Gators win 4-OT playoff thriller at ECC, move on to D-9 semis

GATORPILE: Port High celebrates its 47-40, four-OT District 9 quarterfinal win over ECC. (Photo credit: Mick Taylor)

Lori Chase
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.”

Seth Lowery (44) powers toward the end zone. The Gator RB scored four TDs, including the game-winner in the fourth overtime. (Photo credit: Mick Taylor)

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.

Matt Bodamer (8) and ECC receiver Tyler Herzing (11) break toward the ball on the final play of last Friday's District 9 playoff game. Bodamer got there first, intercepting the pass to secure Port's victory. (Photo credit: Mick Taylor)

“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:
Port Allegany 3 10 7 6 7 7 0 7 47
Elk County Catholic 7 13 0 6 7 7 0 0 40

First Quarter
PA – Ken Kysor 32 field goal, 3-0 PA (7:07)
ECC – Ricky Pearsall 9 run, David Bojalad kick, 7-3 ECC (3:04)

Second Quarter
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)

Third Quarter
PA – Seth Lowery 7 run, Kysor kick, 20-20 (4:30)

Fourth Quarter
ECC – Cole Gerber 35 run, kick failed, 26-20 ECC (11:03)
PA – Lowery 1 run, kick failed, 26-26 (0:37)

First Overtime
ECC – Pearsall 10 run, Bojalad kick, 33-26 ECC
PA – Trevor Neal 5 pass from Bodamer, Kysor kick, 33-33

Second Overtime
PA – Lowery 3 run, Kysor kick, 40-33 PA
ECC – Pearsall 8 run, Bojalad kick, 40-40

Fourth Overtime
PA – Lowery 2 run, Kysor kick, 47-40 PA

Team Stats: PA ECC
First downs 17 10
Rushes-Yards 52-192 38-268
Comp-Att-Int 10-20-1 3-12-2
Passing Yards 153 49
Total Yards 345 317
Fumbles-Lost 0-0 0-0
Punts-Avg. 3-31.0 3-20.3
Penalties-Yards 6-46 4-36
Total Plays 72 50
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