Lots of new faces for Lions, Tigers
The matchup Game: Altoona Mountain Lions (3-7) vs. Hollidaysburg (9-5)
TV: MeTV (Channel 110 on Atlantic Broadband)
Where: Tiger Stadium When: Tonight, 7
The coaches: Altoona–Vince Nedimyer Jr. (0-0, first season); Hollidaysburg–Homer DeLattre (36-31, 6 seasons).
Last meeting: Hollidaysburg, 42-27 (Aug. 24, 2018)
In many ways, Altoona and Hollidaysburg will both be turning over a drastic new leaf as the teams renew their high school football rivalry tonight in the season opener at Tiger Stadium.
Kickoff for the game is set for 7 p.m.
The Golden Tigers, who graduated virtually every starter from last season’s 9-5 team that won the District 6-8 Class 5A sub-regional championship and advanced to the quarterfinals of the PIAA playoffs, face additional challenges entering the season opener.
The Tigers are banged up in key places. Senior veterans D.J. Heim, a starter at safety and wideout, and starting offensive lineman Mason Replogle, both had offseason surgery, and both will be sidelined tonight. Another senior who the Tigers are expecting big things from this fall, running back-linebacker Hunter Barr, has a leg injury and is questionable for tonight.
Opportunities have been created for young Hollidaysburg players to step up.
“It’s pretty exciting,” Hollidaysburg coach Homer DeLattre said. “We have a lot of unproven talent on our team — kids who have been on the junior varsity team and have been varsity backups the last few years who have been waiting their turn and will have a chance to show what they can do.”
Altoona, coming off a 3-7 season last year, has a new head coach in Vince Nedimyer, Jr., a new coaching staff, and several untested players as well. But Nedimyer likes what he has seen of his team’s drive in the preseason.
“The kids have been receptive to everything that the coaching staff and I have asked of them,” Nedimyer, Jr. said. “It’s been really good ever since March. We’ve been coaching up their effort, and preaching to them to play 100 percent. Two things that they control are their effort and attitude. If the effort and attitude are good, hopefully, everything else will fall into place.”
Hollidaysburg expects to play a lot of players tonight.
“We’ll rotate guys in and out,” DeLattre said. “We’ll have 25 to 30 guys playing on both offense and defense with our rotations.”
Junior Bryce Martellacci was a wideout for Hollidaysburg last season, catching 16 passes for 189 yards. He could see time at that position tonight as well, but is being pegged primarily to play the quarterback position.
“Bryce played receiver and defensive back last year, so he has Friday night experience,” DeLattre said. “He’s got great running ability and great passing ability. He’s a dual threat.”
Sophomore Jake McGinnis could also be a candidate for snaps at quarterback, in which case, Martellacci would be used as a wideout.
“He’s a good young quarterback who has been doing a really good job,” DeLattre said of McGinnis.
Hollidaysburg could use up to four running backs — seniors Anthony Weyant and Trent Paddock, junior Gage Shawley, and sophomore Chase Fox — in its single-back offense. As many as 10 players — seniors Paddock and Tristan Chaney, juniors Martellacci, DeShawn Moss, Rocco Grassi, Evan Brozenich, Tyler Faber, Tanner Lindsey and Camden Cavalet, and sophomore Avery Sloan — could see action at the wideout position.
“We’ll use a lot of players at the skill positions,” DeLattre said.
Junior Marcus Day, a 6-foot-4, 200-pound bruiser, will start at quarterback for Altoona. Day, like the Mountain Lions’ other quarterback candidates, junior Aaron Carothers and sophomore Aiden Steinbugl, has done a good job at picking up the Mountain Lions’ new offense.
“Marcus is a big strong, athletic kid,” Nedimyer, Jr. said of Day, who rushed for 211 yards and two touchdowns and completed nine of 20 passes for 79 yards in a backup role last season. “One of the better characteristics that he has shown is that he is a smart kid, who, like Aaron Carothers and Aiden Steinbugl, has put in a lot of work and has learned a lot about our offense to this point.”
Hollidaysburg won last year’s game with Altoona, 42-27, at Mansion Park in what was the first football meeting between the two schools since the 2011 season. Altoona leads the all-time series, 27-21. There has been one tie.
Nedimyer, Jr. is looking forward to tonight’s matchup.
“It’s been a rivalry for a number of years, and it’s a huge game and a really cool way to start the season,” Nedimyer, Jr. said. “We know they’re definitely going to be ready to go, and they’ll put out their best effort. Hopefully, we’ll put out our best effort as well.”