The Altoona Area High School football team finally kicked off its season Friday night at Mansion Park when the Mountain Lions hosted Cumberland Valley in front of a crowd of family, friends and supporters. Altoona won, 28-14. See game story on Page B1.
Altoona’s school board took advantage of a ruling by a federal judge that Gov. Tom Wolf’s mandate of a limit of 250 people for outdoor gatherings was unconstitutional and allowed 33 percent capacity at Mansion Park, which holds 10,400 fans.
“It’s an awesome atmosphere,” Altoona Athletic Director Phil Riccio said. “The community deserves to be out. Our kids, the band, cheerleaders, Lionettes and football team are so happy to have their friends and family watching them. This is a big night for this community.
“We had a good amount of pre-sale tickets. It’s a great celebration for our community to be here and still stay safe.”
Altoona fan Melody Stetter attended the game wearing the jersey of her son, Aaron Carothers, a senior on the Mountain Lion football team.
“We have been on pins and needles the last couple weeks,” said Stetter, who got to see her son make an interception for Altoona late in the first half. “We have been staying in contact with each other asking if anyone has heard the latest. We just kept praying that we would be here tonight. This means everything. This is our life. Our kids are our life.
“The group of seniors and the whole Altoona football community is very close-knit. We’re all happy to be able to be here and help celebrate with the kids.”
The size of Mansion Park allowed not only Altoona parents, but band members, cheerleaders, fans of Cumberland Valley and fans with no relation to the players to attend.
“I’m very happy to be here, to say the least,” said Camp Hill resident Dave Wellman, whose son, Luke, is a senior at Cumberland Valley. “Obviously, we wanted them to play. That was the most important thing, but we personally didn’t see any reason fans couldn’t come and social distance. We’re taking precaution with our masks and being smart. So, when Altoona said they were having fans, we were ecstatic.”
Fans said any issues with getting into the stadium were at a minimum.
“It means a lot to me, because I support the kids in all the sports,” said Altoona resident Allen Schmelzlen, a 1966 graduate of the school. “This means a lot to the community, and as bad as morale has been nationally, this is really a win-win situation. I think the school has done a fantastic job handling the logistics of reopening.
“I think the abnormalities are at a minimum. It’s all for safety and it’s closer to normal than anything else we have been dealing with.”
Tyrone, which hosted Huntingdon a week after having its game at Clearfield postponed due to a possible positive COVID-19 test of a student at Clearfield, allowed more than 1,000 fans through its gates Friday night.
“Things went well,” Tyrone athletic director Luke Rhoades said. “Spectators have been very respectful of the policies and are very appreciative that our board and administration has agreed to take this first step.”
Bellwood-Antis was the only other Blair County school to host a football game Friday night. The school’s board decided on 25 percent capacity for its football games at its board meeting Thursday.
“Everything went very smoothly,” Bellwood-Antis athletic director Charlie Burch said. “Everyone showed up with vouchers and ID. People have been cooperative and friendly while following all guidelines.”