AML Football: Crusaders ground Gators

ELK CO. CATHOLIC 25

PORT ALLEGANY 19

Lori Chase
Port Allegany Reporter Argus
September 29, 2011

For the first three weeks of the season, opposing football teams had little success trying to stop Port Allegany’s high-flying attack as the Gators rolled up 121 points on the way to a 3-0 record.

On Saturday afternoon at Gator Field, Elk County Catholic unveiled a different strategy: The offense can’t score if it doesn’t have the ball. The Crusaders played keep-away, running the clock down before every snap on several time-consuming drives.

And it worked. With the score tied, when fullback Cole Gerber slammed into the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown to cap an epic 14-play, six-and-a-half-minute march, just 15 seconds remained in the game – time for only two desperate plays by Port before ECC began celebrating a 25-19 upset.

“It’s really enjoyable when everyone picks against you,” Crusaders coach Travis Skrzypek said with a smile after watching his team improve to 3-1, handing the Gators (3-1) their first loss of the season.

Running behind a stout ECC line, Gerber (28 carries-140 yards) and backfield mate Brock McCullough (24-136 yards) did most of the damage, combining for 52 of the Crusaders’ 61 rushing attempts, three touchdowns, and all but 34 of their 310 total yards.

“We wanted to keep our offense on the field as long as possible – long, sustaining drives – and keep their offense off the field as much as we could,” Skrzypek explained. “I think we got them in some bad situations where they were deep (in their own end of the field), weren’t as willing to throw the long ball as much. But it’s a great team. They’re having a great run at it right now, and all the respect in the world to them.”

Over on the Port sideline, the answer was simple for a disappointed Mike Bodamer: “We didn’t deserve to win.”

The Gators coach added, “We played absolutely horrible. I saw it in the kids’ eyes at the beginning of the game. We preached to them all week, ‘Forget about last week,’ and I just don’t think they did. They thought they’d come out here, you know, another day at the park. We kept telling them, ‘It’s not going to be that way.’ This is a good, solid athletic team, they’ve got good athletic backs, and we just basically stood there and took it like we did that first night down in Brockway. We didn’t attack, we didn’t … For half the game, every time we made a tackle, it was three or four yards down the field.

“Either the kids bounce back from it, or it could ruin the season. Hopefully they come back from it.”
Port jumped out to an early lead on the opening drive, with quarterback Matt Bodamer rolling to his left on fourth-and-19 from the ECC 22, then throwing back across the field to a wide-open Tyce Miller in the right corner of the end zone.

The Crusaders were quick to respond after McCullough returned the kickoff to the ECC 45. With Gerber pounding the inside of the Gator defense and McCullough slashing through on some nifty cutback moves, it took just five plays to set up first-and-goal at the 1, and quarterback Mitchell Vallone snuck the final yard for the score. Scott Krellner’s extra point made it 7-6, and the Gators would never lead again.

“It was the same plays: Quick fullback, and sweep outside. They ran two plays. We just couldn’t stop it,” coach Bodamer said.

The teams swapped turnovers to open the second quarter. Trent Neal recovered a fumble to thwart a Crusader drive, but linebacker Joe McLaughlin returned the favor by intercepting a tipped Bodamer pass and returning it to midfield.

Time for the ECC running game to go back to work. Vallone’s only pass completion of the game gave the Crusaders a first down at the Port 39, but it was all ground-and-pound after that, with McCullough capping the 13-play, almost seven-minute drive on a 5-yard scamper.

The Gators answered on Neal’s 15-yard touchdown run with 1:24 remaining in the half – which, as it turned out, was one-tenth of a second too much to leave the Crusaders. Following another long McCullough kickoff return out past the 40, a series of runs set up a first down at the Gator 10, and Vallone spiked the ball to stop the clock with 0:00.1 showing. Skrzypek called Gerber’s number, and the senior back dove past the pylon on the final play of the half to send ECC into the locker room with a 19-12 lead.

A goal-line stand by the Gator defense kept it a one-score game as the third quarter ticked away, with Alex Gular and Nick Budd stuffing McCullough for a loss and Trey Miller sacking Vallone to force a turnover on downs.

The Port offense responded by putting together a 10-play, 92-yard trip to the end zone, with Tyce Miller’s 20-yard slant from Bodamer setting up Neal’s two-yard dive for his second touchdown of the game. With the pressure on, junior kicker Scotty Brookens nailed the extra point to tie the game 19-19.

An ECC three-and-out on the ensuing possession seemed to have the momentum shifting toward the home sideline, but the Gator drive stalled out after one first down, and the Crusaders set off on their final march to victory.

Port A will try to regroup on the road this week, with Friday night’s game at Otto-Eldred. The Terrors (1-3), who defeated Johnsonburg 26-13 in Week 3 for their lone win of the season, are led by senior running back Luke Kerr (46 carries-312 yards, 2 TDs) and sophomore quarterback Dakota Vaughn (36-169 yards, 5 rushing TDs; 15-of-46 passing, 208 yards, 1 TD, 3 INT).

“We’re not going to do anything this year if we’re not able to stop the run,” coach Bodamer said. “The rest of the season we’re going to see running teams; there are very few passing teams around here. If we can’t stop the run, it’ll be a long season. Hopefully we can get through these next four or five and still be where we wanted to be.

“Like I said, we definitely didn’t deserve to win, we didn’t play well enough to win. So we’ve got to take it for what it is and keep moving on.”

At Port Allegany, Sept. 17:

Score by quarters:
ECC 7 12 0 6 25
Port A 6 6 0 7 19

First Quarter
Port A – Tyce Miller 22 pass from Matt Bodamer (11 plays, 60 yards, 4:00), pass failed, 6-0
ECC – Mitchell Vallone 1 run (7 plays, 55 yards, 2:52), Scott Krellner kick, 6-7

Second Quarter
ECC – Brock McCullough 5 run (13 plays, 50 yards after interception, 6:53), kick failed, 6-13
Port A – Trent Neal 15 run (5 plays, 71 yards, 1:18), run failed, 12-13
ECC – Cole Gerber 10 run (8 plays, 57 yards, 1:24), pass failed, 12-19

Fourth Quarter
Port A – Neal 2 run (10 plays, 92 yards, 2:59), Scott Brookens kick, 19-19
ECC – Gerber 1 run (14 plays, 61 yards, 6:28), kick failed, 19-25

Team Statistics: ECC PA
First downs 19 21
Rushes-Yards 61-296 19-104
Comp-Att-Int 1-5-0 21-30-1
Passing Yards 14 241
Total Yards 310 345
Fumbles-Lost 1-1 2-0
Punts-Avg. 2-38.0 2-29.0
Penalties-Yards 4-31 3-33
Total Plays 66 49
Time of poss. 31:10 16:50

Individual statistics:
Rushing: ECC – Gerber 28-140, 2 TD; McCullough 24-136, TD; Vallone 5-16, TD; Cappiello 1-3; McLaughlin 3-1. Port A – Bodamer 10-50; Neal 5-25, 2 TD; Trey Miller 2-21; Drabert 2-8.

Passing: ECC – Vallone 1-5, 14 yards. Port A– Bodamer 21-30-1, 241 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT.

Receiving: ECC – McLaughlin 1-14. Port A – Tyce Miller 8-91, TD; Bova 2-59; Buchanan 3-39; Trevor Neal 4-31; Conway 2-30; Trent Neal 1-(-1).

(Helmets courtesy of PAHelmetProject.com)

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