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Sunday, May 26, 2024

2021 Preview: Altoona Mountain Lions

Coach: Vince Nedimyer

Classification: 6A

League/division: Mid-Penn Commonwealth Division

2020 record: 4-3, 2-1

Postseason: Lost to Delaware Valley in the first round of PIAA 6A playoffs, 35-14


Passing: Comp-Att., Yards, TD

Evan Alwine: 0-2.,0, 0

Rushing: Att-Yards., Avg., TD

Ethan Stroup: 148-817., 5.5., 7

Alexander Yost: 20-64, 3.2, 0

Receiving: Rec.-Yards, Avg., TD

Ethan Stroup: 4-38, 9.5, 0

Key Players: 

Jacob Adams, sr., SB-CB; Alexander Yost, jr., RB-FS; Ethan Stroup, sr., RB-OLB; Andre Dokes, sr., RB-DB; Connor Reimer, sr., LB; Bryan Yingling, sr., T-DE; Manny Miller, jr., DE-TE

OUTLOOK: Altoona’s program took a major step forward last year, notching victories against powerhouse programs State College and Cumberland Valley. Can this squad keep the momentum in 2021? That’s the task on tap for a cast that must replace 25 seniors including do-it-all star QB Marcus Day, top back Kyle Murray, and leading passing catcher Tyreke Green.  Running back Ethan Stroup provides a nice foundation piece to lean on on offense as a slew of new weapons in the skill positions and along the line find their footing.    

1. Two-man battle at quarterback:
Filling the shoes of do-it-all quarterback Marcus Day is no easy task. Day ran Nedimyer’s triple option offense efficiently as a three-year starter, capping his final season with 500 passing yards and another 527 on the ground to help Altoona claim its first District title since 2002.

Senior Aidan Steinbugl, a baseball standout who opted not to play football last season and junior Sean Bettwy (5-8, 145) entered Altoona’s scrimmage Saturday battling for the right to lead the Mountain Lions on opening night against rival Hollidaysburg.

“For what we do, they can do all the things,” Nedimyer said. “They are much more scatty than what Marcus was. Marcus could run through kids, but these guys are much more apt to run around you. We’re excited about it. They have both done a nice job being leaders.”

2. Winning the turnover battle:

Altoona won the turnover battle in four of its last five games last year—three of which helped notch slashes in the win column for Nedimyer’s squad.  Collectively, Altoona created 11 more turnovers than they committed. That’s a stat worth repeating in 2021—and with seven of 11 starters returning to the Mountain Lion’s defense there are plenty of experienced ball hawks still roaming in maroon.

“Whoever wins that turnover margin will likely be the team that ends up on top at the end of the night,” Nedimyer said. “Whenever we had success last year, we were getting the ball from the other team and we weren’t giving it away. We really drive that into our kids. We try to show them the importance of ball security on offense and how to get it away from the other team.”

3. One to watch:

While running back Ethan Stroup provides a steady punch from the backfield, Altoona will need a new supporting cast of skill players to grow into more prominent roles.  Nedimyer rattled off half a dozen names who will play a role in the success of the Mountain Lions; among them Andre Dokes (6-1, 185) might be the name to remember.

Dokes will open the season tops on the depth chart at cornerback opposite Tyson Reed and should be a dependable target for whoever emerges at quarterback.

“He’s pretty special,” Nedimyer said. “If he isn’t our best athlete, he is one of our best athletes. He’s got great ball skills… He’ll be one of our best kids to catch the football and he’ll be someone we want to get the ball in space and expect him to do some work for us.

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