October 14, 2010
Smethport may have dominated the 1990s in its long and storied gridiron rivalry against Port Allegany, but the tide turned soon after the calendar flipped to 2000. Last Saturday, on a gorgeous fall afternoon at Gator Field, Port continued its recent success in the series. Using a balanced offense and some sturdy defense, the Gators held on for a 20-12 victory – their ninth in a row against the Hubbers – to even their record at 3-3 and stay a game behind North leader Cameron County in the division race.
“This is the first game I’ve really been happy with the defense, for the most part,” Port coach Mike Bodamer said. “We had a couple of lapses, but we definitely seemed to hit a lot better, and our sophomores stepped up and made some nice plays.”
Senior Seth Lowery had the Hubs on the run early, rumbling down the Gator sideline for a 56-yard touchdown on the second play from scrimmage. Ken Kysor’s extra point was good, and just :54 into the game, Port had a 7-0 lead.
“I didn’t think we’d be able to run on these guys; it was kind of lucky we broke that first one,” Bodamer said. “They usually don’t let too many people run on them.”
Linebacker Trent Neal, one of the sophomores coach Bodamer was talking about, stuffed Smethport running back Ryan Wells on fourth-and-short on the Hubs’ first drive, and the Gators were right back in business at the visitors’ 33. The drive stalled inside the 10, but Kysor’s 23-yard field goal made it 10-0 midway through the first quarter.
The Hubber offense found its stride on the next possession, driving 80 yards in nine plays to Wells’ one-yard touchdown run, but the Gators broke through to block the extra point, leaving the score 10-6 as the first quarter ended.
Another short Kysor three-pointer extended the Port lead, and Matt Bodamer’s 3-yard bootleg gave Port a two-touchdown lead just before the half. The sophmore quarterback completed four of six passing attempts on the drive (and 13 of 26 overall), including a critical third-down conversion fellow soph Tyce Miller snared with his fingertips.
“He dropped that first one and I wasn’t too pleased with him, but he came back and had a couple of nice catches,” coach Bodamer said of his young wideout, who led all receivers with four catches for 69 yards.
The second half was marked by stellar defensive plays and a shower of penalty flags – there were 20 in all assesed between the two teams – which left both coaches muttering about mental mistakes.
“That’s something we’ve been working on,” Smethport coach Jesse Cheatle admitted. “Seems like the last couple of games, every time we get something good going on, we shoot ourselves in the foot. You can’t do that against Port Allegany, or Cameron, or any other team.
“Everybody’s really tough every week. Port’s well-coached and they play hard, and when you have … I don’t know how many penalties we had, but we had a lot. And when you have that, you’re not going to win.”
Over on the other sideline, Bodamer felt the same way.
“On offense, we had too many mistakes. I’m going to take credit for that,” he said. “We tried to get away from the no-huddle, and that screws us up because we’re so used to running it. We didn’t get the plays in on time. But we put enough points on the board to win.”
Those mistakes wiped out a 65-yard punt-return touchdown by Camrin Stuckey, and also affected Kysor’s deflected field goal attempt.
“We were supposed to run a fake, but once again, the communication didn’t get in there,” Bodamer confessed. “Half the guys were running the fake, and the other half were trying to kick it. That’s my fault.”
Smethport got back within one score on Kevin Lord’s 9-yard touchdown pass to Andrew Paulickwith 2:05 left on the clock, but Neal alertly fell on the ensuing onside-kick attempt to seal the Gator win.
“I was yelling to Seth just to knock it out of bounds,” Bodamer chuckled,“ but Trent came in and recovered the ball.”
But while the Port mentor was relieved to come away with the victory, he knows there are challenges ahead if the Gators want to make a return trip to the playoffs.
“We still have Cameron County and Coudy. We can’t lose or else we’re out of it. Our kids are taking it one step at a time; today was sloppy, but I’ll take a win any time and we’ll be happy with it,” he said.
The next step is a trip to Sheffield on Saturday (1:30 p.m., WHKS) to face the Wolverines, who dropped a 10-8 decision at Otto-Eldred last Friday night to fall to 1-5. Standout running back Jimmy Hahn and 1,000-yard passer Craig Fitch graduated from last year’s team, but junior Kalil Slaughter, the defending District 9 champ in the 100-meter dash, has plenty of big-play potential.
“Sheffield does a lot of crazy things and they have a good running back,” Bodamer said. “Plus, we have to travel down there, so that’s not going to be easy. Then we’ll close out with the two big ones, and see what we can do.”