AML Week 3: Goal-line stand carries Gators past Johnsonburg

Lori Chase
Port Allegany Reporter Argus
September 24, 2009

It’s Saturday afternoon, the scoreboard clock at Gator Field shows 0:32.1 remaining in the fourth quarter, and Port Allegany is clinging to a 7-3 lead. But after making one stand inside the 5-yard line a few minutes earlier, the Gator defense is backed up to its own end zone again. It’s fourth-and-goal at the 1, and Johnsonburg has one more chance to punch the ball in for the potential game-deciding score.

Rams coach Tom Launer calls timeout, and both teams huddle for some last-minute instructions.

“Blitz as hard as you can,” Port Allegany coach Mike Bodamer tells linebackers Seth Lowery, Zach Ramadhan and Brock Taylor.

Quarterback Mitchell Vallone takes the snap, pivots, and hands the ball off to Trevor Miller, the 281-pound tackle-turned-fullback who outweighs the heaviest player on Port’s roster by a good 70 pounds … but before he can crash into the line, three Gator defenders are on him, dragging him down in the backfield.

Ballgame.

As the home stands still buzz with excitement, a kneeldown by Matt Bodamer finishes the game, and Port High escapes with the victory to improve to 2-1 in the Allegheny Mountain League North division.

“That goal-line stand was absolutely beautiful. Can’t ask the kids for anything more than that,” Bodamer said afterward. “Fourth-and-1, win or lose, and we decided to win this time.”

But while the veteran Port mentor was pleased to come away with a win, he was equally nonplussed about several miscues which helped keep the game in doubt until the thrilling ending. The Gators turned the ball over twice inside the Johnsonburg 20, and the Rams’ only score came from a short drive set up by another turnover.

“We played ugly in the first half; we should have had at least two touchdowns,” he said. “We could have easily had 28 points if we hadn’t had any problems … Just mistakes on our part, things we have to work on to make them automatic, instead of having to worry about it.

“It’s good to win, but I don’t feel very good about the way we played.”

The Gator offense looked good early, shrugging off a failed gadget play on the first snap of the game to drive deep into Rams territory on its first two possessions. However, neither one yielded any points, and the first quarter ended in a 0-0 deadlock. The Rams were going nowhere; their first four drives netted a total of 20 yards, with the only first down via a defensive penalty. But when Mitchell Holmberg recovered a fumble at the Port 33, the visitors were suddenly in position to take the lead. The drive stalled at the 5, but Trey DeCecchis pounded a 22-yard field goal through the uprights, and Johnsonburg took a 3-0 lead into the locker room.

The Rams went backward on the opening drive of the second half, and punter Andrew Nortum was called upon yet again. His booming kick sailed over the head of the returner and rolled all the way to the Gator 1, and the crowd on the visitors’ side stirred, hoping for a big defensive play.

The Gators didn’t oblige. Behind the strong running of Ryan Bodamer (11 carries – 66 yards rushing, 2 catches – 68 yards) and Lowery (19 carries – 94 yards, 1 catch – 31 yards), who each had strong games on both sides of the ball, the offense drove the length of the field. Lowery capped off the 99-yard scoring drive by breaking loose for a 20-yard touchdown run with 8:20 remaining in the third quarter, then added the extra point for the 7-3 margin.

“That was a little disappointing, the way we’ve been playing defense. We get them down there on the 1-yard line, I thought we were in pretty good shape,” Launer said.

The two teams swapped turnovers and punts heading into the fourth quarter, where the Rams unveiled their supersized backfield combo – Miller and 6-3, 245-pound Matt Shuey – and began moving the ball for the first time all afternoon, forcing the Gator defense’s last-minute heroics.

“We just couldn’t get our running game on track,” Launer explained. “We just put that formation in this week. We thought, maybe we can go with the big guys and get three or four yards per carry, and move the ball that way. It was working pretty good until we got inside the 5, and then they jammed it up. When we had first-and-goal on the 4, I thought we had a really good shot to punch it in, but we didn’t do it.”

