Gators dog Redbank to advance to D-9 title game

Zach Ramadhan (32, on ground) burrows into the end zone for the game-winning touchdown in Port Allegany's 24-17 victory over Redbank Valley, sending the Gators to next week's D-9 championship game. (Photo: Mick Taylor)

Lori Chase
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:
Port Allegany 0 7 10 7 24
Redbank Valley 7 10 0 0 17

First Quarter
Redbank Valley – Keaton Delp 6 run, Brandon Bain kick, 7-0

Second Quarter
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

Third Quarter
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

Fourth Quarter
Port Allegany – Zach Ramadhan 1 run, Kysor kick, 24-17

Team Statistics: PA RV
First downs 16 12
Rushes-Yards 43-267 29-82
Comp-Att-Int 4-11-3 8-19-2
Passing Yards 37 170
Total Yards 304 252
Fumbles-Lost 2-1 1-0
Punts-Avg. 3-35.7 3-44.3
Penalties-Yards 3-44 8-56
Total Plays 54 48

Individual statistics:
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).