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Lions, Tigers both looking for 2nd win in a row

Ethan Stroup breaks a touchdown run eluding Cumberland Valley's Troy Collard at the goal line.

Altoona and Hollidaysburg will finally meet on the gridiron Friday, more than a month after the teams were supposed to open the 2020 high school football season at Mansion Park.

“(Altoona athletic director) Phil (Riccio) and (Hollidaysburg AD and football coach) Homer (DeLattre) did everything they could to get this game scheduled,” Altoona football coach Vince Nedimyer Jr. said. “Originally, the Mid-Penn said we couldn’t do any out-of-conference play, but we’re happy they came back on that and a spot opened on the schedule. It’s always good to keep momentum when you have it and not take a week off.”

The Mountain Lions and Golden Tigers will both ride that momentum wave into Friday’s non-league matchup as both teams are coming off their first victories of the season. Altoona opened the year last week by doubling up Cumberland Valley, 28-14, and Hollidaysburg defeated Palmyra, 42-21, after opening its season with a pair of lopsided defeats.

Hollidaysburg has already played two home games with a very limited number of fans in the stands, and Altoona allowed 33 percent capacity against Cumberland Valley.

Tickets are being pre-sold for Friday’s game at both Altoona Area and Hollidaysburg Area High School. Parking for the game is available at Columbia Park for $3 a car, which will benefit AAHS student athletes.

“It sounds like we’re going to be able to get some people in the stands, and it’s going to be as close to normal as possible,” DeLattre said. “I don’t think we need any fans for it to be a good game, but it’s exciting for our communities that have been stuck in the house for the most part since March. Hopefully, we can create a safe environment for families to watch their kids play a great football game.”

Altoona leads the all-time series 27-22-1, but Hollidaysburg has won both games since the series resumed for the first time since 2011 in 2018 decisively.

Both teams feature veteran talent, but DeLattre was frustrated by uncharacteristic errors by experienced players in the first two games. Altoona, which struggled to find its groove in the first year of Nedimyer’s offense last season, looked much better Friday and held Cumberland Valley to just six plays from scrimmage in the second half.

“We play for those 7-to-12 minute drives, and we did that,” Altoona senior quarterback Marcus Day said. “If our defense continues to stop the run, we are going to win some games.”

Day rushed for 187 yards and threw for 75, and Ethan Stroup ran for 122 in the opening win.

“(The line of scrimmage) is a key factor, because they like to run the football,” DeLattre said. “They have a good fullback that’s a tough runner. They have a good quarterback who likes to run the football and is very good at it. They have guys up front who are very good off the ball and very physical. They are much better than what they were last year. They are very comfortable in what they are doing, which is a big reason for their early-season success.”

Nedimyer also said familiarity has played a role.

“A lot of the kids playing here this year were playing here last year,” Nedimyer said. “That was our hope, that doing the same things that we’re doing would result in more success. I have been saying it all along that it’s a tribute to our kids and all the hard work they have been putting in during these crazy times. We worked 12 weeks in the summer, and fortunately it paid off with some success last Friday.”

Hollidaysburg struggled to run the ball and stop the run in its first two games, losses to Baldwin and Musselman (W. Va.).

“We played much better on the offensive and defensive line which was a key factor (against Palmyra),” DeLattre said. “We scored on defense. We scored on special teams. We played very well in all three phases and didn’t make the same mistakes we kept making. We have to continue to get better each week.”

The game was scheduled after Harrisburg opted not to play this season. Altoona was originally slated to play the Cougars on Saturday. Instead, the Mountain Lions and Golden Tigers get the chance to renew their rivalry a week after possible season-changing victories.

“Any time these two teams play against each other, it’s always a good atmosphere,” Nedimyer said. “They are coming off a big win against Palmyra, and we had success last week, so this is definitely good for both communities. I coached with Homer, Todd (Consiglio) and R.J. (Albarano) and those guys, and I have nothing but respect for those guys and what they do. They will be prepared and have their kids ready to play.”

The matchup

Who: Hollidaysburg Golden Tigers (1-2) at Altoona Mountain Lions (1-0)

Where: Mansion Park

When: 7 p.m.

Coaches: Altoona–Vince Nedimyer Jr. (2-9, second year); Hollidaysburg–Homer DeLattre (43-37, eighth year)

All-time series: Altoona, 27-22-1

Radio: HANK-FM 96.1 & AM-1370, MIX 94.7-FM

TV: Public Access Channel 14

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