Now 2-1, Port Allegany is tied with Coudersport for second place in the division, a game behind Cameron County. A tough road trip awaits this week, though, when the Gators head south to Kane to take on the defending AML champions. The Wolves are led by senior running back Arie Paup (24 carries – 142 yards, 3 TDs), who missed the game at Sheffield last week.

“We’ll have to key on him and make sure he doesn’t kill us,” Bodamer said. “Their quarterback can throw the ball a little bit, and they’ve got another fast tailback. They’re just so big up front; they look like little NFL linemen. Hopefully our guys will be able to use our speed again … I think these couple of defensive stands will give them a little bit of confidence. We’ll watch some tape, see what we can do with them, and find some way to get our offense back on track.”

At Port Allegany, Sept. 19:

Score by quarters:
Johnsonburg 0 3 0 0 3
Port Allegany 0 0 7 0 7

Second quarter

Johnsonburg –Trey DeCecchis 22-yard field goal, 3-0

Third quarter

Port Allegany –Seth Lowery 20 run, Lowery kick, 7-3 PA

Team Stats: J PA
First downs 10 14
Rushes-Yards 41-107 43-157
Passing Yards 60 143
Comp-Att-Int 4-14-0 5-10-0
Total Yards 167 300
Fumbles-Lost 1-1 3-3
Punts-Avg. 7-40.9 3-35.3
Penalties-Yards 3-28 4-30
Total Plays 55 53

Individual stats:

Rushing:

Johnsonburg – Shuey 8-32; DeCecchis 12-26; Miller 10-24; Vavala 7-13; Nortum 6-9; Vallone 2-5.

Port Allegany – Lowery 19-94, TD; R. Bodamer 10-66; Ramadhan 5-11; Stuckey 3-(-3); M. Bodamer 5-(-17).

Note: Rushing statistics include sack yardage for QBs.

Passing:

Johnsonburg – Nortum 2-12, 48 yards; Vallone 2-2, 12 yards.

Port Allegany – M. Bodamer 5-9, 143 yards; Stuckey 0-1, 0 yards.

Receiving:

Johnsonburg – Shuey 1-29; Holmberg 1-19; Nortum 2-12.

Port Allegany – R. Bodamer 2-68; Kline 1-35; Lowery 1-31; Stuckey 1-9.

Update: for the second consecutive week, both Seth Lowery and Ryan Bodamer were named to the D9Sports.com Honor Roll.

PAHS Sports Roundup: Sept. 16-22

Volleyball:

The Lady Gators remained undefeated in North Tier League play last Thursday, coming up with a 3-1 (25-17, 25-12, 19-25, 25-18) victory on Cameron County’s home court.

“The girls played excellent defense and a very well-rounded offense,” head coach Sharon Daniels said. “Kelsey Pistner had a banner night at the net with 13 kills and two blocks, and defensively had 12 digs. Joining in the offensive effort were Kyley Mickle with a personal best in kills with nine, 13 assists, 8 service points, Alyssa Bowser played well all around with six kills, 23 digs, two blocks and 10 service points, Renee Edgell with seven big kills, and Jenny Shelley with 16 service points, three kills, 15 assists and six digs. Becky Andrus really picked up her game tonight and played a very tight defense with 32 digs and added 15 service points to the board. Freshman Rachel Taylor chipped in with two kills and two big blocks.”

On Monday night, Port ran up against a tough Elk County Catholic squad, falling to the Crusaders 3-1 (25-14, 16-25, 25-10, 25-21) in a non-league match.

“We were slow starting in the first set and then came back to life in the second. That was not to last long, though, and we never got going at all in the third. The fourth found us with a 10-point deficit and we came back to within three before losing 25-21,” Daniels said.

She continued, “Although we came up on the losing side, we had much that was positive. Both Kelsey Pistner (15) and Renee Edgell (13) recorded match highs in kills. The team remained composed even when trailing.”

Becky Andrus added 30 digs, Jenny Shelley 14 assists, and Kyley Mickle 13 assists for the Lady Gators, 3-2 (3-0 NTL) heading into Tuesday night’s match against Smethport. They’ll be on the road for the next two matches, traveling to Oswayo Valley Thursday and Otto-Eldred next Tuesday.

