Port Allegany Reporter Argus
November 24, 2010
Two months ago, the Port Allegany Gators were 1-3 and facing an uphill climb just to make the district football playoffs, not clinching a berth until beating Coudersport in the final week of the regular season.
But after Zach Ramadhan’s late 1-yard touchdown run capped a furious comeback from a 10-point halftime deficit to upset Redbank Valley 24-17 in last Saturday’s semifinals, they’re the last team standing in the entire Big 30. And next Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m., the sixth-seeded Gators (7-4) will head back to the site of their latest triumph, Brockway’s Frank Varischetti Field, to face No. 1 Curwensville (10-1) for the District 9 Class A championship.
“I told the kids we’re practicing at 9 o’clock on Thanksgiving morning,” Port High coach Mike Bodamer said with a grin when reminded of his goal of playing after the holiday. “It’s just a great feeling. We definitely didn’t play our best by any long shot, but the kids kept plugging.”
No, the game wasn’t exactly a work of art, as Redbank took advantage of turnovers on two of its three scoring drives. Keaton Delp’s 5-yard touchdown run gave the Bulldogs the early lead following a fumble recovery, and they took over in Gator territory again on their next drive, pushing down to the 30 before Ramadhan’s fourth-down sack stopped the advance.
Meanwhile, the Port offense was stuck in neutral, with Camrin Stuckey already lining up for his third punt of the game as the teams switched ends to begin the second quarter.
Or so the Bulldogs thought, anyway. Instead, Stuckey took the snap and sprinted to his left, cut back across the field, and weaved his way down the Gator sideline for a 57-yard touchdown to tie the game at 7.
Bodamer explained, “We noticed that when we got our guy in motion the first time they followed him, so we told Camrin, ‘If you see that guy following him, just keep it and take off.’ He’s just an athlete; that’s what he does for you.”
Stuckey’s run would be one of the few bright spots in the first half for Port. Second-seeded Redbank quickly responded with a 49-yard touchdown pass from Brandon Bain to Kyle Lee, and after picking off a misfired screen pass on the next play from scrimmage, appeared to be on the verge of blowing the game open.
That’s when Seth Lowery stood tall. The senior linebacker, listed at 5-7 on the Gators’ roster, used every inch of that height to reach up and snare a fade pass into the end zone to thwart what could have been a crushing score.
“That was a big play. Actually, at the start of the season we were going to play him at strong safety, and I kept saying, ‘Seth can’t cover anybody,” Bodamer recalled with a chuckle. “Lo and behold, the biggest play of the game, he gets out there and picks it off.”
But with the blitzing Redbank defense keyed on stopping Lowery and harassing sophomore quarterback Matt Bodamer, who completed just one pass and threw two interceptions in the first two quarters, the Gators still couldn’t muster any offense, and Bain added a field goal just before halftime to send the Bulldogs into the locker room with a double-digit lead.
“At halftime we decided Matt just wasn’t in the game throwing-wise with that pressure,” Mike Bodamer said. “He definitely wasn’t on, so we said, ‘we’re going to run it.’ In the first half we saw he could run outside a little bit, so we told Matt, ‘we’re going to switch you from a throwing quarterback to a running quarterback this half,’ and he responded.”
The momentum began to turn on the second-half kickoff, when Ken Kysor drove the ball deep and the Gators swarmed Keaton Delp inside his own 5-yard line, and following a delay-of-game penalty which pushed the Bulldogs back to their own 2, Stuckey tackled Lee for a safety on the next play.
“We nicely stressed at halftime that if they see that jet motion, that one safety has to come up hard, he has that backside protection. Stuke saw that guy coming, he flew up and blew it up right in the end zone,” Bodamer said.
Redbank would mount only one serious threat in the second half, when Lee snuck out of the backfield to haul in another long Bain pass over the middle. Stuckey finally caught up to him at the Port 18, but the Bulldogs would drive all the way to the Gator 1 before Matt Bodamer flashed into the backfield to drag Lee down for a loss on fourth-and-goal.
