New York wins wild Raabe Classic

Lori Chase
Port Allegany Reporter Argus
August 12, 2010

As the final seconds of the Don Raabe Big 30 Charities Classic ticked off the scoreboard at Parkway Field and the New York sideline celebrated its 46-37 victory, a fireworks show lit up the Bradford sky beyond the western end zone.

But in reality, the fireworks began with the opening kickoff return almost four hours earlier and continued throughout a wildly entertaining evening of both teams trying to play “top that.” Before the night was over, the New York and Pennsylvania squads combined for a remarkable 16 plays covering 20 or more yards – including seven of their 11 touchdowns – in the second-highest-scoring game in 37 years of Raabe/Big 30 history. Only the 2003 shootout, won 56-40 by New York, racked up more than Saturday night’s 83-point total.

“Both offenses had big-play capability, and both coaches exploited each other’s defensive weakness, and that’s what happens when you run a 5-2 (mandatory defense),” New York coach Frank Brown said. “We tried to put some pressure on their quarterbacks and we were pretty successful early on, but they’ve got some players at the receiver spot.”

Of course, Brown’s team had some big-play artists of its own, beginning with Olean’s Ryan Carney. The 6-3 wide receiver, headed to JCC-Olean to play basketball, hooked up with Huskies teammate Kevin Stevens for scoring strikes of 49 and 32 yards on his way to a spectacular six-catch, 207-yard, three-touchdown performance. Stevens, a former Big 30 Player of the Year, finished the game 6-for-12 for 202 yards and three TD passes.

“In practice you could already see that these two guys really worked well together,” Brown said. “They were able to call audibles when they saw certain coverages, and you saw how we threw some fades to him. You cannot cover him one-on-one. In practice, a lot of times there were two guys hanging on him and he still came down with the ball. We knew he was a playmaker.”

West Valley’s Ben Boberg, the game’s leading rusher with 12 carries for 92 yards, added two long touchdowns as New York won for the first time in three years to increase its series lead to 19-16-2.

What made the offensive explosion even more amazing to watch was that it occurred despite a seemingly constant flurry of yellow flags. Even with a few declined calls and offsetting fouls not counting toward the total, the officiating crew set a Big 30 record of its own by marching off 223 yards on 23 penalties.

“I’m very disappointed at the penalties,” Pennsylvania coach Tony Tridico said. “I don’t think you can call that many holding penalties (seven accepted between the two teams) in a charity game where you’ve had two weeks to practice. That’s bush league to me. But other than that, it was a great game, great experience.”

Pennsylvania struck first, with Mike Rulander gathering in the opening kick, finding a seam in the middle of the coverage, and racing to the New York 16 to put the Empire State defense on its heels before most of the crowd had settled into their seats. After that, it only took three plays for Rulander’s Eisenhower teammate, quarterback Cody Crosby, to find Sheffield tight end Jimmy Hahn down the left sideline for the game’s first score.

“Sometimes it happens. Players make plays, and all-stars are going to make big plays. They made a bigger play than we did. They came and smacked us in the mouth on the first drive,” Brown admitted.

The Stevens-to-Carney combo landed a couple of haymakers of their own on the ensuing possession, hooking up twice for 74 yards to set up a first-and-goal situation, but Smethport nosetackle Jesse Isadore blocked a short field-goal attempt to keep the score 7-0. The defenses owned most of the rest of the first quarter, with New York forcing two turnovers and Pennsy stopping a fake field goal.

After that, though, the offenses started to hit their stride. Carney struck the first blow, outleaping two defenders to haul in a Stevens pass at the PA 30 and taking it in for the tying touchdown, then scored again on a drive aided by back-to-back roughing-the-punter penalties.

“The referee gods smiled on us,” Brown said.

Cameron County’s Andy Lippert answered with an 11-yard run to knot the game at 14. But late in the second quarter, Carney’s 28-yard punt return put New York back in business at the Pennsylvania 27, and they cashed in another touchdown pass with just 3.2 seconds remaining in the half to head into the locker room with an eight-point lead.

