When John Franco signed on for his second stint as head football coach at Altoona Area High School, he knew there'd be nights like this.
But he probably wasn't expecting one to come against Kiski Area.
The Cavaliers came to town Friday, weathered a severe thunderstorm that delayed the start of the game by 45 minutes and then knocked off the punchless Mountain Lions, 7-0, in a WPIAL Class AAAA Foothills Conference game at Mansion Park.
"I thought our defense played well, and our special teams were good," Franco said, "but, offensively, they thumped us. We couldn't get the ball in the end zone."
The Lions opened the season with a 35-14 Foothills win over Norwin last week and put up some nice offensive numbers. They didn't repeat last night, though.
Despite the opening-night success, Franco said he was disappointed with the Lions' lack of discipline, and he was disappointed again last night.
The Lions twice failed to convert third-and-1 chances in the first half and were turned back on a third-and-1 and fourth-and-1 in the second half. They didn't cross midfield the first half and botched their only real scoring chance early in the fourth quarter.
After Brennan Luciano hit Jeff Hancock for a 31-yard gainer - on a third-and-7 - to the Kiski 46, Mante Barnes rambled for 34 yards to the Cavs' 10. Then, Luciano hit Jake Diviney with a pass near the 1-yard line.
However, a penalty for an ineligible receiver wiped that out and put the ball back at the 15. The Lions eventually turned the ball over on downs at the 17.
"When we had our best chance - it could have been first-and goal - we lined up on the wrong side of the formation ... it's frustrating," Franco said.
"It's something I've got to correct. I'm in charge of the offense, and I've got to correct that. I've got to find a way to score when we're getting thumped like that," he added.
"Give them credit, though. They won the battle of the line of scrimmage, and that really surprised me."
Kiski qualifies as one of the early surprises in the Foothills Conference after beating Altoona. The Cavs also beat Connellsville in their opener and will take a 2-0 record into next week's matchup with state power Gateway.
"We earned both these wins, especially tonight," Heavner said. "We really had to earn this game."
Quarterback Ricardo Carter, the Gateway transfer, scored the game's only touchdown on a 1-yard run at the 8:31 mark of the second quarter.
Carter rolled in from the right side to cap a seven-play, 65-yard drive after freshman running back Lincoln Clayton rambled 35 yards to the 1.
"In the game of football, sometimes you have to depend on one side of the ball more than the other, and that was tonight," Heavner said.
"There were two MVPs of this football game," he said. "First, and foremost, our defense. Secondly, our special teams, specifically our punter, Adam Mitcheson, who kept backing them up when we needed to."
Mitcheson punted six times for a 46-yard average, but his big boots of 59 - in the first half - and 69 - late in the third quarter - put Altoona's offense in a hole it couldn't escape.
"When you're playing a tough, hard-nosed football team like Altoona, it's always nice when they have to go 70 or 80 yards," Heavner said.
"There's a saying in football - when you go away, pack your defense and your special teams, and we did that tonight."
Now 1-1, Altoona travels to Penn-Trafford for its first road test next Friday.
"We've got to keep working on execution, and have an answer," Franco said. "You can't be one-dimensional, and we might be a little too one-dimensional, which is unlike my teams.
"We played hard on defense, but we didn't play as hard on offense as we need to play."
Game notes: In remembrance of the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001, the region's first responders were recognized as the Lions' honorary captains. ... They included: Dino Conigy, AMED; Brandon Nicodemus, a former Lion all-stater, Altoona Fire Department; Billy Pfeffer, Altoona Area School District police; Jeff Pettucci, Pennsylvania State Police; former AAHS footballer Matt Massaro, Logan Township police; and Sam McClure, Altoona police.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Kiski Area0 7 0 0 - 7
Altoona0 0 0 0 - 0
KA-Carter 1 run (Mitcheson kick), 8:31.
RUSHING: Kiski Area-Clayton 15-76, Wiskeman 2-7, Carter 8-5, Turner 3-2, Brungo 1-(-2), TEAM 1-(-2). Altoona-Barnes 13-82, Luciano 5-18, Howsare 8-3.
PASSING: Kiski Area-Carter 7-10-2-93. Altoona-Luciano 10-22-1-105.
RECEIVING: Kiski Area-Brungo 2-17, Polka 2-10, Kuhn 1-44, Noble 1-13, Fitzsimmons 1-9. Altoona-Ward 3-30, Diviney 3-18, Hancock 1-31, Barnes 1-11, Howsare 1-8, DeCriscio 1-7.
INTERCEPTIONS: Kiski Area-Carter. Altoona-Luciano, Dry.