Mtn. Lions’ offense remains in funk
Altoona Area High School football coach John Franco is looking for some offense – any kind of offense.
Franco’s Mountain Lions have scored only 28 points in four games and were shut out for the second time Friday when they were blanked by Gateway, 21-0, in a WPIAL Class AAAA Foothills Conference game at Mansion Park.
Despite the team’s third loss in four games, Franco was a lot more upbeat than he was following a 19-7 loss to Penn Trafford last week.
“It was a tremendous effort,” Franco said. “I was really proud of the guys and how hard they played.
“We knew to beat a team like this we could not have any turnovers or major penalties,” he noted. “Two turnovers really killed us.”
Gateway marched 70 yards in 16 plays for its first score, a 1-yard dive by Zaihe Regus with only 2:25 left in the half.
“When it was 7-0, we had the ball and some momentum and then that turnover,” Franco said. “We had stopped them on the first two series in the second half.”
Altoona went for a punt block, but failed and the Gators, thanks to a huge roll, got off a 69-yard punt. Altoona QB Devin Miller fumbled at the Lions’ 23 and Gateway scored immediately for a 14-0 lead. The Gators tacked on the clincher in the fourth.
“It was a great effort and a great building block,” said Franco, whose Lions visit McKeesport next week.
Franco said the Gators’ receivers and defensive backs were bigger than many of Altoona’s linemen, but praised his team’s effort.
“You look at guys like [Alex] Martynuska and Connor Schmitt, [Marcus] Novosel, [Chris] Morgan and those guys … I mean they were overmatched but they hung in there,” Franco said.
“It was a tremendous effort, not enough to win a game, but we’re tired of moral victories.”
Altoona managed only 125 yards offensively, 67 rushing and 58 passing. Franco said the Lions were riding fullback Kevin Givens, especially since Miller was playing his first game ever at quarterback with regular signal caller Eli Mencer sidelined with a leg injury.
“For a first-time starter, he wasn’t too bad,” Franco said of Miller. “Gateway’s a heckuva team to make your first start against.”
“Defensively, we’ve been playing better the past couple weeks,” Gateway coach Donnie Militzer said. “We played really well last week and this week we caused a couple big turnovers.
“They ran the ball on us a little bit and we’ve got to clean that up,” he said. “That Givens is a nice football player.”
Offensively, Givens led the Lions with 51 yards on 14 carries, caught three passes for 14 yards and was in on several tackles defensively.
In winning their fourth straight, the Gators were led by versatile quarterback Jimmie Moore. The QB passed for 167 yards and teamed up with highly-touted receiver Anthony Davis for a 24-yard pass-run TD late in the third quarter. Moore iced the game with a 1-yard TD run in the fourth.
“They threw a few things at us defensively that we weren’t expecting, but we made a few adjustments at halftime,” Militzer said.
“Their athleticism is really something,” Franco said. “They don’t have just one kid. There’s about seven of them who are outstanding talents.”
Even though the Gators won their fourth straight conference game, Militzer praised the effort of the Mountain Lions.
“Altoona is a heckuva football team,” Militzer said. “I have nothing but respect for them. Their head coach is a great guy and it was a pleasure to come up here and play.
“They’ve got some good players and are going in the right direction. They gave us all we could handle.”
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Gateway0 7 7 7 – 21
Altoona 0 0 0 0 – 0
G-Regus 1 run (Washington kick), 2:25.
G-Davis 24 pass from Moore (Washington kick), 2:18.
G-Moore 1 run (Washington kick), 9:35,
RUSHING: Gateway-White 8-63, Moore 9-26, Regus 11-22, Davis 1-14, Terry 5-11. Altoona-Givens 14-51, Weston 8-26, D. Miller 6-(-10).
PASSING: Gateway-Moore 15-25-1-167. Altoona-D. Miller 5-16-1-58.
RECEIVING: Gateway-. Altoona-Givens 3-14, Carper 1-38, K. Miller 1-6.
INTERCEPTIONS: Gateway-Randall. Altoona-Berardinelli.