Port Allegany Reporter Argus
July 14, 2011
Picture a typical football Saturday afternoon at Gator Field: the parking lot overflowing, the bleachers full on both sidelines and people ringing the track, the band playing fight songs, and old rivals Port Allegany and Coudersport trading blows on the sun-drenched field.
It didn’t matter that this is July, or that last Saturday’s game between Gator and Falcon alumni was just for bragging rights – and local charities – instead of division standings and playoff seedings. When the pads went on, there were still plenty of big plays and helmet-rattling hits.
This time, most of those big plays went the home team’s way. After spotting Coudy an early first-quarter lead, the Gators roared back to score on three straight possessions, tacked on two more touchdowns right before halftime – including one on a last-play Hail Mary pass – then cruised to a 47-6 victory before a crowd estimated at more than 1,000. Led by 2006 grad Willie Bova, who threw two touchdown passes and ran for another, the quick-strike offense installed by coach Clair Hawver rolled up 23 first downs and 516 total yards.
“He’s an absolute game-changer, and our offensive line gave him time to throw,” said wide receiver Nate Zitnik of Bova, Thiel College’s career passing leader, who completed 17 of 26 passes for 265 yards before the Gators switched to their ground game with a comfortable lead early in the second half. “They tried to drop a lot of guys into coverage, they tried to blitz him, but he’s a cool customer. In practice, there were times I thought he was going to break my fingers with a couple of those passes.”
Zitnik, who was on the receiving end of the Hail Mary, added a nifty 33-yard touchdown run earlier in the quarter. Cliff Fillhart scored twice on the ground, with Kerry Hawver and Levi Perry also finding the end zone. Derick Morey led all rushers with 75 yards on 10 carries, with Cody Anderson adding 54 on 15 attempts.
The defense masterminded by Bob Haskins was equally dominating in forcing six turnovers, including a momentum-changing fumble recovery by Alan Lovell and two interceptions by J.R. Page. Following their lone score, Coudy never managed to cross the Gator 20-yard line again, though the Falcons did come agonizingly close to connecting on several long pass plays.
“Turnovers were big, and we missed a lot of tackles,” longtime coach Paul Simcoe said. “We had a chance to score some touchdowns and didn’t catch the ball, or the quarterback got sacked. We just never recovered from not cashing in on those opportunities. We had the guys there, we just didn’t make the plays.”
Players from both teams noted that the Gators’ experience from last year’s 7-3 win over Portville probably helped make a difference in this year’s matchup.
“We had a step up on them,” said Class of ’86 alum Pat Warnick, the elder statesman of the Port squad. “Being that we already had one under our belt, we knew what to expect. So we picked up right away doing a little more conditioning than we did last year. We practiced for a good three hard months; we knew we had to put a little more into it this year than we did last year.”
Simcoe said, “Now that we’ve done it and gotten a little bit of a feel for it, the guys have gotten a feel for it, we’ll know what to expect (next year). But still, we didn’t make the plays when we had the chance.”
But no matter the final outcome, both sides agreed that the experience was something special.
“The best way I can explain how I feel is that when you step out onto that field on gameday, it brings back an immense amount of memories,” said Brandon Bliss, who started the Port team along with Kerry Hawver. “It really solidifies the hard work we put into it to make it a go. I’m overwhelmed by the response we get from the crowd and our players. With the players, the crowd, and the support we’ve gotten for our local charities, it’s been pretty amazing.”
Hawver added, “It’s a really neat feeling, especially during warmups, to look around and see all the different names on the back of the jerseys. Just to see all that history, all the years those guys have played. It’s a unique experience to have all these guys on one team.”
Both credited Coudersport quarterback Rick Angood for pulling together the Falcons squad on short notice, after Portville decided not to field a team this year and a date with Kane couldn’t be worked out. For his part, Angood – despite spending a good part of the afternoon trying to avoid the Gator pass rush in an 11-for-30, 189-yard, one-touchdown performance – was already looking forward to next year’s game.
“They’ve got a good team,” he said. “They’re great sportsmen. We’re all friends. It was a fun game – just hopefully next year, it’ll be a little closer. But we all had fun. And it’s a charity event, good turnout, and a beautiful day.”
As they packed their gear and headed out of their respective locker rooms, the talk turned to the rematch in Coudersport.
“We decided to play here this year – since it was on short notice, we figured it was easier for them to just concentrate on putting a team together, and not have to worry about all the logistics of putting something like this together,” Hawver explained. “We haven’t figured out a date yet, but I assume it’ll be under the lights, which will be a different experience. We’re used to playing on a hot July day, so we’ll see how it goes.”
Then, reflecting on the afternoon, he summed it up perfectly:
“It’s turned out bigger and better than we ever imagined it could be.”
At Port Allegany, July 9:
Coudersport 6 0 0 0 – 6
Port Allegany 7 26 7 7 – 47
Scoring by quarters:
Coudy – Brad Whitman 20 pass from Rick Angood, kick failed, 6-0
Port A – Willie Bova 3 run, Pat Warnick kick, 7-6
Port A – Kerry Hawver 21 pass from Bova, Warnick kick, 14-6
Port A – Cliff Fillhart 33 run, kick failed, 20-6
Port A – Nate Zitnik 33 run, kick failed, 26-6
Port A – Zitnik 30 pass from Bova, Warnick kick, 33-6
Port A – Fillhart 2 run, Warnick kick, 40-6
Port A – Levi Perry 11 run, Warnick kick, 47-6
First downs: 10 23
Rushes-yds 23-24 51-251
C-A-I 11-30-5 17-26-3
Passing yds 189 265
Total offense 213 516
Fumbles-lost 2-1 1-0
Punts-avg 4-40.0 4-36.3
Penalties-yds 5-50 6-48
Total plays 53 77