PAHS cross country 2008 preview

Lori Chase
Port Allegany Reporter Argus
September 4, 2008

A week before her runners stepped to the starting line for their first meet, Port Allegany head coach Fran Reilly’s enthusiasm was evident, and with good cause. Not only will the Gators officially be able to field full teams for both boys’ and girls’ competitions this season, they’ll also have a “home-course” advantage again.

After last year’s Vo-Tech expansion wiped out the first track Reilly devised, and forced the teams to run all their meets on the road, she decided to take advantage of the woodlands across Edison Bates Drive from the school to build a decent course.

“Our challenge was, we have a beautiful hillside up there,” she said. “But it was a mess, and it was going to take a lot of work.” Fortunately, one of her students, Jordan Stehle, decided to take on the course as his Eagle Scout project. After an offseason of hard work by Stehle, Reilly, and her athletes, the program now has a brand new 3.08-mile layout – shortened to 1.6 miles for the junior high runners – “that can be maintained, that won’t fall apart after using it one time.”

Senior Justin Lewis, who finished third in the North Tier League championship and also ran well at districts, is the only returning varsity letterman for the boys’ team. However, he’ll be joined by a strong trio of freshmen – Elliott Binder, Jacob Stehle, and Adam Johnson – moving up from the junior high squad that won its league meet. Junior soccer fullback/midfielder Josh Fox, taking advantage of a new dual-enrollment rule which allows students to participate in more than one sport at the same time, will also run with the team, as will freshman James Coxen.

Reilly is optimistic about their prospects. “Every one of those guys is a fairly good athlete,” she said. “I think we’re going to be in the competition.”

Three of the four girls who competed in the district meet – senior Desi Tanner, junior Melissa Haggard, and sophomore Jackie Lewis – return for another season, and freshman Hannah Wise joins the varsity. Jessica French, a member of the team in 2006, is back for her senior year after concentrating on soccer last fall. (Like Fox, she’ll compete in both sports.) Reilly also sees potential in this group, with French and Tanner expected to set the pace.

But while she’s pleased at the thought of finally being able to field full rosters and officially keep score in dual meets, Reilly – herself an avid runner – doesn’t list team accomplishments among her expectations.

“The first thing, the first day, they all know that their goal is to beat themselves,” she said. “I’m not worried about anything else. Yes, if we get trophies or whatever, that’s great … but every time they get on the line, their biggest competition is themselves. ‘What did I get last time’? That’s what I want them to do. That’s why I like cross country. You’re competing against yourself.”

PAHS football 2008 preview

Lori Chase
Port Allegany Reporter Argus
September 4, 2008

After his team finished last season with a 6-4 record and their third trip to the District 9 playoffs in four years, Gators head football coach Mike Bodamer expects to be in the mix again in 2008.

“We’re definitely one of the teams that could take the title this year,” he said. “There are six or seven that could actually win it, and I think we’re definitely one of them. If we don’t make the playoffs, it’s going to be a big disappointment. That’s our goal every year, just to get in the playoffs and see what happens.”

To do that, though, they’ll have to stay healthy. With just 25 names on the opening-weekend roster, “If we get a couple of injuries in our first 15 or 16, we’re going to be hurting,” Bodamer admitted.

The coaching staff, which includes Bob Haskins (offensive coordinator), Justin Bienkowski (line/junior varsity), Dan Eskeson (junior high), Nate Zitnik (junior high), and Bob Rankin (7th grade), is challenging the players to believe they can play with any team in the league.

“The last couple of years, we’ve been so close. When we lost to Coudersport and Curwensville, which were the two big guys, a lot of times, we just didn’t believe we could win,” Bodamer confessed. “Last year against Kane and Cameron County, same thing. I just don’t think they believed they could actually beat them. This year, we’re stressing that they can beat anybody – but they also can be beaten by anybody – just the idea of believing in themselves. That’s going to be a big part of it.”

Bryce Healy, Damen Brodhun, Brent Frontino, and Josh Guerrero have been chosen as team captains. While he expects a lot from those four players, Bodamer said of his team, “They’re all good kids. There are five seniors that are really good leaders, and most of the juniors have been playing since ninth grade. So they’ve been around, and they all get along well together.”

Josh Saltsman, Port’s only representative on the 2007 Big 30 All-Star team, is now playing for Clarion University. The Gators should still have a veteran presence on the offensive line, though, as Guerrero (who was named an Allegheny Mountain League All-Star last season), Brodhun, and Lucas Kline all started last season, and senior lettermen Frontino, Chris Fabish, and Zigmund Reichenbach also return.