New York added another lightning-quick score on the opening drive of the third quarter, and when a Pennsylvania turnover led to Cody Gustin’s 44-yard field goal to put the New Yorkers up 32-14, it looked like a blowout in the making.

Not so fast. It was the Pennsy offense’s turn to make some big plays, with Kane wideout Arie Paup hauling in a 45-yard scoring toss from Crosby and Port High’s Lucas Kline snaring the pass for the two-point conversion. Another Lippert touchdown run made it 32-29, and the crowd on the home side of the field grew louder as they sensed the momentum swinging back the other way.

It didn’t last long. Carney – who else? – returned the ensuing kickoff out to near midfield, setting up New York’s next score, then added his third touchdown catch of the night on the opening play of the final quarter to give his team a comfortable 17-point cushion. From there, it was a matter of running out the clock before the Pennsy squad could catch up.

“This was what the Big 30 committee told me they wanted,” Brown said. “They wanted a fun game, and I thought this was a fun game.”

Tridico was obviously frustrated by the flagfest but still agreed with his counterpart, saying, “Two high-powered offenses going at it, there’s nothing to be ashamed about. This was a very good game … I think that’s what an all-star game should be.”

While disappointed with the penalties and nonplussed by the actions of some New York players at the end of the game, Kline still enjoyed taking part.

“Overall, it was really fun, a good experience, and I made a lot of new friends,” he said.

Teammate Ryan Bodamer seconded those thoughts and added, “It was nice being able to play with all the guys that I played against in my high school career. Great game.”

At Bradford, Pa., Aug. 7:

Score by quarters:
New York 7 15 17 7 46
Pennsylvania 7 7 15 8 37

First quarter:
PA – Jimmy Hahn 16 pass from Cody Crosby; Cody Nuzzo kick, 7-0
NY – Ryan Carney 49 pass from Kevin Stevens; Cody Gustin kick, 7-7

Second quarter:
NY – Carney 20 pass from Zac Roberts; Gustin kick, 14-7
PA – Andy Lippert 12 run; Nuzzo kick, 14-14
NY – Ben Boberg 27 pass from Stevens; Justin Taylor pass from Connor King, 22-14

Third quarter:
NY – Boberg 55 run; Gustin kick, 29-14
NY – Gustin 44 field goal; 32-14
PA – Arie Paup 45 pass from Crosby; Lucas Kline pass from Crosby, 32-22
PA – Lippert 4 run; Nuzzo kick, 32-29
NY – Taylor 27 run; Gustin kick, 39-29

Fourth quarter:
NY – Carney 32 pass from Stevens; Gustin kick, 46-29
PA – Crosby 1 run; Hahn pass from Crosby, 46-37

Team Stats: NY PA
First downs 20 16
Rushes-Yards 48-187 32-72
Passing Yards 282 276
Comp-Att-Int 14-23-0 17-34-2
Total Yards 469 344
Fumbles-Lost 6-3 5-2
Punts-Avg. 5-31.0 5-39.8
Penalties-Yards 10-90 13-133
Total Plays 71 66

Raabe Classic player injured in auto accident

Nellis recovering in Pittsburgh hospital

HONORING JAMES – PAHS graduate, Class of 2010, James Nellis was honored with a moment of silence at the beginning of the Don Raabe Charities Classic held Saturday at Parkway Field in Bradford. The Pennsylvania All-Star was seriously injured in a car accident on his way to work last week following the Big 30 Banquet. His jersey and helmet were displayed throughout the game. (Photo by Pam Fischer / Reporter Argus)

When Port Allegany offensive lineman James Nellis was asked why he wanted to participate in this year’s Don Raabe Big 30 Charities Classic, he replied, “I love football and it’s an honor to be part of the game, and I wanted to play one last time.”

