D-9 Class A Quarterfinal: Gators strike gold against Knights



Lori Chase
Port Allegany Reporter Argus
November 17, 2011

The football sailed high into the blue November sky. Underneath it, Tyce Miller sprinted toward the goal line, a Union defensive back trailing in his wake.

And just when it looked like the Gator receiver wouldn’t be able to catch up to the pass, he stretched out one orange-and-black-gloved hand, gathering the ball in as he tumbled into the end zone.

Touchdown, Port Allegany.

Tyce Miller makes a highlight-reel-worthy touchdown catch in Port Allegany's 37-8 D-9 playoff win over Union. (Pam Fischer / Reporter Argus)

“I had to hold myself back from spiking it, I was so excited,” Miller said. “I was pumped.”

Judging by the reaction both on the field and in the stands, he wasn’t alone.

The spectacular 39-yard grab – one that a Big 30 committeeman would call the best he’d ever seen in a high school game – was the middle of three second-quarter scores for Port Allegany, which forged a 22-0 halftime lead on the way to a 37-8 victory over Union in Saturday’s District 9 Class A quarterfinal round.

The reward for the No. 2 Gators (10-1) after dispatching the seventh-seeded Golden Knights (7-4)? A third game against Allegheny Mountain League foe Brockway (8-3), which took care of Redbank Valley 24-10 in its playoff opener. Port won both previous meetings against the Rovers, rallying for a 40-30 victory in Week 2 and claiming the AML title in a 56-27 romp on Nov. 4.

Both teams will travel to Bradford’s Parkway Field on Saturday for a 1 p.m. kickoff in the first game of a D-9 semifinal doubleheader, with Coudersport (9-1) facing the top Keystone Shortway Athletic Conference small-school team, Clarion (7-4), in the 5 p.m. nightcap.

“We just have to go play them,” said head coach Mike Bodamer. “They’re not going to change, we’re not going to change. We’ll just have to see who’s going to come out on top.”

The Port coaching staff should certainly be familiar with the Rovers’ gameplan and personnel by now, as opposed to Union, which was making its first playoff appearance in school history. But if anything, it was the Gators who appeared to come out with some jitters, turning the ball over near midfield on their first possession and needing a goal-line stand to keep the Golden Knights from taking an early lead on the ensuing drive.

“Our first drive, we started moving the ball down the field. We just had some mistakes on our part and seemed to fall apart after that, let them have a long run around end down to the goal line,” Bodamer said. “We still didn’t settle in until the second quarter; we finally started to calm down a little bit and things started to go.”

Following a scoreless first frame, the Port offense began to click once it had the wind at its back. A mix of strong running by Trent Neal, Trey Miller and Matt Bodamer and key completions from Bodamer to Trevor Neal and Rickie Bova led to Miller’s 2-yard touchdown run, and a long punt return by Tyce Miller set the stage for his highlight-reel catch, with Bodamer finding his favorite two-point target, Rickie Bova, to make it 14-0.

Meanwhile, the defense was reasserting its authority. After driving to the Gator 1 the first time they had the ball, the Golden Knights went backward for the rest of the half, netting -7 yards on three consecutive three-and-outs.

Port would add another score before the break. Bodamer connected with Tyce Miller for a huge third-and-long conversion, then found Bova open over the middle, with the big tight end taking a Union defensive back along for the ride on a 21-yard catch-and-run.

“Trying to strip the ball from a kid that size, you’ve got to wrap and tackle. You can’t let him drag you down the field,” Knights coach Dave Louder said of the 6-foot, 180-pound Bova. “He was great for them on their third touchdown drive.”

A Knight army tries to drag down Gator tight end Rickie Bova. (Pam Fischer / Reporter Argus)

Bodamer finished off the drive with a 1-yard sneak and added the two-point conversion, then gave the Gators another last-minute chance to score with a diving interception, just missing Tyce Miller in the corner of the end zone on the final play of the half.

The defense picked up where it left off after the break, with Alex Gular breaking through the line to sack Union quarterback Taylor Smith, forcing yet another punt. The Gators didn’t look like they were going to be able to capitalize, with two big losses setting them back to third-and-24, but another long catch-and-run by Bova picked up the first down at the Knights’ 11.