Inspired by the big stop, with Lowery and Ramadhan pounding the middle of the Redbank line and Bodamer breaking to the outside, Port marched 90 yards to the end zone, with Lowery bulling across from the 4 and Bodamer hitting Tyce Miller for the game-tying two-point conversion. The defense kept up its end of the bargain, forcing a Bulldog punt, and with 8:57 left, the Gators took over at their own 11 with the game on the line.
Which was just fine with Bodamer. “We got the ball at the 10 and said, well, we’re going to push this thing down the field and hopefully go into the last minute,” the Port mentor said, and that’s just what they did. Ramadhan took over inside the Redbank 20, gashing the defense on counter after counter, and with just 0:45 on the clock, the senior fullback plowed the final yard into the end zone for the game-winner.
“25 Dive, got the ball, dove for the end zone. The second I crossed that line, I was so happy,” said Ramadhan, who was quick to credit his line for “opening holes all day.” Kysor’s extra point made it 24-17, and Stuckey picked off a Bain pass as the final seconds ran out to preserve the victory.
“They’re definitely a good team,” Bodamer said of the Bulldogs, who end their season at 6-6. “I don’t really think we played well enough to win, but I’m not going to give it away. We’re going to keep it and move on, but we definitely have to play better next week.”
But the Gators are still in the game, and right now, that’s all that matters.
“We’re going to be here for a little bit longer,” Ramadhan said.
At Brockway, 11/20:
|Score by quarters:|
Redbank Valley – Keaton Delp 6 run, Brandon Bain kick, 7-0
Port Allegany – Camrin Stuckey 57 run, Ken Kysor kick, 7-7
Redbank Valley – Kyle Lee 49 pass from Bain, Bain kick, 14-7
Redbank Valley – Bain 37 field goal, 17-7
Port Allegany – safety, Stuckey tackled RV ballcarrier in end zone, 17-9
Port Allegany – Seth Lowery 4 run, Tyce Miller pass from Matt Bodamer, 17-17
Port Allegany – Zach Ramadhan 1 run, Kysor kick, 24-17
Passing: Port A – Bodamer 4-11, 37 yards, 3 INT. Redbank – Bain 8-19, 170 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT.
Rushing: Port A – Ramadhan 10-85, TD; Bodamer 14-77; Stuckey 1-57, TD; Lowery 17-48, TD. Redbank – Lee 16-92; K. Delp 2-20, TD; C. Delp 2-1; Strothers 1-0; Bain 7-(-22).
Receiving: Port A – Tyce Miller 4-37. Redbank – Lee 3-134, TD; Shirey 2-17; Smith 1-13; Sesco 1-7; Strothers 1-(-1).
Port Allegany Reporter Argus
November 18, 2010
Three hours, three overtimes, and thirty-three rushing attempts by Seth Lowery weren’t enough to decide Friday night’s frosty District 9 Class A quarterfinal between Port Allegany and Elk County Catholic in St. Marys.
Lowery’s thirty-fourth carry of the night, a 2-yard plunge into the end zone to give the Gators a 47-40 lead in the fourth extra session, changed all that. ECC had one last chance to tie what was already the longest game in D-9 history, but the Crusaders’ final, desperate heave toward the end zone nestled safely in the hands of defensive back Matt Bodamer to set off a noisy celebration along the visitors’ side of the Dutch Country Stadium field.
Standing outside the locker room afterward, the senior Gator back called it “the best feeling in the world,” and said he knew he was getting into the end zone.
“There was no doubt in my mind,” Lowery said. “Our offensive line was doing a really good job all night; the first person hitting me was a linebacker or safety on every play. They’d block their guy and I’d take a hole. There were always gaps for me to run through.”
Lowery finished with 154 yards and four touchdowns, including a critical fourth-and-goal score with just 0:37 left to send the game to overtime. Most of that ground was gained behind blocking backs Brock Taylor and Zach Ramadhan in a new formation the Gator coaching staff installed just last week.
“We put that Power-I in with Brock in the backfield, and you definitely could tell they weren’t expecting that,” head coach Mike Bodamer said. “Some way just to get Seth the ball and get him some more lead blockers.