Unfortunately, he wouldn’t get the chance to suit up on Saturday evening. On his way to work following the banquet last Thursday night, the 18-year-old Nellis was seriously injured in an automobile accident outside Emporium. As of Tuesday, he remained in the intensive care unit at UPMC Presbyterian Hospital in Pittsburgh.

After hearing about the accident, Pennsylvania head coach Tony Tridico knew he still had to get his squad ready to take the field. But his thoughts – and those of everyone involved with the game – were with his injured player, who was honored with a moment of silence and whose helmet and red No. 58 jersey were displayed behind the Pennsy bench.

“I was lying on the couch Friday afternoon just thinking, ‘What do you say?’ I grouped them up (at the last practice) and I spoke from my experiences, relating it to life, and they responded exceptionally well. But it was difficult, and I’m sure it still will be,” Tridico said after the game, then asked if there were any new updates.

Of course, none of Nellis’ teammates were more affected by the news than Lucas Kline and Ryan Bodamer, his friends and fellow Port High graduates.

“It was really hard to get focused for the game, because that was all that was on my mind. Once the game started, luckily I got focused. But as soon as it ended, that’s the first thing I thought of,” Kline said, with Bodamer expressing similar sentiments.

The family continues to update James’ recovery on Facebook, and as of Tuesday afternoon, more than 450 people had signed up on a page there entitled “Prayers for James Nellis.”

The UPMC website includes an online option to create free e-cards which will be printed out and delivered, available at Cards and other items may also be sent to the following address: (Please note that hospital regulations prohibit live flowers and latex balloons.)

James Nellis
ICU 4G #9
UPMC Presbyterian
200 Lothrop St.
Pittsburgh PA 15213-2582

37th Raabe Charities Classic set for Saturday evening

Port Allegany players James Nellis (standing at left) and Lucas Kline (kneeling) warm up before last Wednesday's Raabe Classic practice. (Photo by Pam Fischer / Reporter Argus)

UPDATE: James Nellis, one of the Port players scheduled to participate in the game, was seriously injured in an automobile accident Thursday evening. Please keep him and his family in your thoughts.


Lori Chase
Port Allegany Reporter Argus
August 5, 2010

Last Wednesday evening, Tony Tridico stood in the doorway of the Port Allegany High School gym, looking out through the rain toward the football field his team was supposed to be working on as a thunderstorm rumbled through the area.

But while Mother Nature called a quick halt to that night’s session, the head coach of the Pennsylvania squad for the 37th Annual Don Raabe Big 30 Charities Classic was pleased with what he’d seen in the first full week of practice for this Saturday night’s game, slated for a 7 p.m. kickoff (WESB-AM 1490, WBRR-FM 100.1) at Parkway Field in Bradford.

“The kids have a good attitude. They’re fun to be around. So far, things look good,” the fifth-year Youngsville mentor said.

Because his Warren County school is on the western fringe of the Big 30 area and plays a District 10 schedule, Tridico and the Eagles coaching staff didn’t get much of a chance to watch his current players last fall – including safety Ryan Bodamer, wide receiver Lucas Kline, and offensive tackle James Nellis, the three Port Allegany Gators in the game – but that hasn’t turned out to be as much of a concern as he’d initially feared.

“Surprisingly not,” he said. “I thought it was going to be (a problem), because we didn’t really have many visuals. We knew the Sheffield kids because they’re in our area, but once you get outside in District 9, you can only go by what you’ve seen in the papers, what you’ve heard during the season – because obviously, you do hear those things about a number of these kids.

“So we didn’t know as much as we would have liked to … but to be honest, after those first two days with the conditioning and the special-teams effort, it turned out to not be too big of a problem.”

Pennsy will use an I-formation on offense, with some familiar faces from Port High’s Allegany Mountain League schedule in the lineup. Sheffield’s Craig Fitch rotates in at quarterback with teammate Jimmy Hahn at tight end, 1,000-yard rushers Andy Lippert (Cameron County) and Drew Coscia (Otto-Eldred) will split time at running back, and Kane’s Arie Paup and O-E’s Justin Bird are at receiver. (Kline was originally slotted at wideout as well, but a late roster shuffle may send him to defense.)

