Week 2 preview: Williamsport at Altoona
Williamsport PPG–33, PPA–13; YPG–341, YPA–158
Williamsport facts: The Millionaires are hoping to exact a measure of revenge after Altoona defeated it, 29-14, in last year’s District 2-6 Class 6A championship. Williamsport trailed 21-0 in the fourth quarter, pulled within 21-14 but was undone by five turnovers. Williamsport returns the majority of its starters from that team and opened strong at defending District 2 Class AAAA champion Crestwood last week, winning 33-13 and surrendering just 158 yards. Linebacker Sebastian Robinson played one of his best high school games in that victory, making a career and area-high 18 tackles. Roman Morrone collected 12 tackles and Avery Campbell collected a sack. Williamsport outscored Crestwood. 33-6. following a slow start and the offensive line performed well, paving the way for a balanced attack. Quarterback Frankie Morrone threw for 201 yards and wide receiver Jamaire Harden burst onto the scene, catching 87 and 67-yard touchdowns while producing 176 yards. Keith Freeman, one of the area’s most versatile athletes, also ran for a touchdown and junior Nasir Hennigan ran for a career-high 154 yards and two scores. Williamsport slowed Altoona’s potent running game after the Mountain Lions gouged it early in last year’s final and defensive tackle Dade Splain made 17 tackles. Splain is a valuable two-way starter who forms a strong front four along with Campbell, Charles Crews and Connor Adkins. Williamsport and Altoona have played in each of the last five seasons and in the three previous games not played at a neutral site the home team has won each time.
Williamsport player to watch–Riley Bower: One of several talented wrestlers on this team, Bower is an excellent tackler and active athlete who made 10 tackles a week ago. Nine of those tackles were solos. Bower came on strong last season and had a sack in last year’s district final after returning a fumble for a touchdown the previous week against Dallas.
Altoona PPG–20, PPA–3; YPG–232, YPA–218
Altoona facts: The Mountain Lions upset both top-seeded Williamsport and No. 2 State College in last year’s district tournament and picked up where they left off last Friday with a 20-3 win against rival Hollidaysburg. Altoona runs the triple option well and Ethan Stroup led the way with 81 yards while quarterback Aidan Steinbugl added 78. Stroup was a battering ram against Williamsport last year who set the tone on the game’s opening touchdown drive while finishing with 146 yards on 34 carries. He also is a difference-maker defensively and added a sack. He and senior Ethan Hileman recovered fumbles and Altoona limited Williamsport to 224 yards. Stroup also is a good punter who drilled two 50-yarders last week. Altoona ran on its first 15 plays last year, scoring on its first two drives and building a 13-0 lead. Michael Riccio helped ignite the defense and had a key sack to help snuff out a Hollidaysburg scoring threat. Altoona outrushed Hollidaysburg, 134-2 in the first quarter and 11 of its 14 first downs came in the first half.
Altoona player to watch–Aidan Steinbugl: The first-time starting quarterback ran the triple option well and was especially effective early. Steinbugl ran for 68 yards on five first-quarter attempts, ripping off runs of 27, 16 and 14 yards.
Outlook: Williamsport must be ready to load up in the trenches because Altoona is a team which loves to impose its will up front. If Williamsport limits the turnovers, then this game, then whoever wins the battle up front will win this game.
–By CHRIS MASSE