed Kiski, 13-7, Ringgold, 28-20, Canon-McMillan, 31-0, and Penn Trafford, 15-14.
The action in the Quad A South Conference began with a great game, as the Falcons used a super second-half effort to post a come-from-behind win against the visiting Warriors.
Penn Trafford jumped out to a 14-6 lead. Connellsville's only points in the first half came off the foot of Robbie Butts, who connected on field goals of 24 and 36 yards.
Connellsville made it 14-8 when Mike Farrah sacked the Warriors' quarterback in the end zone for a safety.
The Falcons took the lead for good with five minutes left, as Brett Cooper bounced in from the one-yard line and Butts tacked on the extra point.
Connellsville put the game on the shoulders of its defense, and Farrah came through with two interceptions in the closing minutes, much to the delight of a raucous home crowd.
“That was purely the kids that won that ball game,” Spanish said. “They fought and battled and did everything that was necessary to win the game. It was just their determination. They didn't give up, they just battled back.”
“Penn Trafford was by far the toughest game during the regular season,” Baer recalled. “We had to come back and score late to win that game. We had a late safety and a late score, and then we had to hold them one last time. That was a tough game. It was back and forth.”
Following the win over Penn Trafford, the Falcons shut out Norwin, 27-0, they beat Tri Valley, 49-10, and then started a remarkable shutout streak. They blanked Franklin Regional, 24-0, Latrobe, 27-0, Laurel Highlands, 49-0, and beat Hempfield, 38-0, to close the regular season.
“The defense was the cornerstone of our team,” Baer said. “It started on the line. We had big, but very good and strong lineman, and that helped set the tone on both offense and defense.
"We just had hard-nosed kids. We never wanted to give an inch and we fought for every inch on the field.”
“The key to our defense, and actually our team in general, was chemistry,” Tzan said. “We just had a perfect chemistry. I can't emphasize it more that that. Everybody had a common goal, and whether it was on the defensive side or offensive side of the ball, we had a singular focus on what we needed to do, and everybody did their job to the best of their ability. The thing that made us so good is that we did not want to let the guy next to us down.”
Connellsville defeated Penn Hills, 27-14, and Mt. Lebanon, 7-0 in the WPIAL playoffs.
“We didn't score until the fourth quarter against Mt. Lebanon,” Baer said. “It was a defensive battle. We just had a long drive, and it was a wet field because it had rained, but we had one big drive at the end. I got it down there and got it done.”
Connellsville beat Upper St. Clair, 17-6, to win the WPIAL Quad A title. The Falcons had to overcome some adversity on the way to the game.
“It was unbelievable,” Tzan said. “Our equipment truck broke down in the Squirrel Hill Tunnel on the way to the championship game. We were actually hauling equipment off of the truck to the buses. The hillbillies from Connellsville were heading down to Pittsburgh, but we ended up winning.
"It was amazing that the city of Connellsville and the district turned out. We had the whole side of Three Rivers Stadium filled. The stands were literally bouncing up and down. It was unbelievable what a great scene.”
“Winning the championship is one of the best moments of my life,” Baer said. “It was something where all of our focus and effort came together. We played a great game, and almost everything went our way.
"I think it was our will that made that happen and not just luck. We really went after them and believed we could do it. It was a great moment for us, our families and the whole town. We had such huge support at that game. It was loud and really exciting.”
Connellsville lost a tough game to Erie Cathedral Prep, 28-21, in the PIAA playoffs.
“It was a tough loss,” Baer stated. “We were up 14-0 on them really quick, and it was one of those games where the wind was really strong going one direction. I think every score of the game was going that direction, and it was probably the first time all year where a few breaks didn't go our way.”
The Falcons were thrilled when they learned they were going to be inducted into the Fayette County Sports Hall of Fame.
“I'm very proud of them,” Spanish stated. “Of what they accomplished as a team. The song says, 'country boys will survive,' and I think that's very fitting for them.”
“There are world-class athletes in the Fayette County Sports Hall of Fame,” Baer stated. “Players that have had success at major colleges, the Olympics and pro sports. To look at our team and be a part of that is such an honor.
"I don't know individually, maybe some linemen would be of that caliber, but we did something special as a team together. To be honored in that group is really special.”
“I think it's a celebration of team work,” Tzan stated. “I don't think individually any of us would have the audacity to say we're even close to being comparable to some of the individuals that have been inducted. But as a team, I would honestly put us up against just about anybody. Again, it's truly a humbling honor.”