By Andy Sandrik:
Coach: Vince Nedimeyer Jr.
League/division: Mid-Penn Commonwealth
2019 record: 1-9, 0-7 in Commonwealth
Postseason: Did not qualify
Note: 2019 stats unavailable
Key Players: Marcus Day, Sr., QB; Ethan Stroup, Jr., RB-LB; Trevor Manley, Sr., OL-DL; Edwin Franklin, Sr., LB-RB; Nick Petucci, Sr., WR-DB; Ray Boose, Sr., WR-DB; Aidan Palilla, Sr., OL-DL; Kyle Murray, Sr., RB-DB; Jake Adams, Jr., RB-DB; Lamar Robinson, Sr., WR-DB; Shamus Walker, Sr., OL-DL; Kaleb Spriggs, Jr., RB-DB; Ethan Hileman, Jr., WR-DB; Aaron Carothers, Sr., QB-DB
Outlook: There are no games on the schedule that can be circled as an automatic, or even probable, win for Altoona. Whatever yards, points or wins the Mountain Lions get this year will be hard earned. While 2020 might not be the year that Altoona returns to the postseason, it’s worth noting that Nedimeyer Jr. and his coaching staff have convinced a large group of players to buy in to the program’s new system and philosophy. If these players, even in the face of losing, can play hard while wearing the maroon and white, they could very well sow the seeds for a better tomorrow for Altoona football.
3 THINGS TO KNOW
1. “We know what we’re getting into … and we love it:” It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to look at Altoona’s brutal schedule in the Mid-Penn Commonwealth Division and know that wins will be hard to come by for the Mountain Lions, who have gone 2-18 over the past two seasons. Rebuilding a football team is never an easy sell for recruiting talent, yet Altoona enters this season with a roster of nearly 100 players, including 24 hungry seniors. Nedimeyer Jr. said getting live reps against some of the state’s best teams will ultimately make his players better, which could prove to be crucial for the players who have visions of playing college football. “We know what we’re getting into with the Commonwealth, and we love it,” Nedimeyer Jr. said. “There’s no slouch on our schedule, so you’ve got to be prepared and ready for a dogfight every week. If you have any aspirations for the next level, this is one of the best conferences to be in. We’re excited about this year. Our goal is to have a fighting chance in the fourth quarter, and we’ll go from there.”
2. COVID’s silver lining: The typical high schooler is surrounded by distractions. There are parties, concerts, dates and part-time jobs. This year, of course, has been anything but typical. With Altoona’s players spending more time at home then at the mall or movie theater, it gave the Mountain Lions more time to think about football. “I’d say the kids are more focused this year, and that might be because they’ve been trapped in their houses since March 13,” Nedimeyer Jr. said. “In June, when we were allowed to get on the field and be around each other, the kids were eager to get out of the house and come to Mansion Park for our workouts.” Every day the status of football can change. The Mountain Lions are trying to enjoy every moment they have. “Each day it changes, we’re just happy to be in pads with one scrimmage under our belts,” Nedimeyer Jr. said. “If everything can stay the course, we’ll open with Cumberland Valley on the 25th, and will be looking forward to every opportunity we get.”
3. Sophomore voyage for Nedimeyer Jr.: Just like a high school player moving up to play in the college ranks, the game certainly moved faster for Nedimeyer Jr., a former Altoona quarterback, in his first season as head coach for the Mountain Lions. But with a year of experience now under his belt, Nedimeyer Jr. has grown into his role. He has a new system in place, dedicated coordinators in Brian Camberg (offense) and Mike Adams (defense), a commitment to fundamentals and a large stable full of players eager to learn and play. “I wasn’t trying to do it all, but I had a lot on my shoulders last year,” Nedimeyer Jr. said. “My assistants have helped alleviate things and are doing a great job with the kids.”Nedimeyer Jr. isn’t the only one who has become a year wiser. Altoona returns plenty of experienced players who are “speaking the same language as last year” and ready to take the steps necessary to make their head coach’s vision for the team a reality. “Any high school team that can run the ball and stop the run is going to be successful,” Nedimeyer Jr. said. “That’s been our goal from the beginning. We want to play fast, tough and physical. With our seniors coming back this year, we’re hoping to maintain this style of play throughout the season.”