With players coming from a variety of systems, some using different play-calling terminology, “It’s not easy getting an offense together in two weeks with people who haven’t played together. That’s one of the challenges, trying to get it together to get some offensive firepower going,” Tridico said.

On the other side of the ball, the defense will play the game’s mandated 5-2 set.

“We have experience in it, but we’re a 4-3 team,” he said of his staff. “It’s not the defense of choice, but in an all-star game that’s designed for scoring, you do the best you can.”

Asked specifically about the Port Allegany players, Tridico said, “They’re doing very well. They’re nice kids and they work hard. Really, that’s what we’ve seen from pretty much everybody, so it’s been a pleasure and a pleasant experience.”

The Raabe Classic, formerly known as the Big 30 All-Star Game before being renamed in memory of its creator, features teams of graduated seniors from the 29 area football-playing schools and has raised over $1.3 million for local charities and causes throughout the Twin Tiers. The New York squad dominated the early years, but Pennsylvania has won five of the last six games – including a 13-6 victory in last year’s meeting – to cut the gap in the series to 18-16-2.

Saturday’s festivities in Bradford kick off with a parade featuring the two teams, cheerleaders, and Homecoming queens, beginning at Davis Street at 2 p.m. and following a Main St. – Mechanic St. – W. Washington St. route to Parkway Field, where pregame ceremonies are scheduled to start at 6:30 p.m.

Brian Stavisky Named Director of Compliance for SBU Athletics

(St. Bonaventure University Press Release)

ST. BONAVENTURE, N.Y. — Brian Stavisky has been named Director of Compliance, St. Bonaventure University Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Steve Watson announced on Monday.

Stavisky, a Port Allegany, Pa. native, is responsible for ensuring compliance with NCAA and Atlantic 10 Conference rules in all areas of St. Bonaventure athletics. In addition to certification of eligibility, recruiting, playing/practice seasons and financial aid, Stavisky also serves as an on-campus reference for NCAA rules and regulations.

“We are excited to give Brian his start in the business of college athletics,” added Watson. “It is always exciting to add someone who brings a high level of commitment and determination to succeed to St. Bonaventure. He is the right fit and a great addition to the staff.”

Stavisky brings a diverse athletics background to the Bonnies after decorated high school, college and professional sports experiences. He joins St. Bonaventure after recently retiring from a nine-year professional baseball career in which he was named League Most Valuable Player and batting champion (.343 batting average) of the high-A Modesto Athletics of the California League. He was also named MVP of the short-season A Vancouver Canadians and class AA Midland (Texas) Rockhounds. During his professional career, Stavisky was a part of four league championship teams at three different levels: Modesto Athletics (2004, high-A); Midland Rockhounds (2005, AA); Sacramento River Cats (2007, AAA); and Arkansas Travelers (2008, AA).

A versatile outfielder and first baseman, he ends his professional career with a .301 batting average on 880 hits in 2,921 at-bats, including 83 home runs, 20 triples, 202 doubles and 445 RBI.

“During my baseball career I got to see what it takes to be successful at a very high level,” noted Stavisky. “That’s what I remember most and what I will bring with me to St. Bonaventure. I never had success by myself and I have a strong desire to compete and succeed as a part of this team.”

A two-time Academic All-American and three-time All-Big East second team pick for the Fighting Irish, Stavisky helped Notre Dame to a No.1 national ranking as a sophomore and an appearance in the College World Series as a junior. He was selected by the Oakland Athletics in the sixth round of the 2002 MLB Draft and also spent time in the LA Angels of Anaheim and Philadelphia Phillies’ organizations.

“After retiring from baseball, St. Bonaventure represents the next step for me,” he commented. “I want to be involved in all aspects of college athletics, and will have the opportunity to do so as Director of Compliance.”

Stavisky, the son of two St. Bonaventure graduates, earned a bachelor’s degree in business management and graduated cum laude from the University of Notre Dame.