Had third-year Altoona coach Tom Palfey written the script for last week's season-opening game with archrival Hollidaysburg himself, it might not have turned out any better for the Mountain Lions.
The Mountain Lions rolled to a 27-6 halftime lead, piled up 448 yards in total offense, and took some of the sting out of last year's 0-9 season with a 55-13 victory over the Golden Tigers.
"Better than any of us could have imagined,'' was how Palfey summarized the season-opening win. "I'm very proud of [the returning players] for putting last year behind them.''
Included in the debacle that was Altoona's 2010 season was a 60-0 loss to WPIAL power McKeesport at Mansion Park. The two teams square off again Friday in a WPIAL non-section matchup at Weigle-Schaeffer Stadium in McKeesport. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
Palfey knows that providing a much better showing against McKeesport this year will be one of the Mountain Lions' top priorities.
"I think 0-9 is an incentive, I think 60-0 is an incentive,'' Palfey said of last year's numbers. "Sometimes, there's nothing you can do about it at the time, and we knew we would take our lumps last year. But hopefully a lot of the sophomores who played for us last year are grown-up juniors now, and, with the more playing experience they get, the memory of last year's losses is something that they will never want to experience again.''
Game: Altoona Mountain Lions (1-0) vs. McKeesport Tigers (1-0)
Where: Weigle-Schaeffer Memorial Stadium, McKeesport
When: Friday, 7 p.m.
The coaches: Altoona - Tom Palfey (3-17, third year); McKeesport - Jim Ward (14-36, sixth year);
Series record: Altoona, 11-9-1
Last meeting: McKeesport, 60-0 (2010)
While snapping a 14-game losing streak that had extended over two seasons, Altoona had several outstanding individual efforts in the win over Hollidaysburg. Speedy senior scatback Danny Moyer scored three touchdowns on runs of 49 and 3 yards, and he also caught a 42-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Louis Bettwy, who completed seven of eight passes for 216 yards. Another senior, wideout Rafeeq Barnes, hauled in an 85-yard touchdown pass from Bettwy and also scored on a 27-yard run.
"We all came out with confidence,'' Barnes said. "It was a good way to start the season. The blocking was the key. Everybody on the field did what they had to do, and the linemen and Danny [Moyer] created a lot of space for me to run.''
As good as Altoona's season debut was last week, McKeesport's 54-9 season-opening rout of St. Joan of Arc (Ontario) High School was equally impressive. Dante Patterson, a 5-10, 195-pound senior tailback, rushed 10 times for 203 yards and three touchdowns last week for McKeesport, and his backfield mate, 5-8, 170-pound senior Lawrence Wallace, rushed for 102 yards on eight carries and a touchdown. Junior quarterback Ed Stockett, a 6-4, 210-pounder, completed six of nine passes for 136 yards and one touchdown.
McKeesport racked up 518 yards in total offense last week, including 386 on the ground.
"That game against the Ontario school was a highlight film for a lot of [McKeesport's] guys,'' Palfey quipped.
McKeesport returns five starters on offense and four on defense from last year's squad. McKeesport coach Jim Ward expects Altoona to be a lot more competitive in Friday's game against his team than the Mountain Lions were in last season's game.
"I think they've greatly improved from last year,'' Ward said of the Mountain Lions. 'They have a couple of guys who make a lot of plays for them, and they made some explosive plays [against Hollidaysburg]. They seem to be playing with some confidence, and it certainly should be a different team than what we saw last year.''
Palfey certainly hopes so.
"We want to forget about the memory of last year's game,'' he said. "On Friday night, we want to take it one play at a time, and go with the idea of winning each play, winning each series, and winning each quarter.''