However, the same isn’t true for the backfield, where QB/RB Derick Morey and leading rusher Nick Nichols both graduated. Sophomore Camrin Stuckey, who started the last few games of the 2007 season at quarterback, takes over the job full-time this year. Bodamer sees great potential in his young signal-caller. “That last Coudy game, in the playoffs, he really played well,” he said. “I think he realized he has the ability to play with anybody.”

Running backs Ryan Bodamer, Healy, and Paul Woods, along with fullback Seth Lowery, should earn the majority of the carries. Koty Milford and Zach Ramadhan start at receiver, but Healy and Woods are also expected to contribute in the passing game.

Bodamer is concerned about the backfield’s lack of experience – according to D9Sports.com statistics, Lowery led the returning ballcarriers with 72 yards in 2007 – but said, “we have some good kids there. We’re not blazing fast, but all of our kids, especially our offensive line, can move pretty well. I think our speed’s going to finally be an asset for us.”

Port fielded an above-average defense last season, allowing 15 or fewer points in half of its games. Guerrero and Lowery, who both earned multiple accolades for their play from regional media outlets, are back to anchor a solid linebacking corps. Reichenbach and Frontino lead a disruptive defensive line. Bodamer paced the team with three interceptions from his cornerback spot last year; he and Healy give the team veteran leadership in the secondary.

Coach Bodamer, entering his fourth year in the top job after several seasons as an assistant, believes the races for both the division and league titles are wide open: “Coudy still has the talent. I think we’ll be up there. Cameron County, they’re young, but their young kids are really good, so they’re still going to be in it. Smethport, they’ll be back, and the new coach at Otto-Eldred has those kids working hard.

“Down south, Curwensville’s going to be loaded; they’ll be tough. Kane lost some of their skill players, but they still have most of their lines, and Nicholson, they’re going to be tough, too. Johnsonburg, they don’t have numbers, but they have some good skill-position players who are going to cause some problems. And of course, three of our first four games are Johnsonburg, Curwensville, and Kane … so we’ll see what we have the first week.”

He concluded, “I think the kids realize that we can hang with anybody as long as we play hard.”

PAHS boys’ golf 2008 preview

Lori Chase
Port Allegany Reporter Argus
September 4, 2008

Eight golfers, including lettermen Terry Gleason, Kyle Hildebrandt, and Frank Austin, return for another season on the Gator varsity. While most of the team is back from last year, the steady play of 2008 graduate Andy Beck will be missed. “He’s a big loss,” head coach Bob Raudenbush said of Beck, who was named to the Penn-York League all-star team last season. “He was going out and getting 10 or 9 points every match, giving us a chance to win. Without him, we have some ground to make up.”

Competition for the No. 1 spot should be wide open, but Raudenbush expects Gleason to provide some stability for a roster dominated by underclassmen. “Terry’s our only senior,” he noted. “We’re definitely looking for his leadership to help our younger players.”

The large sophomore contingent is led by Hildebrandt, Port’s top returning scorer from the 2007 district championships, and Austin also lettered as a freshman. They’re joined by returning players John-Michael Austin, Todd Bigley, and Marcus Borowsky, along with newcomers Chad Barnard, Kody Taylor, and Chester Tanner. Freshmen Charlie Buchanan, Jaret Martin, and Josh Morey round out the squad.

“We have 12 players, so the interest is there,” said Raudenbush, who will be assisted by Chris Ernst again this season. “They’re a great bunch of kids, very coachable, they want to learn. And we’re very young. We can keep working with these kids. I think we’re capable; we have some pretty talented kids. We just have to get them on the golf course.”

That necessity, a minor detail for most teams, has become a major challenge for the Gator programs since Indian Echo Country Club closed several years ago. Raudenbush hates to use it as an excuse for the lack of recent team success, but he admitted, “The reality is, without a course for our kids to play on over the summer, we have an uphill climb. Last year, as the season progressed, our point difference kept getting smaller. I felt like we were making up ground … but there was too much ground to make up.”

Raudenbush has set some team goals for the 2008 season, saying he’d “like to get a win this year,” but he emphasizes the long-term benefits of the game.

“Individually, we try to help them progress as far as they can,” he said. “Wins and losses take care of themselves. We look at it as a lifetime sport. We’re excited that we have the numbers we do, and we feel like we’re getting them ready for the rest of their life playing golf.”

PAHS girls’ golf 2008 preview

Lori Chase
Port Allegany Reporter Argus
September 4, 2008

With four returning letterwinners on the team, including two-time Penn-York League All-Star Lynea Gustafson, Port Allegany girls’ golf coach David Roae has reason for guarded optimism heading into the 2008 season.

