Tide rolls over Gators in D-9 final

Lori Chase
Port Allegany Reporter Argus
December 2, 2010

Going into last Saturday afternoon’s District 9 Class A championship game in Brockway, Port Allegany knew that to have a shot at upsetting top-seeded Curwensville, they had to find some way to corral Golden Tide star Alex Holland.

Easier said than done.

The junior running back broke loose for first-quarter touchdown runs of 37 and 58 yards to stake Curwensville (11-1) to a lead it would never relinquish, and finished with 298 yards on 42 carries – good enough to break the D-9 single-season rushing record – as the Tide captured their third district title and a berth in the state playoffs with a 37-21 win, ending the Gators’ season at 7-5.

Holland, who already owned the district single-game mark with a 417-yard performance against Kane earlier this season, now has 2,528 for the year, passing fellow Tide back Nate Sipes’ 2004 record (2,511) midway through the fourth quarter.

“He just doesn’t stop,” Gator coach Mike Bodamer said. “The line in front of him, first of all, plus his fullback … He’s just a hard runner. He’s got good vision and good speed; when you hit him he just bounces off. He’s just a good all-around back, and he’s got the line to move people for him. Tough to bring him down.

“Our defense didn’t play bad. Like I said, Holland’s going to run on everybody; we just hopefully could stop him when we needed to. We made a few, but they’re just so big and strong up front, it’s hard to stop him for an entire game.”

While a steady 20-mph wind and snow flurries hampered Port’s passing attack, Curwensville stuck with its traditional run-heavy gameplan. Holland got all the work on the opening possession, capping off the seven-play, 75-yard drive by hitting the corner and outrunning everyone down the sideline for the game’s first score. He added a carbon copy of that run just two plays after a partially-blocked punt gave the Tide the ball near midfield, and at the end of the first quarter, the score was 12-0.

The Gator offense continued to struggle against both the weather and a rugged Curwensville defense; when they took over on downs with 2:47 left in the half, they’d managed zero first downs and just five total yards on their first four possessions. But with the clock ticking down, they finally found some footing on the snowy Frank Varischetti Field turf. Matt Bodamer connected with Tyce Miller on a pass to set up first and goal, then went back to him two plays later, with the sophomore receiver fighting his way across the goal line for the score. Ken Kysor’s extra point pushed through the wind to find its mark, and the Gators trailed by just five points as the teams headed to their locker rooms to thaw out.

“We just had to settle down a little bit,” Curwensville coach Andy Evanko said of his halftime talk. “I don’t know if it was the excitement, or all of a sudden … We let up a little bit, I guess. Against a quality football team like Port Allegany, you just can’t do that, and they drove it right down the field and stuck it in on us.

“Bodamer’s a great quarterback, and they have some really good receivers in Stuckey and the Miller kid. They do so much to spread you out, and then they try to run the ball at you. That was a concern, plus all the formations. But as long as we knew what we were doing, if our kids were lining up where they were supposed to line up and doing what they were supposed to do, we were going to be okay.”

Evanko’s squad began to reassert control early in the third quarter, forcing a punt and driving for a touchdown, and opened up a 24-7 lead on a fumble return by Holland. Port got that one back, with Camrin Stuckey’s long catch helping to set up Seth Lowery’s 16-yard score, but the Tide responded by stunning the Gators with a big pass play of their own. On third-and-long, quarterback Hunter McCracken snuck the ball past a diving Gator defender to little-used tight end Kyle Barrett, who took it the rest of the way for a 55-yard touchdown to break the game open.

“We told the kids we were going to sell in for the run, they caught us sleeping, and that was a big play,” Mike Bodamer admitted. “We were still within the game, but once they scored that, it was pretty much over right at that point.”

The situation looked even more grim following Port’s next possession, when Matt Bodamer limped off the field with an apparent knee injury after throwing an interception, but he managed to stay in the game long enough to toss a 65-yard touchdown pass to Stuckey before another sack/fumble-return TD knocked him out of the game for good.

“We told Stuke, ‘It’s time to go long,’ and I asked Matt if he could throw one more pass,” Mike Bodamer said. “I never should have put him back in that next time; he was cold, and his knee’s not doing too well. I knew he couldn’t scramble, so if they got pressure he was going to be in trouble, and the worst possible thing happened.”

Bodamer disagreed with the fumble call, as he had the earlier one, but the play stood. With the score 37-21 and the clock running down, all that remained was a Curwensville celebration.

Although the Gators still seek their first district title after five attempts, they should still have plenty of positive memories of the season after rebounding from a 1-3 start to knock off the second- and third-seeded teams on their way to the championship game. Lowery – who surpassed the 1,000-yard milestone against the Tide – was a finalist for both Big 30 Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year honors, and joined fellow seniors Stuckey and Kysor on the prestigious Olean Times Herald Big 30 All-Star Team.

“The teams we played – Brockway, we played Curwensville down there – we just had a tough schedule,” Bodamer said. “I knew it was going to be tough at the beginning; I was hoping to be 2-2, but we weren’t. I knew our (division) schedule, with the exception of Cameron County, I thought we could pretty much run that schedule – which we did, and we actually could have had Cameron County.

“Our kids played hard all year. We were outsized, but the kids played with guts, and that’s all you can ask them to do.”

At Brockway, 11/27:
Port Allegany – 0 7 6 8 – 21
Curwensville – 12 0 18 7 – 37

First Quarter

Curwensville – Alex Holland 37 run, kick failed, 6-0 C
Curwensville – Holland 58 run, run failed, 12-0

Second Quarter
Port Allegany – Tyce Miller 1 pass from Matt Bodamer, Ken Kysor kick, 12-7

Third Quarter
Curwensville – Alec Starr 2 run, pass failed, 18-7
Curwensville – Holland 15 fumble return, kick failed, 24-7
Port Allegany – Seth Lowery 16 run, kick failed, 24-13
Curwensville – Kyle Barrett 55 pass from Hunter McCracken, run failed, 30-13

Fourth Quarter
Port Allegany – Camrin Stuckey 65 pass from Bodamer, Stuckey pass from Bodamer, 30-21
Curwensville – Jake Pentz 10 fumble return, Taylor Bumbarger kick, 37-13

Team statistics: PA Cv

First Downs 14 15

Rushes-Yds 24-65 53-353

C-A-I 11-25-1 1-6-0

Passing Yds 167 55

Total Yds 232 408

Fumbles-Lost 6-4 1-0

Penalties-Yds 2-10 9-60

Punts-Yds 4-37.0 3-28.3

Total Plays 49 59

Individual statistics:
Rushing: Port A – Seth Lowery 11-65, TD; Zach Ramadhan 1-11; Trey Miller 1-(-1); Garrett Drabert 2-(-3); Matt Bodamer 9-(-7). Curwensville – Alex Holland 42-297, 2 TD; Zach Dimmick 6-28; Alec Starr 4-28, TD.
Passing: Port A – Matt Bodamer 11-25, 167 yds, 2 TD, 1 INT. Curwensville – Hunter McCracken 1-5, 55 yds, TD; Alec Starr 0-1.
Receiving: Port A – Camrin Stuckey 3-96, TD; Zach Ramadhan 3-39; Tyce Miller 3-18, TD; Charlie Buchanan 1-14; Garrett Kio 1-12. Curwensville – Kyle Barrett 1-55, TD.

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