Gators begin D9 football playoffs Friday night

Lori Chase
Port Allegany Reporter Argus
November 12, 2009

Mike Bodamer knew his Gator football team had a game to play this weekend, but not the identity of the opponent. Curwensville provided that answer last Friday, edging Cameron County 6-0 for the Allegheny Mountain League title and knocking the Red Raiders down to the No. 3 seed in the District 9 Class A quarterfinals. That puts the Port Allegany team bus on the road to Emporium Friday afternoon, Nov. 13, for a 7 p.m. kickoff at the CCHS field.

While the Gators waited to see where they were headed, they took advantage of an unofficial bye week to do a little fine-tuning – and heal some nicks and bruises.

“It was definitely good to rest up,” Bodamer admitted. “We had a couple of nagging injuries, but they seem to be okay now. We didn’t get a lot done because we didn’t know who we were playing, but we worked on the offense a little bit, and did a little conditioning to keep them in shape.”

Cameron County has won the last four games in the longstanding series between the two schools, but three of those four have been by margins of a touchdown or less, including a 14-7 final at Gator Field last month. When asked if there was any reason not to expect another close outcome, the Port High mentor replied with a chuckle, “I definitely hope not.”

Then, turning serious, he added, “They have a very physical team. If Andy Lippert breaks a couple of runs, we could be in big trouble, so the defense has to hold them out. And in the last couple of games, I think we’ve only scored twice, so the offense definitely needs to step it up and put the ball in the end zone more than once if we’re going to have a chance at it.”

The Red Raiders’ offense revolves around Lippert; the senior tailback has rushed for 1,243 yards and 16 touchdowns this season, and added another 108 yards and a touchdown on seven receptions. Junior quarterback Jason Blose (91 carries – 483 yards, 5 TDs) also contributes to a rushing attack currently averaging a gaudy 241.7 yards per game. Blose doesn’t throw the ball often, attempting more than nine passes just once this season, but seven of his 29 completions – three each to Ryan Grimm and Vince Summers, the team’s top two receivers – were good for touchdowns.

Although the Red Raiders had one of the most potent offenses in the league this year, the Golden Tide managed to shut them down Friday night, allowing just 55 yards of total offense and keeping them out of the end zone.

“They (Curwensville) were just very physical. Lippert only ran 13 times, which kind of surprised me. I think he had 30-some carries against us. I’m sure they’ll go back to that,” said Bodamer, who made the long drive to Clearfield County to scout the game.

The CCHS defense is led by linebackers Andrew Fragale (77 tackles, 4 sacks, 1 INT, 3 fumble recoveries through nine regular-season games), Lippert (63 tackles, 3 sacks, 1 INT, 3 fumble recoveries), and Tanner Johnson (57 tackles, 4 sacks, 2 fumble recoveries). The AML’s stingiest squad in 2009, Cameron County has allowed just 8.4 points per game, including a single touchdown in each of the last four weeks.

The Gators counter with a balanced offense, rushing for 1,415 yards and passing for 1,064 this season. Junior fullback Seth Lowery led the team with 749 rushing yards and 6 TDs on 141 attempts, including a career-best 34-carry, 209-yard performance in the win over Kane, with senior Ryan Bodamer (91 carries-373 yards, 2 TDs) also making a significant contribution to the ground game.

After coming in during the second quarter of the season opener against Curwensville, freshman quarterback Matt Bodamer kept the starting job, completing 56 of 93 passes for a AML North-high 1,010 yards and 12 touchdowns. The young signalcaller spread the ball around in Port’s no-huddle attack, with Lucas Kline (19 catches-463 yards, 6 TDs), Camrin Stuckey (16-337, 3 TDs), and Ryan Bodamer (18-202, 4 TDs) each hauling in their share of passes.

The elder Bodamer also leads the defense with 104 tackles, two interceptions, and four forced fumbles from his strong safety spot, with linebackers Zach Ramadhan (71 tackles, 1 fumble recovery) and Lowery (67 tackles, 1 INT, 2 fumble recoveries) and linemen Adam Greenman, James Nellis (4 sacks each) and Lucas Kline (3 sacks, 3 fumble recoveries, two defensive TDs) making big plays up front.

As the defending district champions, Cameron County is used to a playoff atmosphere. How does Bodamer plan to counteract that edge?

“We’ve been telling the kids to go back to the first game we played, and learn from that,” he said. “We definitely can’t rely on any type of playoff experience. We’ve been telling them, this is just Game 2. We’ve faced them once; we’re not considering this a playoff game, it’s just another game against Cameron County. We’ve played them once, we know what we did wrong, we know what we have to do, and we’ll go from there.”

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