“He has two bad ankles, but he just kept going. I told him all week, ‘You get behind Shag and Brock, and they’re not going to be able to see you,’” he chuckled.
“We just put it in, thinking everyone sees us in the spread. Brock’s a good lineman, but we don’t have any place for him on the line, so what the heck, let’s put him in the backfield and try some power football … Definitely something we’ll keep now,” he said.
Lowery added, “I would just get behind them and the pile would just keep moving forward.”
The Gator win offset another stellar performance by ECC running back Ricky Pearsall, who juked, spun and sprinted his way to 219 yards and five touchdowns on 32 carries, his third 200-yard effort of the season to go over 3,000 in the final game of his career. When a reporter asked Bodamer about the Gators’ ability to stop Pearsall in the second half, holding him to a relatively quiet 53 yards, the Port mentor laughed, shook his head, and replied, “You can’t hold him in check … He’s one heck of a running back.”
The bulk of the Crusader senior’s mileage and three of his touchdowns – including a 52-yard footrace down the sideline – came as ECC sprinted out to a 20-10 second-quarter lead after Port had opened the scoring on a 32-yard Ken Kysor field goal and Matt Bodamer’s 6-yard scramble. The Gators thought they’d gotten one of those touchdowns back on the kickoff following Pearsall’s third score, when Bodamer uncorked a cross-field lateral to Camrin Stuckey, who weaved his way through the coverage to the endzone in a play reminiscent of the Tennessee Titans’ decade-old “Music City Miracle.” But a holding call negated the play, and Port settled for Kysor’s second field goal and a seven-point deficit as the half ended.
Tyce Miller, one of several sophomores playing prominent roles on this year’s Gator squad, shifted the momentum to the visitors’ sideline early in the third quarter when he picked off a Kyle Schneider throw and returned it to the Elk 33, then caught a 23-yard pass from Bodamer to set up Lowery’s game-tying touchdown run.
The Crusaders responded with a short fourth-quarter drive, with fullback Cole Gerber’s 35-yard score invoking eerie memories of their 27-20 Week 4 win, but a missed kick left them with a six-point lead. Defensive lineman Jake Geer ended the next Gator drive by picking off Bodamer’s fourth-down pass at his own goal line. The Port defense held, though, and a quick three-and-out followed by a short punt put the ball at the ECC 32 with 3:26 on the clock.
Six Lowery carries later, it was in the end zone, and Kysor’s kick appeared to give the Gators a 27-26 lead. But the left side of the ECC line was whistled for jumping offsides – a dead-ball foul Port couldn’t decline – and the rekick sailed wide, sending the game to overtime.
“That was a tough one to swallow, but that is the rule,” Mike Bodamer said.
The teams matched touchdowns in the first two OT periods, with Pearsall scoring twice, Matt Bodamer rolling out and finding Trevor Neal from five yards out, and Lowery adding his third of the game. The drama intensified in the third extra session as the Gator defense stuffed Pearsall on fourth down, then elected to try a field goal, but Kysor’s attempt was barely wide.
But on this night, the Gators had an unstoppable force of their own, the one wearing the white No. 44 jersey. As the fourth overtime began, two Lowery runs moved the ball to the 2, and the third one, followed by Kysor’s extra point, gave Port the lead for good. A holding penalty sent ECC back to the 20 on its final attempt, and after Stuckey knocked one pass down and Taylor disrupted an attempted screen, Bodamer snared Schneider’s final throw to end the game.
“Port Allegany did a good job against us tonight and I wish them the best of luck for the rest of the playoffs,” said ECC coach Travis Skrzypek. “We made a few mistakes in the game which the Gators turned into points, but for the most part we played very well.”
The District 9 playoff road continues Saturday afternoon on the artificial turf at Brockway’s Frank Varischetti Field, when Port Allegany (6-4) faces the Keystone Shortway Athletic Conference’s top small-school team, Redbank Valley, in a 1 p.m. kickoff before Cameron County and Curwensville square off in the 6 p.m. nightcap.
