AML Football: Gators outlast Sheffield to move to 6-1



Lori Chase
Port Allegany Reporter Argus
October 20, 2011

The Port Allegany Gators faced two opponents in last Saturday’s Homecoming game: A talented, determined Sheffield Wolverines team which had won two of its last three games, and a raw, blustery October afternoon that helped ground Port’s prolific passing attack.

That’s when Trent Neal made his presence felt. The junior running back powered his way to 65 tough yards on 14 carries, including a second-quarter touchdown run that put the Gators ahead to stay in their 19-6 victory.

“We tried to pass, but it wasn’t working,” head coach Mike Bodamer said. “So we came in at halftime and said, ‘We’re going to run the ball’ – I think we threw one time in the second half – and our backs responded. I think Trent had a real nice game running the ball. We can run the ball if we need to, but our offense is built on getting the ball out wide. We tried it and it wasn’t working, so go back to the run.”

Held scoreless in the first quarter for the first time all season, Port found itself facing a 6-0 deficit on the first play of the second stanza when Nick Bonavita’s 3-yard touchdown capped off a grinding 14-play, 69-yard march for the Wolverines.

“That second drive of the game was exactly the way I wanted it to happen,” Sheffield coach Bryan Gould said. “We chewed up most of that first quarter and punched the ball into the end zone. They made some nice adjustments which opened up Kalil’s outside game. They were blitzing some linebackers, and we were able to get outside on them a few times.”

Four different Wolverine players carried the ball on the drive, including PIAA 100-meter dash silver medalist Kalil Slaughter. The senior running back’s speed gave the Gator defense fits all afternoon, as he led all rushers with 70 yards on 10 carries.

“They’ve got six or seven kids that can fly,” Bodamer said. “I think the rain kind of helped us there, slowed them down a little bit, but Slaughter still got quite a few of those pitches outside. They do a good job sealing the edge, and we just couldn’t get to him until he was eight or 10 yards downfield. Their speed was our biggest concern … We kept telling our kids to run him to the sideline. We can’t really attack him in the backfield, because he’s way too fast. They run the ball well.”

The Gators responded quickly. Aided by a couple of Sheffield penalties, they needed less than three minutes to tie the game on Matt Bodamer’s 9-yard touchdown pass to Tyce Miller.

“That was a nice catch on Tyce’s part,” Mike Bodamer said. “The ball was kind of fluttering.”

For Gould, the flags were frustrating.

“We’ve said all along, to beat a good team you almost have to play a perfect game. Those pass interference calls, and even the offsides on us giving them first downs, those are penalties we can’t afford to give a team like Port Allegany,” he said.

With the wind whipping, the second quarter settled into a field-position game on Sheffield’s side of the 50. Pinned inside their own 10, the Wolverines narrowly avoided disaster on a bobbled punt snap, but the resulting short kick set the Gators up at the 23-yard line with just over two minutes left in the half. From there, Port only needed four plays to put the ball in the end zone. Neal’s touchdown run was set up by a pass from Bodamer to Rickie Bova, and Port took a 12-6 lead into the locker room.

The scoreless third quarter moved quickly. As the teams switched ends, Sheffield decided to open things up, switching quarterbacks and moving to a spread offense. They managed to move out to their own 40 before the Port defense held, forcing a punt.

But if they’d hoped to pin the Gators deep in their own end of the field, Charlie Buchanan had other plans. Gathering in the kick at his own 28, he sprinted down the Gator sideline for a 33-yard return to the Sheffield 39 before finally being knocked out of bounds.

“When he first got it and came toward our sideline, I was yelling at him to run out of bounds. All of a sudden he planted and cut, and I’m like, ‘Okay, a little bit further. You can keep going,’” Bodamer said with a chuckle. “That was a big play. You know, Chuck’s not the biggest, he’s not the strongest or fastest. He just knows how to play the game, and he makes the plays when we need to.”

From there, it was up to the Gator running game. Neal, Bodamer, and Trey Miller pounded out tough yards against the Wolverine defense, and Bodamer’s 1-yard keeper made the score 19-6 with 6:19 left in the game. With time running out on the visitors from Warren County, Brock Taylor’s fumble recovery ended one drive, and sacks by Tyler Burr, Nick Budd, and Victor Bandish effectively stalled their last-ditch attempt.

It wasn’t pretty, but Mike Bodamer will take the result.

“That’s the only thing that matters – get out of this slop with a win,” he said.

Now 6-1 and a game behind Allegheny Mountain League North division leader Coudersport, to set up a winner-takes-all showdown with the unbeaten Falcons, the Gators will have to handle four-time defending AML North champ Cameron County in Saturday afternoon’s regular-season home finale. The Red Raiders are an uncharacteristic 2-5, but Bodamer knows better than to look past them.

“Zach Austin is a heck of an athlete, so we’ll have to try to contain him,” he said. “They have a big, aggressive line again, something I think we match up well with. Just come and play – and hopefully the weather’s a little bit better, so we can get back to what we like to do.”

At Port Allegany, Oct. 15:

Score by quarters:
Sheffield 0 6 0 0 6
Port Allegany 0 12 0 7 19

Second Quarter
Sheffield – Nick Bonavita 3 run (14 plays, 69 yards, 6:48), run failed, 6-0
Port Allegany – Tyce Miller pass from Matt Bodamer (8 plays, 68 yards, 2:37), pass failed, 6-6
Port Allegany – Trent Neal 3 run (4 plays, 23 yards, 0:31), pass failed, 12-6

Fourth Quarter
Port Allegany – Bodamer run (10 plays, 66 yards, 6:01), Scott Brookens kick, 19-6

Team Statistics: Sheffield Port A
First downs 13 15
Rushes-Yards 46-146 32-93
Comp-Att-Int 3-11-0 5-15-0
Passing Yards 35 57
Total Yards 181 150
Fumbles-Lost 2-1 1-0
Punts-Avg. 4-25.5 3-30.7
Penalties-Yards 10-92 1-15
Total Plays 57 47
Time of poss. 27:38 20:22

Individual statistics:
Rushing: Sheffield – Kalil Slaughter 10-70; Nick Bonavita 17-49, TD; George Fitch 6-16; Shequan Wright 7-6; Ike Nearing 6-5. Port A – Trent Neal 14-65, TD; Trey Miller 7-18; Matt Bodamer 9-7, TD; Garrett Drabert 2-3.
Passing: Sheffield – Wright 3-10-0, 35 yards; Nearing 0-1-0. Port A– Bodamer 5-15-0, 57 yards, TD.
Receiving: Sheffield Kwante Johnson 1-20; Bonavita 1-15; Slaughter 1-7. Port A – Charlie Buchanan 2-19; Trey Miller 1-14; Rickie Bova 1-15; Tyce Miller 1-9, TD.

(Helmets courtesy of


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