PENN TOWNSHIP - Altoona got just the start it wanted in its first road game of the year, but missed opportunities made the finish a disappointing one.
An early fumble recovery and touchdown gave the Mountain Lions the advantage in the first minute of the game, but Penn-Trafford's methodical running game wore down the Altoona's defense in a 21-14 Foothills Conference loss.
Avery Howsare had both touchdowns for Altoona (1-2, 1-2) on runs of 3 and 5 yards, and Kevin Givens led the Mountain Lions with 67 yards on 14 carries.
For Penn-Trafford (2-1, 2-0), quarterback Dorian Stevens threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Vincent Heatherington with 4:07 to play for the game-winning score. Stevens also had a 64-yard punt return touchdown earlier in the game, and Tom Stinelli led the Warriors with 100 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries.
The Mountain Lions got on the board first after Austin Rosenberry recovered a fumbled snap on Penn-Trafford's first play from scrimmage. Starting with the ball on the 17-yard line, it took Altoona just three plays, all runs by Howsare, to score.
But while Altoona took a 7-6 lead to halftime, the team missed two chances to extend the lead when Mike Savino missed field goal attempts of 41 and 31 yards, the second kick of which was tipped at the line of scrimmage.
"We knew it was going to be a close game, and we had a couple of opportunities in the first half that we didn't cash in on," Franco said. "Our kid has kicked those distances pretty consistently, and we should've gotten points on at least one."
Altoona began the second half with the ball, but was forced into a three-and-out that ended up changing the game.
Stevens fielded the punt on fourth down and eluded the first two Altoona players in coverage before turning straight up field and following a wall of Penn-Trafford blockers to the end zone. Stevens also ran in the two-point conversion as the holder on a fake extra point, which made the score 14-7.
"The obvious, big momentum shift that turned the whole game around was that we got the ball to start the second half, and we go three plays and punt," Franco said.
"We needed to make that first down there, and we didn't. Then we punt it, and they return it for a touchdown. That's unacceptable. You can't have mistakes in the kicking game like that."
Altoona battled back from the special teams miscues with a big play of its own, as Brennan quarterback Luciano found receiver Jaret Berardinelli behind the defense on a blown coverage. The Warriors were able to track down Berardinelli, who had to wait for the ball to fall to him, but the 64-yard catch-and-run put the Mountain Lions on the P-T 18-yard line.
Four plays later, Howsare crashed into the end zone on a 3-yard run to tie the game with 1:16 left in the third quarter.
Penn-Trafford responded with the most dominating drive of the game, as the Warriors covered 79 yards over the next 16 plays - the first 15 of which were runs - and ran 9:09 off the clock before Heatherington caught the winning pass in the middle of the end zone.
"Our (scoring) drive in the second quarter showed our kids that we could move their guys off the ball," Penn-Trafford coach John Ruane said. "One we got the ball back, we moved it pretty well. I thought our offensive line played their best game of the year, by far, and it was against the biggest, most physical defensive line we've seen."
"We came back, and we had chances, but it got to a point in the fourth quarter where we just couldn't stop them," Franco said. "They drove it right down our throat, and I didn't think that could happen. We had opportunities to stop them, and we didn't make a play."
Altoona had one last drive to score, but a false start and a holding penalty on first down backed the Mountain Lions up and forced them to punt on fourth-and-8. Penn-Trafford got the ball back with 2:23 to play, and the Warriors picked up a first down that allowed them to kneel out the clock for their ninth straight conference win, dating back to last year.
"Penn-Trafford is a good team, and they've really gotten things going here the last couple years," Franco said. "I'd like to see us get to where we have a program like that, and we have some flaws to correct to get there."
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Altoona 7 0 7 0 - 14
Penn-Trafford0 6 8 7 - 21
A-Howsare 5 run (Savino kick), 11:00.
PT-Stinelli 1 run (kick failed), 6:54.
PT-Stevens 64 punt return (Stevens run), 9:30.
A-Howsare 3 run (Savino kick), 1:16.
PT-Heatherington 6 pass from Stevens (Loughnane kick), 4:07.
RUSHING: Altoona-Givens 14-67, Howsare 10-26, Luciano 3-19, DeCriscio 2-12, Barnes 2-9. Penn-Trafford-Stinelli 18-100, Stevens 13-76, Austin 10-62, TEAM 2-(-4).
PASSING: Altoona-Luciano 5-11-0-98. Penn-Trafford-Stevens 2-4-0-7.
RECEIVING: Altoona-Berardinelli 1-64, Barnes 1-16, Diviney 2-11, Howsare 1-7. Penn-Trafford-Heatherington 1-6, Cima 1-1.
INTERCEPTIONS: Altoona-none. Penn-Trafford-none.