“I definitely expect us to place better than we did last year against the other teams in our league,” he said. “We were outmatched last year. We were out-talented in every match. But I think with four girls with experience, we have a better chance of at least being competitive.”

Gustafson is the team’s unquestioned No. 1 player. “She’s a good golfer,” Roae said. “I don’t know if she was the medalist in any of our matches, but she was consistently second or third in every match that we played.”

Seniors Sarah Gordon and Shaina Snodgrass also competed in the District 9 championships last year, and sophomore Amber Fischer returns for her second season. They’re joined by sophomore Alesha Shatley and freshmen Sasha Fischer, Lindsay Delacour, Nyasia Middleton, Kiersten Kio, and Justine Kinney; Roae hopes the large freshman class will become a solid base of talent to build on in future seasons.

Because the Gator golf teams no longer have a home course, the fourth-year head coach admitted the last couple of years have been demanding. “It’s difficult to practice, and it’s difficult to plan for matches,” he said. “Last year, for two of the girls, our first match was the first time they’d ever been on a golf course. Can you imagine being a basketball coach and going out for your first game, and two of your players had never been on the court before?”

Despite the added inconveniences, Roae’s commitment to the program hasn’t wavered. “Yes, it’s a challenge to come up with a winning team and recruit girls and keep things going – but we do it, and we do the best with what we have,” he said. “It’s such a great sport, and it’s a sport the kids can take with them for the rest of their lives. I think it’s something we definitely need to keep going.”

PAHS boys’ soccer 2008 preview

Lori Chase
Port Allegany Reporter Argus
September 4, 2008

With a momentum-building win over playoff-bound Smethport in the 2007 finale, and 10 returning lettermen on the roster, Port Allegany boys’ soccer coach Aaron Clark is looking forward to the upcoming season.

“The first two years, we had the skills,” he said, “but we had no experience. This year, we have the skills, but we have 11 starters who for the most part can get out there and play and they can stay with anybody.”

Starting a varsity team from scratch, while competing against long-established programs, has had its challenges.

“It’s been frustrating at times,” the third-year coach admitted. “The first two years, you kind of had to temper your expectations – you want to go out and win every game, but then when you play teams like Northern Potter that have been around forever, it’s tough to handle losing to them close.

“This year, we’re probably looking to win more of those games where we were just competitive. We’re trying to improve expectations. We went in telling the kids, ‘No more trying to stay close. No more trying to be competitive. This year, the goal is to win.’”

He continued, “I think we can play with the best teams and challenge them for a playoff spot. This is our year to really make that push.”

Despite losing leading scorer and second-team Big 30 All-Star Todd Mealy (14 goals, 5 assists) to graduation, Clark believes his club will still be strong offensively. Midfielder Tyler Payne (7 goals, 9 assists) joined Mealy on the Upper Allegheny Valley League All-Star team last season; he and fellow seniors Jon Burkart, RayPaul Gascon, and Jason Roush, along with juniors Kirby Elliott, Denzel Middleton and Jonathan Binder, should play major roles in the Gator attack. “I think we should be able to score our fair share of goals this year,” said Clark, who will be assisted by Matt Lawton again this season.

Inexperience is a potential source of concern on defense, as veteran fullbacks James Young and Nick Hults also graduated in June. The two returning back-line starters, sweeper Derek Brookens and fullback Justin Osani, will play a critical role in keeping opposing forwards out of the box.

Behind them, goalkeeper Ryan Sabolcik, who started 11 games last year and earned two of the team’s four wins, returns for his senior season. As the only experienced keeper on the roster, “He’s going to have to be involved in pretty much every game from here on out,” Clark said. “If we didn’t have him, I don’t know how competitive we might be this year.”

Asked if he hopes to make it to the district playoffs, Clark took issue with the reporter’s choice of words. “That’s the goal,” he emphasized. “No hoping. That’s what we expect at the end of the season. We figure that’s a nice jump up. The first year, we won one game. Last year we won four. This year we expect ten wins or more.”

PAHS girls’ soccer 2008 preview

Lori Chase
Port Allegany Reporter Argus
September 4, 2008

As they continue to build the varsity girls’ soccer program in Port Allegany, third-year head coach Travis Cowburn and assistant Tony Edgell welcome back 13 returning letterwinners to the team. Two of the seniors, fullback Jenn Anderson and goalkeeper Cortney Barnett, will serve as co-captains this year. “The leadership always counts,” Cowburn said. “I’m looking for Jenn and Cortney to really lead the way. They are our rocks.”

Bryanna Evans, who shared the 2007 team scoring lead with fellow midfielder Amanda Kelly, was one of just two freshmen named to last year’s Upper Allegheny League All-Star team. “That doesn’t happen often,” Cowburn said. “I’m looking for big things from her.” Evans and Kelly, along with forwards Kari Drabert, Shanel Halle, and Nikki Lovell, should play key roles in the Gators’ offense.

