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State College Falls to Altoona in District Title Game Thriller

by on October 24, 2020 12:40 AM

Altoona capitalized on a late interception and executed a gutsy play call to hand State College a stunning 22-21 loss in the District 6 Class 6A championship Friday night at Mansion Park.

It's Altoona's first district title in 18 years and the first time State College isn't a District 6 champion since 2013.

State College held a 21-7 lead going into the fourth quarter. But Altoona reeled off a 78-yard drive, capped off by a 5-yard touchdown run by quarterback Marcus Day to pull within 21-14 with 7:35 remaining.

On their ensuing drive, the Little Lions were on the move, but on a second down from the State College 40, quarterback Conrad Moore's pass across the middle was picked off at midfield by Altoona's Aaron Carothers, his second interception of the night.

A 27-yard run by Day on third down got the Mountain Lions into the red zone. Day, who ran in all three of Altoona's touchdowns, punched it from the 1-yard line to make it a one-point game. 

Not content to try to tie it up and play for overtime, Altoona coach Vince Nedimyer kept his offense on the field. Day handed off to Kyle Pheasant on a reverse and Pheasant brought it in for a 22-21 Mountain Lion lead with 1:22 to go.

State College had a chance in the final minute. A 30-yard Nehemiah Howell return and an incidental face mask penalty started the Little Lions at the Altoona 47. Moore led State College to the 27 with 33 seconds left, but his final pass of the night was intercepted at the 12 by Altoona's Jake Adams.

Altoona then only needed to kneel to secure the district championship.

Photo by Heather Weikel

Before Altoona staged its dramatic comeback it certainly seemed as if, despite some miscues, things were going State College's way.

Late in the first quarter the Little Lions' no-huddle offense had Altoona's defense flustered and State College looked poised to score early in the second. But a 72-yard drive stalled at the 15 and a botched snap on a field goal attempt turned it over to the Mountain Lions.

Altoona drove deep into Little Lion territory, but on a Day carry the ball came loose and State College recovered. This time the Little Lions wouldn't be denied, finishing the drive with Howell slipping free out of the backfield, taking a Moore pass and juking out defenders on his way to a 16-yard touchdown. Aiden Spitler's point after made it 7-0 going into halftime.

The Little Lions looked overpowering to start the second half. Moore, Dresyn Green and TJ Yoder shared carries to get State College inside the 10. On a keeper, Moore lost the ball at the 5 yard line, but State College recovered and Moore pushed it in on the next play. The extra point attempt was no good and the Little Lions led 13-0.

State College looked to be in business again when a Day pass bounced off Manny Miller's hands and was nabbed by Little Lion Nick Kowalski. 

Altoona responded when Carothers picked off a Moore pass across the middle and returned it deep into State College territory. Day ran it in on a keeper from the 3 and the Mountain Lions narrowed the gap to 13-7.

State College steamrolled Altoona on the next drive. Moore ran 33 yards up the middle, then Green rushed for 50 yards on three carries, including a 13-yard touchdown run on a sweep. Howell took a Moore pass in the flat and broke three tackles to get in for the two-point conversion and a 21-7 lead before Altoona charged back for the win.

State College falls to 2-2. Altoona moves to 3-2 and will face District 4 Williamsport in a regional playoff game next week.

Bellwood-Antis 35, Bald Eagle Area 21

Undefeated No. 2 seed Bellwood-Antis pulled away in the second half to down No. 8 seed Bald Eagle, 35-21, Friday night in the opening round of the District 6 Class 2A playoffs.

The game was tied 21-21 with three minutes left in the third quarter when the lights went out at Bellwood's Memorial Stadium. After a 20-minute delay, play resumed, but that's when the lights started to dim on Bald Eagle's playoff dreams.

On the first play out of the break, Blue Devils standout running back Zach Mallon found the edge and ran 18 yards for a touchdown. After a missed extra point attempt, Bellwood led 27-21.

While the Eagle offense couldn't find a groove, the defense kept the Blue Devils in check and the game within reach until late in the fourth quarter.