The second-seeded Bulldogs, who shut out Kane 15-0 on their home field to advance to the semifinal round, enter the game with a 6-5 record which includes losses to Class AAA teams Punxsutawney and St. Marys. The two teams have met once before, with Redbank Valley taking the 1996 Class AA championship by a 7-0 score. To even their series record, the Gators will have to contain leading rusher Caleb Delp (118 carries-791 yards, 11 TDs) and quarterback Brandon Bain, who has completed 89 of 164 passes for 1,240 yards and 15 touchdowns – 10 of those to Caleb’s younger brother Keaton Delp (29 receptions-643 yards) – and has also rushed for 430 yards and four scores.
But it’s the middle of November, and the Gators are still playing.
“That was our goal, to get another week in,” Mike Bodamer said before adding, “I want to play after Thanksgiving.”
At St. Marys, 11/12:
|Score by quarters:|
|Elk County Catholic||7||13||0||6||–||7||7||0||0||–||40|
PA – Ken Kysor 32 field goal, 3-0 PA (7:07)
ECC – Ricky Pearsall 9 run, David Bojalad kick, 7-3 ECC (3:04)
PA – Matt Bodamer 6 run, Kysor kick, 10-7 PA (8:06)
ECC – Pearsall 52 run, kick failed, 13-10 ECC (5:16)
ECC – Pearsall 5 run, Bojalad kick, 20-10 (1:44)
PA – Kysor field goal, 20-13 (0:00)
PA – Seth Lowery 7 run, Kysor kick, 20-20 (4:30)
ECC – Cole Gerber 35 run, kick failed, 26-20 ECC (11:03)
PA – Lowery 1 run, kick failed, 26-26 (0:37)
ECC – Pearsall 10 run, Bojalad kick, 33-26 ECC
PA – Trevor Neal 5 pass from Bodamer, Kysor kick, 33-33
PA – Lowery 3 run, Kysor kick, 40-33 PA
ECC – Pearsall 8 run, Bojalad kick, 40-40
PA – Lowery 2 run, Kysor kick, 47-40 PA
Port Allegany Reporter Argus
November 11, 2010
When two-a-days began in the August heat, 26 football teams dreamed of playing for a District 9 championship. Now, as the calendar reads November and the season’s first snow dusts the northern Pennsylvania hillsides, 13 remain.
For Port Allegany (5-4), which clinched the No. 6 seed in Class A with a win over Coudersport in the final week of the regular season, the playoff road begins with Friday night’s trip to St. Marys to take on third-seeded Elk County Catholic (7-2). The two teams met on the same field in Week 4; after a back-and-forth first half, ECC ran out to a 27-14 lead, then held on for the 27-20 victory.
Although a long touchdown pass from Kyle Schneider to Tyler Herzing turned the tables in that meeting, the Crusaders relied on senior running back Ricky Pearsall (31 carries – 159 yards) to provide most of their offense. Pearsall finished third among all District 9 runners behind Bradford’s Pat Pascarella and Curwensville’s Alex Holland this season, toting the ball 200 times for 1,469 yards and 17 touchdowns, and containing him remains a high priority for the Gator defense.
But while most of their attention will be focused on the maroon No. 3 jersey, Port will also need to watch out for the quick handoff to junior fullback Cole Gerber, who rushed for 91 yards and the game-winning score in the first meeting. Schneider doesn’t drop back often (41-83, 727 yards, 8 touchdowns, 2 interceptions), but when he does, he’ll most likely be looking for fellow senior Herzing (17 catches – 387 yards, 4 touchdowns).
The Gators counter with a balanced offense, throwing for 1,619 yards and rushing for 1,591 this season. Matt Bodamer trailed only PIAA passing king Derek Buganza among D-9 quarterbacks, completing 76 of 123 attempts for 1,604 yards and 19 touchdowns while tossing just five interceptions. Eleven of those scoring throws were hauled in by Camrin Stuckey (26 catches – 807 yards), good enough to tie the senior receiver for eighth in the state in that category.
