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Gateway welcomes Altoona to Antimarino Stadium

| Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2012, 8:55 p.m.
Gateway's Thomas Woodson looks for an open receiver in the first half of Gateway's match up against Connellsville on Sept. 7, 2012. Woodson rushed for 121 yards and two touchdowns and threw for a score in last Friday's victory over Kiski Area. Evan R. Sanders | Tribune-Review

The last time Gateway and Altoona met on the football field, a WPIAL championship was on the line.

The Gators and Mountain Lions squared off for the 1969 WPIAL champ- ionship at Pitt Stadium, and Gateway upended Altoona that day, 22-15.

The victory marked the first WPIAL football championship in school history.

Fast forward 43 years, and the Gators and Mountain Lions meet again, as Gateway welcomes Altoona to Antimarino Stadium on Friday for a Quad East game.

Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m.

“We're continuing to focus on us getting better and getting in better shape,” Gators head coach Terry Smith said.

Gateway, No. 2 in this week's Tribune-Review Quad-A rankings, continued to steamroll through the early part of its schedule last Friday as it dismantled Kiski Area, 55-14.

The Gators have scored 162 points in victories over the Cavaliers, Connellsville and Greater Latrobe.

“The challenging part for us is our kids haven't had to play four quarters yet,” Smith said.

“We have to get ourselves mentally and physically fit when we have to play 48 minutes. This week, it's Altoona. We're not taking any team for granted.”

Top-ranked North Allegheny looms on the schedule in two weeks. The Tigers come to Antimarino Stadium on Homecoming on Oct. 5.

Even though Gateway is heavily favored this week against Altoona, will be so next week against Hempfield and looking ahead could be easy, Smith said he doesn't have to remind his players to focus on the task at hand.

Altoona battled Penn-Trafford last week before the Warriors hung on for a 21-14 victory. Smith said the Mountain Lions have improved under John Franco, who is in the first year of his second stint with the central Pennsylvania school.

Franco guided PIAA Class AA power Tyrone the past 18 seasons, compiled a 190-37 record and won a state championship in 1999.

“Altoona is getting better each week,” Smith said. “(Franco's) team is well prepared. He's a good strategist, and he will put his team in the best position to succeed. We just have to go out, execute, not make mistakes and take care of the football.”

Smith said he wasn't happy with his team's 87 yards in penalties in the first half against the Cavaliers.

He was pleased, however, with the run game, which was effective against Kiski Area.

Senior running back Andre Martin led the way against the Cavaliers with 153 yards and three touchdowns, giving him nine rushing scores in three games.

Senior quarterback Thomas Woodson added 121 yards on the ground and two scores, and he threw for another touchdown — a 29-yard strike to junior Montae Nicholson.

Junior Jimmy Moore also had a touchdown run, as Gateway built a 34-14 lead at halftime.

The Gators defense stepped up as well, forcing three interceptions — two by junior cornerback Anthony Davis and one by senior Mileak Ford — that set up Gateway touchdowns.

“We're playing aggressive football on defense,” Smith said. “It's 11 guys flying to the ball and always pursuing. Our kids take pride in making stops. It's not without mistakes. We gave up some yards on a couple screen plays last week, but the kid are playing hard and giving full effort.”

Michael Love is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5825 or at

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