After starting on its own 7, Bellwood moved to the 35, where it faced a fourth-and-1 with 1:28 remaining. Mallon took a handoff and found a huge hole off the right side, running untouched for the 65-yard touchdown. The two-point conversion made it a two score game and an insurmountable lead. 

A final BEA drive ended with an interception in the end zone as Bellwood secured the win.

The Eagles held their own early on. After a 15-yard Mallon touchdown run, the Blue Devils took a 7-0 first quarter lead. BEA answered with a 63-yard drive that ended with quarterback Garrett Burns running it in from 2 yards out to tie things up.

Early in the second quarter, the Blue Devils retook the lead with a 9-yard touchdown pass from Zach Pellegrine to tight end Cooper Keen. A missed PAT made it 13-7.

Bellwood expanded the lead on an 11-yard throw from Pellegrine to Mallon in the back corner of the end zone. The two-point conversion made it 21-7.

With time running out in the half, Burns threw to Owen Irvin in the flat and Irvin weaved his way 41 yards into the end zone as Bald Eagle pulled within 21-14.

The Eagles tied it with 7:32 to go in the third as Gavin Eckley took a handoff 38 yards into the end zone. Minutes later the lights went out before Bellwood began to pull away.

Bald Eagle falls to 2-4 on the season. Bellwood improves to 6-0 and moves to the district semifinals where it will face the winner of Central Cambria and Richland.

Bellefonte 35, Philipsburg-Osceola 7

Bellefonte secured a spot in next week's District 6 4A regional championship with a dominating performance on Friday night at Philipsburg-Osceola.

After a scoreless first quarter, the Red Raiders (3-3) put together a run-heavy 76-yard drive that featured carries by Jamal Saunders, Jalen Emel and quarterback Ethan Rossman, who kept it for the final yard and a 7-0 lead with 4:25 left in the half.

The Mounties (1-5) were driving when quarterback Ryan Whitehead's pass was picked off by Bellefonte's Blandon Hawkins at the Red Raiders 45. The ground game carried Bellefonte downfield and Rossman passed to Emel for a 4-yard touchdown and a 14-0 halftime lead.

Emel took a third quarter punt off the bounce and nearly scored before being taken down at the 1. Emel went under center on the next play, pushing in for the touchdown and a 21-0 lead. 

Bellefonte added touchdown runs by Logan Houser and Emel before P-O finally got on the board. Hunter Weitosh took a handoff 28 yards for the score with 4:57 remaining but it was too late for the Mounties to come back.

Penns Valley 35, Huntingdon 18

Penns Valley got big performances from running back Seth Baney and quarterback Aidan Brinker on the way to a 35-18 road win at Huntingdon Friday night.

After a scoreless first quarter, Penns Valley (2-3) got two quick scores to start the second. Brinker hit Stephen Ripka for a 9-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead. A Bearcat fumble led to another Rams scoring drive capped off by Brinker's 1-yard touchdown run.

Huntingdon (0-7) got back in it before the half. Quarterback Darin Harman split out at receiver and running back Braylan Ronk went behind center. Ronk lofted a pass down the sideline to Harman who fought off a defender to pull in the reception then broke a tackle to go in for the 55-yard touchdown. A missed PAT made it 14-6 at the half.

Penns Valley drove 65 yards on its first possession of the second half, with Baney punching it in from a yard out. The Bearcats responded before the end of the quarter with a 45-yard touchdown pass from Harman to Tyson Cook. A failed two-point conversion made it 21-12.

To open the fourth, Baney took a pitch 20 yards for the score as the Rams opened up a 28-12 lead.

Huntingdon stuck around, getting another long touchdown throw from Ronk to Harman, this time for 37 yards. The conversion attempt failed again, making it 28-18 with under seven minutes remaining.

Penns Valley put the game away with an 11-yard Brinker scramble for a touchdown.

Baney had 170 yards on the ground and two touchdowns, while Brinker rushed for 68 and accounted for three scores.

Photo Gallery - State College vs. Altoona Oct. 23, 2020

Geoff Rushton is managing editor for Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.
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