Seth Lowery led Port High in rushing for the third consecutive season, pounding out 736 yards and four TDs on 109 carries, but is coming off an ankle injury sustained in the Coudy game. Fellow senior Zach Ramadhan added 224 yards and four TDs on 42 attempts, and Bodamer (83-450, 9 TDs) is a constant threat to pull the ball down and run.
Both teams boast a solid kicking game. David Bojalad handles both jobs for ECC; last year’s Class A All-State punter is averaging 38.8 yards this season, and is 27-33 on PAT attempts. For the Gators, Stuckey (38.3) has matched Bojalad almost yard-for-yard, and Ken Kysor (4 field goals, 29-35 PAT) is the team’s third-leading scorer in addition to being among the state leaders in touchbacks.
The game is set for a 7 p.m. kickoff at Dutch Country Stadium on the St. Marys High School campus, with the winner moving on to face either Kane or Redbank Valley next weekend at a site to be determined. Tickets are $5 for adults, $2 for students.
Other District 9 Class A games this weekend, all Friday night at 7 p.m.:
#8 Smethport (4-5) at #1 Curwensville (8-1)
#5 Cameron County (7-3) at #4 Clarion (5-5) (at Clarion U.)
#7 Kane (4-5) at #2 Redbank Valley (5-5)
(Note: The original story included a reference to Lowery leading the Gators in rushing for the second consecutive season. He was also the Gators’ top ground-gainer as a sophomore, making this year his third in a row atop the stat sheet. This reporter regrets the error, which has been corrected in this version.)
Port Allegany Reporter Argus
November 4, 2010
On a blustery, chilly Saturday afternoon, eight Port Allegany senior football players were honored before their final game at Gator Field. Then, they helped make sure the season would continue in the District 9 Class A playoffs, making their presence felt in Port’s methodical 39-8 victory over an undermanned Coudersport squad.
Camrin Stuckey led the way for the Class of 2011 with 159 receiving yards and three more touchdown catches, running backs Seth Lowery and Zach Ramadhan combined for close to 200 yards on the ground, Ken Kysor was perfect on all of his kicks, and even tackle Zach Manning found his way into the end zone as the Gators improved to 5-4 with the win – the varsity squad’s first against the Falcons since a 10-9 thriller in the 2003 district playoffs.
The entire first quarter was played inside the Coudersport 40 as Kysor, already listed among the state leaders in kickoff touchbacks, added three more (of his five on the day) to pin the Falcons deep and the Port defense kept them there. After Victor Bandish broke through to block a punt on Coudy’s first possession, Kysor followed with his fourth field goal of the season, a 22-yarder to give Port a quick 3-0 lead.
“Kenny did a great job with his kicks,” Port head coach Mike Bodamer said. “He had the wind, but still, he was booting them through the end zone. He’s been a weapon for us all year.”
The Gators struck twice more for a 17-0 lead before the Falcons managed to answer, with Matt Bodamer finding fellow sophomore Trent Neal for a 31-yard touchdown pass, then following it up with a 20-yard strike to Stuckey, who made the leaping catch over a Coudersport defender at the right pylon.
Coudy quarterback Jason Gibson’s 57-yard touchdown pass to Alex Furman and the two-point conversion by the same tandem cut the lead to 17-8, but with both teams struggling to hang onto the ball in the windy, cold conditions, the score remained the same as the half ended.
The third quarter opened with Lowery – who had already steamrolled the Coudy defense for 105 yards on 13 carries – trying to return from an ankle injury suffered late in the first half, but he managed just a few plays on defense before heading to the sideline for the rest of the afternoon. The senior still stayed active, encouraging his teammates and even carrying water for timeouts.
“Luckily, we had the lead,” coach Bodamer said. “Zach Ramadhan went to fullback and ran the ball hard, and we had those long pass plays in the second half and broke it open a little bit, but if it was a close game we definitely would have missed him.”
Ah yes, those pass plays. Bodamer and Stuckey continue to prove that they’re one of the most dangerous quarterback-receiver combos in the state, connecting on a 59-yard touchdown just three plays into the half, then following it up with an 80-yarder early in the fourth quarter.
