LATROBE -- Altoona Area spoiled a cold homecoming night for Latrobe, 34-23, Friday in a WPIAL Foothills Conference clash at Memorial Stadium.
Although the Mountain Lions could not stop Greater Latrobe quarterback Logan Carns, the Wildcats were not able to keep him on the field in the second half.
"[Carns] was outstanding," said Altoona Area coach John Franco. "As the game wore on,we made a few adjustments, and I think it helped to control him a little.
"He just makes plays, and that definitely hurt [Latrobe]."
The Wildcats (0-6, 1-6) were prolific offensively in the first half from the opening possession. Carns powered the offense on the drive, going five for five for 70 yards and rushing for 21 yards. Lucas Monteparte capped the drive on a fourth and goal at the 1, powering into the end zone for the quick score.
On the ensuing possession, the Lions (3-4, 3-4) went on a 12-play, 69 yard drive highlight by a 21-yard completion to Mante Barns on a third and 10. Quarterback Brennan Luciano had just one incompletion during the scoring drive that finished when Avery Howsare scampering over the goal-line on a 3-yard run.
"[Latrobe] was packing the line of scrimmage," said Franco, whose team finished with 235 passing yards. "We thought we could take advantage of that a little bit. We're going to throw [in that situation]."
The Wildcats drove down the field in 6:03 and scored early in the second half on a another fourth down. Robert Vasinko plowed his way in for the one-yard score. GL led by six after the failed extra point.
Altoona Area muffed the ensuing kickoff, and Alec Hoopes recovered for the Wildcats. Starting on the opposing 28-yard line, GL turned the ball over on downs after Vasinko was stopped in the backfield on a fourth and two.
With just over a minute to go, Luciano drove Altoona Area 45 yards for a touchdown on passes of 15, 20 and 20 yards. Jeff Hancock was left alone in the endzone on a blown coverage assignment when the Lions took the lead with just 26.0 seconds left in the half.
After the kickoff, a Carns 29-yard scramble and a 15-yard personal foul penalty set up the Wildcats for a field-goal attempt. Adam Drake nailed the 30-yard kick to give GL the 16-14 lead at the half.
"(The field goal) was very big emotionally," said GL head coach Ray Reitz. "The kids played hard, and no one feels worse than they do."
Altoona Area took control at the start of the second half. On the second play, Luciano found Jake Diviney wide open down the left sideline for the 55-yard touchdown pass.
On GL's next possession, Carns was picked off by Colby Fink. The Lions cashed in a play later when Luciano connected with Barns for the 27-yard score. With the score 28-16, the momentum had shifted.
"We had to get our contain people out there and not let (Carns) get outside," Franco said of forcing the interception. "I thought we got some good pressure up the middle."
Carns, who was already nursing a cast on his non-throwing arm, was injured on a nine-yard run. The quarterback would return sparsely for the remainder of the game with Craig Stevens taking the majority of the snaps.
The Wildcats tried to climb back into the game early in the fourth. Aided by pass-interference and roughing-the-punter penalty, GL drove 59 yards, and Stevens fired a touchdown pass to Travis Schmeling. After the extra point, the Lions' lead was just five.
"The bottom line is, (the game) didn't come down to offense, it came down to the defense," Reitz said. "We just had some blown assignments."
Howsare sealed the game for Altoona Area on a two -ard touchdown run to cap a 90-yard drive that consumed almost five minutes of clock.
"Altoona has not won two games in a row in over five years," said Franco, whose team defeated Hempfield Area last week. "We're a program that is trying to build back up.
"Any victory is a back victory for us."
"We have to go back to the drawing board," Reitz said. "We have to keep working hard.
"That's all we can do."
The Wildcats will try to bounce back when they travel to Connellsville next week while Altoona Area will look to make it three wins in a row on the road in a non-conference contest at Pittsburgh Central Catholic.