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.

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