MONROEVILLE - Altoona (1-3) stayed close in the first half, but Gateway (4-0) pulled away in the second half for a 42-7 win in a Foothills Conference game at Antimarino Stadium Friday night.
"We fought tooth and nail in the first half, but in the second half [Gateway's] talent level just took over and we couldn't keep up with them," Altoona coach John Franco said. "Gateway was one of the best teams I've ever seen."
Gateway entered the game averaging 54 points per game, so Franco tried taking the air out of the ball early on.
"We came in with the plan to slow down the ball," Franco said. "That didn't work."
Altoona running back Kevin Givens led the Lions' charge with 116 yards on 13 carries.
"[Givens] is a tough kid who runs hard and has some raw talent," Franco said. "He's only a sophomore so he'll make some mistakes, but he's learning and he'll just keep getting better."
The Gators struck first as their defense and special teams set up the offense early in the first quarter. Brennan Luciano was sacked by Jaymar Parrish and forced a Mountain Lion punt. Todd Jeter returned the punt to the Altoona 22-yard line to give the Gators a short field on their first possession.
Thomas Woodson hit fullback Zaire Regus for a 4-yard TD to give Gateway a 7-0 lead.
"Woodson is a great quarterback," Franco said. "He can throw the ball or pull it down and run."
Luciano was the victim of a tipped pass late in the first quarter, and Anthony Davis caught the fluttering ball for the interception. The Altoona defense held and forced a 14-yard field goal, but the Mountain Lions roughed the kicker to give Gateway a second chance at the end zone.
The Gators capitalized on the gift when Andre Martin banged in from 1 yard for the touchdown to give them a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter.
"Their running backs are strong," Franco said. "On some of the longer runs they had, they were just running over us, especially in the second half."
The Mountain Lion special teams rose to the occasion midway through the second quarter as Todd Jeter fumbled a punt on the Gateway 35 yard line and Markief Knode recovered for Altoona. Kevin Givens banged in from one yard out for a touchdown to cut the Gators lead to 14-7.
The Gators responded though with a 78-yard drive capped by a Darin Franklin 5 yard touchdown to push the Gateway's lead back to two touchdowns at 21-7.
Givens fumbled at the Altoona 18 yard line with 2:05 left in first half and Maleak Ford recovered for Gateway. Altoona stopped the Gators on downs at the 8 yard line though to hold the score to 21-7 at the half.
The Gators stormed out of the locker room after the break. Altoona's defense left a soft spot in the zone at the middle of the field and Woodson found Nicholson across the middle. He sprinted into the end zone for a 58 yard touchdown and Gateway took a 28-7 lead early in the third quarter.
"Nicholson is a great receiver," Franco said. "Woodson and Nicholson were able to connect all night."
Woodson finished the game with 338 yards and three touchdowns with 13 completions on 21 attempts. Nicholson had six catches for 205 yards and a touchdown.
Gateway took over midway through the third quarter and tore of a 79 yard drive capped by a Martin 4 yard touchdown to push the Gators lead to 35-7.
Altoona was driving late in the third quarter, The Mountain Lions went for it on foruth down near midfield but Luciano threw incomplete and the Gators took over on downs.
On the next play, Woodson threw the long bomb to the goal line and Ricky Rogers jumped over the defender and hauled in the 52-yard touchdown which gave Gateway a 42-7 lead and started the running clock.
"We played with a lot of heart and I liked our effort," Franco said. "We still need to keep working and execute better."
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Altoona0 7 0 0 - 7
Gateway7 14 21 0 - 42
G-Regus 4 pass from Woodson (Klonicki kick) 6:20
G-Martin 1 run (Conti kick) 10:26
A-Givens 1 run (Metzgar kick) 6:32
G-Franklin 5 run (Conti kick) 2:24
G-Nicholson 58 pass from Woodson (Conti kick) 9:47
G-Martin 4 run (Fitchwell kick) 4:46
G-Rogers 52 pass from Woodson (Fitchwell kick) 3:22
RUSHING: Altoona-Luciano 5 -(minus7), Houser 6 -11, Givens 13-116, Barnes 2-4. Diviney 2-3. Gateway-Woodson 3-22, Martin 10-66, Franklin 10-34, Moore 4-17.
PASSING: Altoona-Luciano 5-11-75. Diviney 0-1
Gateway Woodson 13- 21-337
Altoona Steinbugl 1-18, Givens 1-19, Finochio 1-20, Barnes 1-10, Ward 1- 8.
Gateway Ford 1-26 Nicholson 6 for 205, Parrish 2 for 21 Rogers 1-52, Regus 1-4, Randall 2-30
INTERCEPTIONS: Altoona Gateway Davis
First downs 14 7
Rushing-yards 28-127 27-139
Passing (comp.-att.-int.) 5-12-1 13-21-0
Yards passing 75 337
Total yards 212 476
Fumbles-lost 1-1, 2-1
Penalties-yards 7-28 10-50
Punts-avg. 3-39 1-30