CHAMBERSBURG — Considering how poorly the game began for Chambersburg, a 28-14 loss to Altoona in a Mid Penn Commonwealth football game at Trojan Stadium for Homecoming on Friday night doesn’t look that bad.
It could have been a lot worse.
The Mountain Lions’ opening possession turned into a 12-play, 79-yard drive with all runs, including eight by fullback Ethan Stroup for 48 yards, ending with his 6-yard touchdown.
The Trojans started sophomore Riley Harmon at quarterback and he had an inauspicious start. His first career pass was thrown into the teeth of a heavy rush, was intercepted by Sean Bettwy and returned 38 yards for a score and just like that, it was 14-0.
It went to 21-0 when Altoona’s second possession resulted in a touchdown from a yard out by Andre Dokes, with 9:01 left before halftime.
But from that point on, Chambersburg (2-5, 0-4 MPC) played the Mountain Lions (4-3, 1-3 MPC) tough, despite the fact that it was playing with only one normal starter on the offensive line. Two were lost previously to injuries and two more had to sit out because of COVID issues.
“We are really really struggling with injuries there, and we didn’t find out about the other two until this morning,” Trojan coach Mark Luther said. “We ended up playing (starting linebacker) Shea Makosy at center, and he’d never played there before.”
Altoona was able to get consistent pressure on Chambersburg’s QBs, but to the makeshift line’s credit, the Trojans did manage 227 yards on offense and scored a pair of touchdowns.
Harmon split time with Jermere Jones, and Jones managed to get hot late (5-for-8, 104 yards) to toss a pair of scoring passes of 13 yards, the first to Rhaigeon Parker and the second to tight end James Lilley.
Luther said, “Harmon (2-for-10, 18 yards) is technically sound and he’s done well on the JV team. We wanted to give him an opportunity to play Friday night and see what he could do. Both he and Jermere are sophomores and we need to get them some experience for next year.”
The Trojans had trouble stopping Altoona’s triple option offense early, but made some adjustments that slowed down the Mountain Lions’ attack.
“We started with a three-man front, then went to four-man and neither worked,” Luther said. “So we went back to three-man, but made some other adjustments and that worked better. We settled in and got more comfortable with it.”
Jones’ first scoring pass, to Parker, made it 21-7 early in the fourth quarter, and the defense put the Lions in a third-and-5 at their own 25. But Altoona got a crucial first down with a reverse to Tyson Reid for 7 yards. Later in the drive, Lion QB Aidan Steinbugl faked a handoff and rolled to his left, ducked inside and went 47 yards for what turned out to be a clinching TD.
Luther said, “We had a guy there, but he drifted inside two steps when they made the fake. If he’d stayed in the position he was supposed be in, we likely would have stopped that play. It’s just those little things and add up.”
The Trojans travel to play unbeaten CD East next week.
“We have to stay positive, although I know it’s difficult when you’re not winning,” Luther said.
NOTES: Rashawn Williams had his best night running the football, gaining 64 yards on 10 carries … Chambersburg has thrown a pick six in the last three games on its opening possession … Lilley had 3 catches for 34 yards, his best total of the season.
Altoona 28, Chambersburg 14
Altoona 14 7 0 7 — 28
Chambersburg 0 0 0 14 — 14
A — Ethan Stroup 6 run (Ian Palilla kick), 6:09
A — Sean Bettwy 38 interception return (Palilla kick), 4:10
A — Andre Dokes 1 run (Palilla kick), 9:01
C — Rhaigeon Parker 13 pass from Jermere Jones (Teegan Humelsine kick), 9:35
A — Aidan Steinbugl 47 run (Palilla kick), 3:53
C — James Lilley 13 pass from Jones (Humelsine kick)
First downs 17 14
Rushes-yards 52-263 26-105
Passing 1-3-0 7-18-2
Passing yards -1 122
Total yards 262 227
Punts-avg. 3-38.0 5-30.4
Fumbles-lost 3-1 2-0
Penalties-yards 2-18 4-20
RUSHING–Alt, Stroup 25-114, Steinbugl 14-96, Dokes 7-31, Alexander Yost 4-12, Tyson Reid 2-10. Chbg, Rashawn Williams 10-64, Jones 8-24, Bryce Flenory 5-21, Riley Harmon 3-(-4).
PASSING–Alt, Steinbugl 1-3-0-(-1). Chbg, Jones 5-8-1-104, Harmon 2-10-1-18.
RECEIVING–Alt, Dokes 1-(-1). Chbg, Lilley 3-34, Parker 2-27, Malachi Scott 1-36, Andy Jean-Baptiste 1-25.
INTERCEPTIONS — Alt, Bettwy, Tyson Reid.