AML Championship Game: Second-quarter explosion vaults Gators to title

PORT ALLEGANY 56

BROCKWAY 27

Lori Chase
Port Allegany Reporter Argus
November 10, 2011

Even Port Allegany coach Mike Bodamer had never seen anything quite like it.

Trailing 7-0 after the first quarter of Friday night’s Allegheny Mountain League championship game against the Brockway Rovers, his Gators exploded for five touchdowns in a nine-minute stretch of the second frame to take a 34-21 lead into the break, then continued to pour it on after halftime to roll to a 56-27 victory over the defending AML champs.

“I’d like to see my heart rate (during the second quarter), be hooked up to a monitor. It was going up and down, I know that,” the Gator coach said with a grin afterward.

On the other side of the field, Rovers coach Mike Pisarchick’s pulse had to skyrocket every time he watched Matt Bodamer drop back to pass. The junior quarterback had a hand in all eight Gator scores, completing 18-of-34 passes for 285 yards and four touchdowns, adding 98 yards and three more trips to the end zone on the ground, and capping it off with a 38-yard interception return for good measure.

“He’s a great quarterback, probably the best this league’s seen for quite a while,” Pisarchick said. “We had Derek Buganza, but Matt can run on you, too.”

High praise indeed, considering that Buganza, the 2011 Brockway grad, merely holds most of the PIAA state passing records.

“He gets a lot of press, and I don’t know how people take that,” coach (and father) Bodamer said. “But there’s not a kid in this area that works harder than he does. The entire offseason he’s in the gym throwing the ball, he’s out on the field throwing the ball, he lifts all the time. Whatever he gets, he deserves.”

Early on, though, it looked like it might be Brockway’s night. Pounding the ball at the Gators on offense and sending heavy pressure after Bodamer, the Rovers took a 7-0 lead late in the first quarter when Levi Miller caught a flare pass out of the backfield, ducked a tackle, and raced down the right sideline for a 63-yard touchdown.

But as the teams switched ends, the Gator offense began to find its footing on the Varischetti Stadium turf … and once they started, they didn’t stop. A Bodamer keeper put them on the board, and after the defense forced a quick three-and-out, Kyle Conway hauled in a short pass and hurdled into the end zone from 22 yards out. The touchdown was the first of the season for the junior, who would add another score in the fourth quarter.

“They had a couple of corners we thought we could pick on, and Nick has a little bit more speed,” coach Bodamer said. “Trevor (Neal) had some nice catches, but we tried to get a little bit of a rotation, and Nick had a nice catch-and-run. It’s good to spread the ball around a little bit.”

The Gators would need every point they could get as the second quarter turned into a game of “top this” between the two highest-scoring offenses in the league. Brockway quarterback Kyle Braun, one of Buganza’s top passcatchers on last year’s District 9 Class AA champions, showed off his speed when he burst through the line for a 62-yard touchdown run. Port struck back quickly, with Bodamer hitting Neal in stride for a 55-yard touchdown, but the Rovers answered just as fast when Braun spotted Miller open over the middle for a 61-yard pass play down to the 2 and the senior tailback punched it in two plays later to take a 21-20 lead.

That made it Port’s turn again, and the Gators didn’t disappoint. A long run by Trey Miller and a toe-tapping sideline catch from Conway moved the ball to the Brockway 40, where Bodamer dropped back, spotted a seam up the middle, and took off for his second rushing touchdown of the game.

“I think teams are starting to key on all our wide receivers, and they just lose track of me sometimes back there,” the Gator signalcaller said. “So we just go with a couple of draw plays, and it’s open.”

The Brockway offense apparently lost track of him the next time they had the ball, too, and the resulting play broke the game open.

Sprinting in from his safety spot on a third-and-5 pass play, Bodamer cut in front of the intended receiver to make the interception at the Rover 38, with nothing but green FieldTurf in front of him for his third score of the night and a 34-21 halftime lead.

With Port due to get the ball to begin the third quarter, Pisarchick knew his team was in trouble, and gambled on an onside kick.

“Whether they scored from 50 yards or 80 yards, we were having a difficult time stopping them,” he said. “So we figured, ‘Why not try to get the ball back?’”

The ploy nearly worked, but the ball tumbled out of bounds before the Rovers could snare it. Bodamer’s fourth-down pass was picked off, though, and the quarter settled into an exchange of punts until late in the period, when the Bodamer-to-Neal connection hooked up on a fade to the left corner of the end zone.