Cross country:

The young Gator squad got to see one of the best squads in District 9 on Tuesday, when Oswayo Valley swept the top five places in a dominating 15-50 victory on Port Allegany’s 3.08-mile course. Green Wave freshman Barrett Kemp shattered the course record, crossing the line in a time of 18:45.

“I told our kids, ‘Don’t be disappointed when you don’t win this meet. They’re just that good,’” Port coach Fran Reilly said.

Aaron Majot (22:47) finished sixth to lead the Gators, with Jameson Haskins (24:20), Lucas Manning (26:05), and Bryan Pritt (26:06) rounding out the top 10.

The junior high team edged OV 27-28, with Adam Koehler (11:49, second place) setting a new personal best and Logan Hutton (14:03) and Steven Blankenship (14:07) also earning top-five finishes. A trip to Rochester for Saturday morning’s McQuaid Invitational is up next on the schedule.

Boys’ golf:

With trips to the Smethport Invitational (Friday morning, 9 a.m.) and next Tuesday’s District 9 Championships at Pennhills remaining on the schedule, the Gators conclude their Penn-York League season by matching last year’s 4-8 record.

Girls’ golf:

Led by Lynea Gustafson, who’s making a strong bid to repeat as Penn-York League MVP, the Lady Gators have already won twice and come close a couple of other times.

“It’s definitely nice to get the squad some wins,” coach Dave Roae said. “It’s been a few years.” Asked if Gustafson has picked up where she left off last year, he added, “She’s picked up – and then some, lowering her stroke average from 48 to between 42 and 43 shots per round.” Roae also mentioned Alesha Shatley’s improvement; the junior has cut four to five shots off her average, and is now consistently recording scores in the mid-50s.

At Emporium on Monday, Port’s top three golfers played Cameron County to a draw, but the Red Raiders barely managed to eke out a 29.5-25.5 victory. Gustafson carded a 45 to earn medalist honors, as she has in every match this season; Shatley (56) and Cora Bova (57) also finished in the top five, with Sasha Fischer (67) and Amber Fischer (69) rounding out the squad.

Roae noted, “Lynea had another nice round. The greens were just punched yesterday, so putting was a little difficult for most of the girls. The whole team had better scores than the last time we were there.”

The Gators, now 2-6 on the season, will head back to Emporium Country Club for the league tournament on Thursday morning.

Boys’ soccer:

The Gators’ undefeated streak in the Upper Allegheny Valley Soccer League came to an end last Thursday with a 3-0 loss at Smethport.

“We played flat in the first half,” coach Aaron Clark admitted. “We were better in the second half, but we’d dug ourselves too big a hole. We had some chances; we just couldn’t find the back of the net.”

It didn’t take long for Port to find the win column again, though, as they used a late goal by Sam Kysor – his second of the game – to outlast Brockway 5-4 in the team’s long-awaited home opener.

“We jumped out to a quick 4-0 lead in the first 15 or 20 minutes – which surprised me, because Brockway’s better than that,” Clark said. The Rovers proved his point, roaring back to tie the score before Kysor’s game-winner. “Definitely one of those ‘tale of two halves’ games,” the coach added.

With the Brockway win safely in the scorebook, the 5-3 (4-1 league) Gators face two more challenges this week, taking on a dangerous Coudersport team at home on Wednesday before visiting defending UAVSL North champion Elk County Catholic on Friday.

With the team’s goals of a 10-win season and a playoff berth in mind, “I’m comfortable with where we’re at,” Clark said.

Girls’ soccer:

After dropping games to Smethport (3-2) and Genesee Valley (3-0) last week, the Lady Gators rebounded with a solid 3-0 win at Ridgway on Tuesday night. Sophomore Jordan Edgell stopped 19 shots to record her first career shutout, and Kaylee Kio, Amarae Reinard, and Bryanna Evans all found the net for Port. “The defense really stepped up,” coach Travis Cowburn said.

Now 3-5 (3-2 UAVSL), Port is off until next Monday afternoon, when they make the long trip to Curwensville.