“He’s just an exceptional athlete, and he makes plays for us,” coach Bodamer said of Stuckey, who leads all District 9 passcatchers with 11 touchdowns.
Following Benn Baxter’s fumble recovery at the Gator 18 late in the third quarter to thwart the Falcons’ deepest drive of the second half, Bodamer hit Stuckey in stride at the Coudy 40 and the senior wideout split two Falcon defenders for the back-breaking touchdown to put the game out of reach.
Bodamer finished 7-of-10 for 205 yards, with his fourth TD pass of the day bringing his season total to 19, good enough to tie Brockway’s Derek Buganza for the District 9 lead.
“He threw the ball extremely well,” coach Bodamer said. “On that last touchdown I told Stuke, ‘Matt’s got the wind at his back, so just run as far as you can and he’ll throw it to you.’”
The Gators showed a different look on the PAT attempt, with tackle-turned-fullback Zach Manning bulling into the end zone for a two-point conversion.
Bodamer explained, “Zach’s been asking all year if he can run the ball if we get down close. Mr. Bienkowski takes care of his linemen, so when we scored, he said, ‘Let Zach run it in,’ and I said okay.
“He made a decent run – got hit right at the line and carried everybody a couple of yards,” he added with a chuckle. “It was Senior Day, something fun to do.”
Ramadhan capped the scoring with a 40-yard touchdown on his final carry at Gator Field.
“Field position was pretty big in that first half,” Falcons coach Chris Fink said afterward. “We were still in the game at halftime, obviously, but I didn’t feel we could keep up with them athletically in the second half. When they started throwing the ball, we had a very depleted secondary, and that hurt. But Port’s got a lot of nice ballplayers, and they did a good job. When we were in a three-man front they were running the ball and having some success, and when we moved to a four-man front, they started throwing the ball. Again, their better athletes just took a toll later in that ballgame.”
After going through the same sort of injury problems a couple of seasons ago, Bodamer could sympathize with his Coudersport counterpart.
“They’re like Smethport was last year, with all the injuries,” he said. “Losing (starting quarterback) Tim McCusker was a killer, and they lost a couple of linemen. I think the Blumer kid was probably the biggest loss. He’s a tough kid.”
While the Falcons have chosen to end their season instead of participating in the playoffs with a losing record, the Gators have to wait for the outcome of next weekend’s Allegheny Mountain League championship game between Cameron County and Brockway to see where they’ll be headed for their District 9 opener.
“We’ll get back and watch tape and see if we can get ready, go from there. Get everyone healthy, and hope the weather’s good where we can throw the ball,” Bodamer said.
“It’s the playoffs, it’s fun. I told the kids it would be nice to eat turkey on Thanksgiving, then go the next day and play in the district finals. The teams we have to face, we know we can beat. It’s just a matter of doing it.”
He concluded, “It’s good to end on this one. From this point on it’s just for fun, and to see what we can do.”
At Port Allegany, 10/30:
|Score by quarters:|
PA – Ken Kysor 22 field goal, 3-0
PA – Neal 31 pass from Matt Bodamer, Kysor kick, 10-0
PA – Camrin Stuckey 20 pass from Bodamer, Kysor kick, 17-0
C – Alex Furman 57 pass from Jason Gibson, Furman pass from Gibson, 17-8
PA – Stuckey 59 pass from Bodamer, Kysor kick, 24-8
PA – Stuckey 80 pass from Bodamer, Zach Manning run, 32-8
PA – Zach Ramadhan 40 run, Kysor kick, 39-8
November 3, 2010
Coudersport’s Jason Gibson tossed a 57-yard touchdown pass to Alex Furman and the defense forced three first-half turnovers, doing all it could to stay in Saturday afternoon’s cold, blustery regular-season finale at Port Allegany. But in the end, the combination of a potent Gator offense and a season’s worth of Falcon injuries took its toll, as Coudy dropped a 39-8 decision to end its 2010 football campaign at 4-5.
“We were putting guys in a lot of different positions throughout most of the game; with guys filling in, we just didn’t have enough to sustain anything on offense,” Coudersport head coach Chris Fink said after watching his squad manage just 148 total yards and eight first downs. “The bad thing about moving Gibson to quarterback is that he’s our best wideout, so we lose our speed and athleticism out there … We just didn’t match up with them today.”
