After splitting a pair of road games to open the season, Altoona coach John Franco expected a good performance from his Mountain Lions in their home opener against Penn Trafford on Friday.
It didn't happen. Far from it.
Penn-Trafford dominated the WPIAL Class AAAA Foothills Conference game, 19-7, before an Elementary School night crowd at Mansion Park.
Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski
Penn-Trafford’s Timmy Vecchio brushes off a tackle attempt by Altoona’s Jaret Berardinelli on Friday.
"I thought our performance was pitiful tonight," Franco said, pulling no punches after emerging from a lengthy postgame coaches' meeting. "Offense. Defense. Both sides of the ball.
"It's frustrating, really frustrating," he said. "We play real well in practice. We do reps after reps after reps and then make mistakes on things that we've repped dozen of times in practice.
"I just don't have the answer for it," he said. "There's no excuse. We've got to go out and make plays. We need to be able to beat teams like this."
Altoona posted a 4-5 record and qualified for the WPIAL playoffs last season when Franco returned to the helm after 18 years in Tyrone. Last night's loss was the Lions' second in three starts and they host state-ranked Gateway next Friday, so it doesn't get any easier.
"You can't point fingers," Franco said. "It's the whole team. At this point, we're just not functioning. Obviously, that's my responsibility.
"I was really displeased tonight," he said. "Last week, we played our hearts out [in a 20-0 loss to Kiski], but there was no excuse tonight. We should have been able to match them. Big home game. Big excitement. We seemed like we were scared.
"I have no answers for it. I'm just really frustrated and at a loss for what the solutions are."
Conversely, Penn Trafford coach John Ruane was all smiles as his club improved to 2-1.
"I'm happy with our effort, especially on the defensive side," Ruane said. "We didn't tackle real well the first two games and weren't as physical as I like, but we were sound tonight.
"We still need to finish on offense but we'll get better," he said. "That No. 9 [Altoona linebacker Kevin Givens] is one of the best players we'll see all year. He's physical and took a lot of stuff away from us."
The Warriors got a 169-yard rushing effort from Devin Austin, a 5-foot-8, 170-pound junior, who did most of his damage from the wildcat set. Quarterback Brett Laffoon passed for 143 yards - mainly short stuff - and completed seven in a row at one stretch.
"Our backs ran real well tonight and we were able to throw the ball effectively," Ruane said.
The Warriors were just as good defensively, limiting Altoona to 172 yards. The Mountain Lions managed only 140 yards on the ground and Givens got 68 of them on one run in the second quarter that led to a 4-yard TD run by Caleb Weston. James Metzgar's PAT gave Altoona a 7-6 lead but PT scored on its next possession and added an insurance score in the third quarter.
"We were playing like a deer in the headlights," Franco said. "That's my fault. Obviously, I'm not preparing them well."
Now 13 games into his second tenure at Altoona, Franco is far from happy with how the program is progressing.
"I don't like where we are," he said. "We have a major challenge ahead. I expected a lot more."
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Penn Trafford0 13 6 0- 19
Altoona0 7 0 0 - 7
PT-Vecchio 7 pass from Laffoon (pass failed), 11:04.
A-Weston 4 run (Metzgar kick), 10:36.
PT-Marasti 2 run (Eibel kick), 5:50
PT-Laffoon 1 run (kick failed), 9:08.
RUSHING: Penn Trafford-Austin 23-169, Stinelli 12-40, Laffoon 2-1-(-3), TEAM 2-(-4 ). Altoona-Givens 6-76, Weston 8-40, Mencer 10-24.
PASSING: Penn Trafford-Laffoon 13-21-1-143. Altoona-Mencer 2-8-32.
RECEIVING: Penn Trafford-Vecchio 6-80, Maarasti 4-32, Reddy 2-13, Austin 1-18. Altoona-Steave 2-32.