There’s a wealth of experience behind them, as midfielders Amarae Reinard and Kaitlyn Kio and defenders Anderson, Jessica French, Brandi Niles, Brittney Drabert, and Kelly Mulcahey all earned significant playing time last season.

The energetic Cowburn, who played collegiate and club soccer, is still adapting to coaching at the high school level. “I demand a lot from them,” he said, “and they’re giving me 100 percent most of the time.” He also went out of his way to compliment the community league, which “has done wonders” in teaching the game.

While young, the varsity program is starting to show signs of progress. “I don’t believe we know how to win yet,” Cowburn admitted, “but it’s coming. We’re getting hungry. They’re looking for it. The first year, we started eight girls that had never really played organized soccer before; last year, I started six. So it’s a learning experience all the way around … but it’s coming.”

The team’s first-ever win, a 1-0 final against Dubois Central Catholic last September, was a critical step in that learning process.

“It was really important for morale,” Cowburn said. “The year before was so horrendous, with just starting everything, and we only had 13 girls. But the people are starting to come out; they’re starting to look at it a different way.

“When the whistle sounded (to end the game), the big monkey was off the back. Time to get down to business, and this year hopefully we’re going to put it all together. This year, our goal is to win six, and steadily work up from there.”

PAHS volleyball 2008 preview

Lori Chase
Port Allegany Reporter Argus
September 4, 2008

When veteran coach Sharon Daniels returned to the sidelines last fall, taking over a Port Allegany volleyball program that had slipped to a 6-10 record in 2006, it didn’t take long for her team to serve notice that they intend to rejoin the North Tier League elite.

In October, the Gator spikers handed perennial league power Coudersport its only regular-season loss – and on the Falcons’ home court, no less.

“I think it said a lot for the program,” Daniels said. “It said a lot for our philosophy, our ideology – it showed that it was working. You build the kids up to believe in themselves, and they get rewards. And that was a big reward.”

Port would go on to beat Oswayo Valley in the first round of the District 9 playoffs, before falling to Coudy in the quarterfinals and finishing the season at 10-7.

Daniels faces a different challenge this season: trying to build on last year’s success despite losing all six girls who started the final playoff match to graduation. “We’re young,” she admitted, “but we’re gutsy. And it’s a nice group of kids. It’s a nice atmosphere this year.”

Plus, while the team may not have much starting experience at the varsity level, they’re certainly not newcomers to the game.

“The four seniors and the three returning juniors – not only have they played varsity ball together, they also have played club, so they’ve played the last two winters all together. I think we’re going to see some good things because of that. That’s our building blocks, that core of experience.”

The Port High mentor sees club volleyball as a valuable companion to her program. “Nine of these kids play all year around,” she said, “and it’s a much higher competitive level than we’re playing in our league. They’re seeing some extremely competitive play and then coming back here. Usually, if you look out on the court, you can see the kids that have been playing all year.”

Daniels is counting on two returning starters, senior outside hitter Rachel Edgreen and junior middle Kelsey Pistner, and junior outside hitter Alyssa Bowser to make an impact this season. “I’m really expecting big things out of those three players,” she said.

They’ll be joined by a solid supporting cast, led by senior letterwinners Stacey Johnson (setter), Emily Morrison (outside hitter), and Emily Schena (defensive specialist). Junior Caitlin Stewart (outside hitter) and sophomores Sarah Brodhun (middle) and Kyley Mickle (setter/outside hitter) should also contribute immediately, with junior Brooke Dilucia, sophomore Ashley Bernardi, and freshman Becky Andrus completing the varsity roster.

Kaci Daniels (junior varsity) and Laurie Lathrop (junior high) return as assistant coaches.

The North Tier League is always competitive – before Coudersport’s current two-year reign, four different teams won the league title in as many seasons – and it looks like that won’t change in 2008. “This year’s going to be the same; it’s going to be tight,” Sharon said. “Last year, at the beginning of the year, I went out on a limb and said nobody’s going to go undefeated. This year, again, I don’t see anyone going undefeated. It’s going to be a tight race, it’s going to be a battle every night.”

Kaci agreed, adding, “It’s going to come down to two or three games, a seventh-or-eighth place team taking a match from a second-or-third-place team, and it can happen. Almost every team has two or three players who play club year-round. They’re tough – go-to players – and you have to shut them down.”

Where do the Gators factor into that race? “We’ll finish somewhere near the top,” Sharon said. “We’ll definitely be in the mix.”

Then, she smiled. “I think we’re going to surprise some people.”