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Franco's 2nd stint at Altoona begins with rebuilding plan

| Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012, 8:30 p.m.
Altoona's Josh Kutz blocks Nik Donnelly during a drill in pre season camp Jason Sipes | For The Tribune-Review
Altoona's Austin Roseberry breaks around the end on a drill in preseason camp. Jason Sipes | For The Tribune-Review

He's not exactly a newbie, but it's been awhile since John Franco walked the sideline for the Altoona Mountain Lions.

Franco left Altoona in 1993 after compiling a 40-45-2 record in eight seasons, including a District 6-AAAA championship.

This fall, he will return after guiding Tyrone to a record of 190-37 over 18 seasons. Franco replaces Tom Palfey, who led the Mountain Lions to a 3-6 mark last year. Franco hopes to increase the popularity of football in Altoona, which is going to require some success on the field, he said.

“We're trying to attract kids to the program, but to do that, you have to be successful,” Franco said. “To be successful, you need some of the kids that aren't coming out.”

Competing programs will field between 50 and 70 players this fall, which is around where the Mountain Lions will fall, but Franco is looking for quality over quantity.

“I'm not looking for numbers,” Franco said. “I'm looking for quality, and those are the ones we can't get out. Every (position) is pretty much wide open. Nobody has really established themselves.”

With the graduation of quarterbacks Louis Bettwy and Tyler Palfey, Franco is looking for a leader to step up under center.

“That's wide open at this point,” Franco said before camp. “No one has been that impressive to tell you the truth. We have to find a quarterback and find somebody that can run the system.”

Senior leaders for Altoona this year will include wide receiver/defensive back Jake Diviney, lineman Austin Rosenberry and tight end/defensive end Josh Kutz.

“Those seniors are going to get a chance to play, “ Franco said. “In high school you have to respect every age group and give those kids a chance to play. We'll do that.”

Franco is well aware of the challenge that stands in front of his team.

“We have a lot of work to do. There's no doubt about it.”

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