PITTSBURGH - With the score tied at seven through the first 24 minutes of Friday's Big East Conference contest at Plum High School Stadium, Altoona football players, coaches and Mountain Lions fans who made the two-hour trip to eastern Allegheny County had thoughts of a breakthrough victory.
However, Plum dashed those hopes in the second half.
The Mustangs got a pair of touchdown throws from Christopher Zdinak in the third quarter, including one less than a minute into the quarter, and Plum went on to post a 34-14 victory over the Mountain Lions.
The loss dropped Altoona to 0-7 overall and 0-5 in conference play, while Plum upped its overall record to 4-3 and its conference mark to 1-3.
While the Mustangs converted their two third-quarter drives into scores, the Mountain Lions offense struggled to move the ball.
Altoona collected only 36 yards on 11 plays in the quarter and punted on both of its possessions.
"The first half was great for us," Mountain Lions coach Tom Palfey said. "We moved the ball and did some things we wanted to do. But then we struggled to move the ball in the third quarter. We can't have that. We have to sustain drives, and we have to make plays. The first half is what we were looking for, but the second half was a little rougher."
Altoona junior quarterback Louis Bettwy threw 26 passes in the game and completed 14 of them for 188 yards, including a 23-yard touchdown to senior Scott Thompson in the fourth quarter.
Thompson hauled in five passes for 95 yards.
Bettwy was intercepted three times. Plum defensive back Ryan Garrity made all three picks, and he returned one for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Senior DeRon Lee led the Altoona rushing attack with 19 carries for 62 yards.
Junior running back Danny Moyer, the Mountain Lions' leading rusher coming into the game, had two early carries for five yards. He was limited because of an injury that had him questionable coming into the game.
Altoona turned the ball over on its first two possessions of the game.
The first one didn't hurt the Mountain Lions, as they forced Plum into a fourth-down situation and then stopped a Mustangs' fake-punt attempt short of the first-down marker.
The second turnover - a Bettwy interception - led to points for Plum.
The pick by Garrity set the Mustangs up at the Mountain Lions 21.
Running back Demetrius Wellington scored on an 8-yard run four plays later to put the Mustangs on the board.
Altoona held Plum off the board for the rest of the first half and used a long drive of its own to tie the game.
The Mountain Lions ran 11 plays and gained 52 yards and three first downs on the drive to put the ball in the end zone. Bettwy plunged across the goal line from 1-yard out with 38 seconds left until halftime.
"The first half was a real struggle," Plum head coach Frank Sacco said. "Altoona is improving every week. My hat's off to them. They played a hard-fought game and never quit. We came out in the second half and executed better on both sides of the ball.
Zdinak finished the game 12 of 19 passing for 149 yards and the two third-quarter touchdowns.
His favorite target was wide receiver C.J. Lutz, who caught seven passes for 99 yards.
Wellington topped the 100-yard mark, ending the contest with 107 yards on 14 carries and two scores. He capped off the scoring with a 47-yard scamper with 1:09 left in the game.
Both Plum and Altoona continue Quad East play next week.
The Mountain Lions host undefeated Pittsburgh Central Catholic on Friday at 7 p.m. at Mansion Park, while Plum travels to Fox Chapel on Friday.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Altoona 0 7 0 7 - 14
Plum7 0 13 14 - 34
P-Wellington 8 run (Stover kick), 5:26.
A-Bettwy 1 run (Caracciolo kick), :38
P-Lutz 53 pass from Zdinak (Stover kick), 11:01.
P-Garrity 18 pass from Zdinak (kick blocked), 4:45.
P-Garrity 55 interception return (Stover kick), 2:29.
A-Thompson 23 pas from Bettwy (Caracciolo kick), 1:28.
P-Wellington 47 run (Stover kick), 1:09.
RUSHING: Altoona-Lee 19-62, Tornatore 9-27, Bettwy 7-22, Pierce 2-7, Moyer 2-5, Koch 2-(-1). Plum-Wellington 14-107, Zdinak 7-16, DiGuilio 4-10, Sekerka 3-13, Bailey 2-12.
PASSING: Altoona-Bettwy 14-26-3-186. Plum-Zdinak 12-19-0-149, Stover 0-1-0-0.
RECEIVING: Altoona-Thompson 5-95, Lee 2-10, Price 1-21, Wilt 1-18, Steinbugel 1-18, Filler 1-10, Foose 1-10, Abram 1-4, Koch 1-0. Plum-Lutz 7-99, Garrity 4-42, Wellington 1-8.
INTERCEPTIONS: Plum-Garrity 3.