Driving into a stiff breeze and with Gator kicker Ken Kysor booming touchback after touchback, the Falcons spent most of the first quarter trapped deep in their own end. Port took advantage of the shortened field, jumping out to a 10-0 first-quarter lead on Kysor’s short field goal and a touchdown pass from Matt Bodamer to Trent Neal. Bodamer added a second scoring toss, this one to Camrin Stuckey, soon after the teams switched ends.
With the wind finally at its back, the Coudy offense began to find some footing despite losing Tim McCusker to injury again. A Gibson keeper moved the ball out past the 40 for the first time, and three plays later, Furman hauled in Gibson’s throw at the Port 35, slipped a tackle, and sprinted to the end zone. Kicker Alexander Renn joined the lengthy list of injured players this week, so Gibson and Furman hooked up again for the two-point conversion, and the Falcons trailed 17-8 with 8:29 remaining in the half.
A fired-up Coudersport defense led by Creighton Hayes, Zach Cumby, and Jesse Lincoln forced a punt and recovered two Gator fumbles to thwart Port’s final three possessions of the half, but the offense couldn’t capitalize on the opportunities, and the score remained the same as the teams headed off to their locker rooms.
“Field position was pretty big in that first half,” Fink said. “We were still in the game at halftime, obviously, but I didn’t feel we could keep up with them athletically in the second half. When they started throwing the ball, we had a very depleted secondary, and that hurt. But Port’s got a lot of nice ballplayers, and they did a good job. When we were in a three-man front they were running the ball and having some success, and when we moved to a four-man front, they started throwing the ball. Again, their better athletes just took a toll later in that ballgame.”
The Falcon offense struggled to move the ball after halftime, going three-and-out on five of six possessions, and sophomore John Michael Rigas was forced into the game at quarterback for a series with the starters when Gibson was momentarily sidelined by a hard hit.
Meanwhile, two of the athletes Fink mentioned, Bodamer and Stuckey, connected on a pair of long touchdowns to give the Gators a comfortable lead. Midway through the fourth quarter, Port running back Zach Ramadhan capped the scoring with a 40-yard run as both teams began to send in their second units.
After the game, Port coach Mike Bodamer sympathized with his counterpart, saying, “They’re like Smethport was last year with all the injuries. Losing Tim (McCusker) was a killer, and they lost a couple of linemen. I think Skyler Blumer was probably their biggest loss. He’s a tough kid.”
The Falcons clinched a District 9 Class A playoff berth despite the loss, but have chosen not to participate.
“We probably are eligible, but we made a decision a week ago that we felt if we didn’t win this game we didn’t deserve to be in the playoffs, so we made the decision that with a loss here we would not enter,” Fink explained.
“Unless there’s some really extreme circumstances, I wouldn’t see why under-.500 teams would be rewarded with playoffs. If we would have had all of our injuries at the beginning of the year and lost some games, and then everybody got healthy and we were playing well, that’s kind of a circumstance that I could understand why you might want to try it. Or if you’re playing much bigger schools and losing games to Triple- and Quad-A teams … But that’s kind of the feeling we had as a coaching staff; we didn’t think our team would deserve it if they couldn’t get this win.”
Then, as the players began to file out of the locker room, Fink reflected on his first season at the helm of the program.
“There was a lot of adversity. The thing that I guess made all the adversity tolerable is the kids that we had. I thought they did a heck of a job,” he said. “Even these last few weeks after bad losses, I thought for the most part we were going out and having pretty good, spirited practices. We just have a good bunch of kids. They understood that we were outsized, out-strengthed and outnumbered in a lot of those games, and sometimes you don’t always end up with the results you want.
“But they made it enjoyable, even if we didn’t end up with what we wanted at the end of the season. They were a really good bunch of kids to have the opportunity to coach, and you don’t always get that … These kids all came out and worked hard every day and did what we asked them to do. I can’t be upset with that.”