With Brockway in desperation mode as the fourth quarter began, it was the defense’s time to shine. Alex Gular tipped a Braun pass into the hands of defensive tackle Victor Bandish to set up one short scoring drive, and Rex Windsor recovered a fumble on the next play from scrimmage to give the Gators an instant first-and-goal. One more Bodamer touchdown run made it 56-21 with 9:12 remaining, the fifth time in the last six weeks a Port game involved the PIAA “mercy rule” and a running clock. With both teams’ backups in, Brockway managed to hit one more big play for a touchdown, but the Gators’ first AML championship since 1988 was well in hand.

“It feels great,” coach Bodamer said. “The district title is the most important thing – that’s still our main goal – but this is icing on the cake. It’s just a great feeling for the kids. They wanted it; now we have to come back next weekend and get back to the drawing board again.”

Claiming the AML plaque for Port Allegany for the first time in 23 years was a moment Gator captains Charlie Buchanan and Tyler Burr will remember, but the two seniors know there’s more work ahead.

“This has got to be the greatest feeling in my life,” Buchanan said. “Seriously, this is unbelievable. All my senior buddies, it’s a great way to go out. Now we just have to work for the playoffs, and hopefully get the D-9 (title).”

Burr agreed, saying, “It feels great to be AML champs, but we’ll forget about this one Monday, watch some film and get ready for Union.”

The Golden Knights (7-3), a member of the Keystone Shortway Athletic Conference’s small-school division, clinched the No. 7 seed and a trip to Port Allegany on Saturday (1:30 p.m., WHKS 94.9 FM) with a bizarre 60-21 non-league win over visiting Sheffield which featured nine interceptions and five touchdowns by the Union defense.

“I hear they have five or six good athletes,” coach Bodamer said. “They put it to Sheffield and we struggled with Sheffield, so it’ll be a game.”

At Brockway, Nov. 4:
Port Allegany – 0 34 8 14 – 56
Brockway – 7 14 0 6 – 27

First Quarter
Brockway – Levi Miller 63 pass from Kyle Braun (3 plays, 78 yards, 1:16), Phil Esposito kick, 7-0

Second Quarter
Port Allegany – Matt Bodamer 3 run (14 plays, 64 yards, 4:33), Tyler Burr kick, 7-7
Port Allegany – Kyle Conway 22 pass from Bodamer (5 plays, 55 yards, 0:40), Burr kick, 14-7
Brockway – Braun 62 run (2 plays, 67 yards, 0:54), Esposito kick, 14-14
Port Allegany – Trevor Neal 55 pass from Bodamer (3 plays, 76 yards, 0:32), kick failed, 20-14
Brockway – Miller 1 run (5 plays, 69 yards, 1:46), Esposito kick, 21-20
Port Allegany – Bodamer 40 run (4 plays, 76 yards, 0:55), Rickie Bova pass from Bodamer, 28-21
Port Allegany – Bodamer 38 interception return, kick failed, 34-21

Third Quarter
Port Allegany – Trevor Neal 2 pass from Bodamer (8 plays, 61 yards, 3:22), Bova pass from Bodamer, 42-21

Fourth Quarter
Port Allegany – Conway 6 pass from Bodamer (4 plays, 21 yards after Victor Bandish interception, 1:53), Burr kick, 49-21
Port Allegany – Bodamer 6 run (2 plays, 8 yards after Rex Windsor fumble recovery, 0:59), Burr kick, 56-21
(running clock)
Brockway – Brandon Morris 55 pass from Jack Glasl (4 plays, 77 yards, 2:02), pass failed, 56-27

Team Statistics Port A Brockway
First Downs 20 9
Rushes-Yards 35-170 34-172
Passing Yards 285 179
Comp.-Att.-Int. 18-34-2 4-7-2
Total Offense 455 351
Fumbles-Lost 0-0 2-1
Penalties-Yards 3-25 6-52
Punts-Avg. 3-35.7 5-32.2
Total Plays 69 41

Individual stats:
Rushing:
Port Allegany – Matt Bodamer 14-98, 3 TD; Trent Neal 9-37; Trey Miller 2-27; Johnny Sena 7-12; Garrett Drabert 2-3; Cory Burr 1-(-7). Brockway – Tom Vervoort 20-81; Kyle Braun 6-74; Kyle Titler 1-11; Levi Miller 2-7, TD; Anthony Benson 1-5; Zachary Brinkley 1-4; Ryan States 1-1; Chad Melillo 2-(-15).
Passing: Port A– Bodamer 18-34, 285 yards, 4 TD, 2 INT. Brockway – Braun 3-6, 124 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT; Jack Glasl 1-1, 55 yards, TD.
Receiving: Port A – Trevor Neal 5-83, 2 TD; Charlie Buchanan 6-69; Tyce Miller 2-63; Nick Conway 3-38, 2 TD; Rickie Bova 1-15; Trey Miller 1-7. Brockway – Miller 2-124, TD; Brandon Morris 1-55, TD.

(Helmets courtesy of PAHelmetProject.com)

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