“He doesn’t get the notoriety that Charlie (Buchanan) or Tyce gets,” Mike Bodamer said, “but he actually probably has the best hands on the team. He rarely drops anything. He ran really hard today, broke a lot of tackles. He’s just a big, strong kid.”

Matt Bodamer capped off the drive with a 9-yard toss to Buchanan and hit Bova for another two-pointer, and the Gators were cruising. The Knights’ day got worse on their next possession, with Buchanan recovering a fumble, then drawing a pass-interference penalty to set up Garrett Drabert’s 2-yard touchdown run and a 37-0 lead with 3:16 left in the third quarter.

With the clock running and the Gators sending in their subs, Union avoided the shutout on Austin Smith’s 91-yard scamper down the Port sideline midway through the final quarter, but the damage was already done.

“We knew Bodamer was a dangerous quarterback,” Louder said. “We hoped to play better than we did. A couple of things got into our heads, and he made us pay for it on the first two touchdowns … and it went downhill from there.

“Luckily he’s not in the KSAC, so we don’t have to see him year in and year out,” he continued with a chuckle. “Take nothing away from Matt and the rest of Port Allegany’s team. They are strong football players, and that’s a great group of kids his dad has to coach.”

So now, the Gators are a game away from a second straight trip to the D-9 championship game, but they’ll have to get past Brockway yet again to make it there.

“No. 3 (quarterback Kyle Braun), No. 40 (fullback Tom Vervoort), big offensive line … I don’t know how you beat a team three times in one year, but we’ll definitely try,” Mike Bodamer said. “They like to come after Matt. We’ll have to work on our quick-hitters and stuff, because they like to put a lot of pressure on him.”

He concluded, “This is what we’ve been working for. This is actually the start of our season. This is what we said at the beginning of the season – we basically had 10 warmup games, and this is our real season. Hopefully we can just keep going.”

At Port Allegany, Nov. 12:

Score by quarters:
Union 0 0 0 8 8
Port A 0 22 15 0 37

Second Quarter
Port Allegany – Trey Miller 2 run (10 plays, 67 yards, 4:15), kick failed, 6-0
Port Allegany – Tyce Miller 39 pass from Matt Bodamer (1 play, 39 yards after Miller punt return, 0:06), Rickie Bova pass from Bodamer, 14-0
Port Allegany – Bodamer 1 run (8 plays, 65 yards, 2:29), Bodamer run, 22-0

Third Quarter
Port Allegany – Charlie Buchanan 9 pass from Bodamer (7 plays, 62 yards, 3:38), Bova pass from Bodamer, 30-0
Port Allegany – Garrett Drabert 2 run (5 plays, 50 yards after Charlie Buchanan fumble recovery, 1:35), Tyler Burr kick, 37-0
(running clock)

Fourth Quarter
Union – Austin Davis 91 run (1 play, 91 yards, 0:41), Brody Shick pass from Davis, 37-8

Team Statistics: Union Port A
First downs 7 25
Rushes-Yards 24-156 40-119
Comp-Att-Int 6-13-1 18-27-0
Passing Yards 23 235
Total Yards 179 354
Fumbles-Lost 1-1 2-1
Punts-Avg. 5-29.2 1-29.0
Penalties-Yards 9-70 5-35
Total Plays 37 67
Time of poss. 20:33 27:27

Individual statistics:
Rushing: Union – Austin Davis 9-128, TD; Mikey Harris 4-13; Kaden McGregor 1-11; Taylor Smith 9-4; Brett Trithart 1-0. Port Allegany – Matt Bodamer 15-62, TD; Garrett Drabert 8-37, TD; Trent Neal 8-31; Trey Miller 6-18, TD; Cory Burr 2-(-9); team 1-(-20).

Passing: Union – Smith 6-13, 23 yards, 1 INT. Port A – Bodamer 18-27, 235 yards, 2 TD.

Receiving: Union – McGregor 3-14; Harris 1-12; Davis 1-1; Brandon Still 1-(-4). Port A – Rickie Bova 7-96; Tyce Miller 6-94, TD; Trevor Neal 2-24; Charlie Buchanan 3-21, TD.

(Helmets courtesy of PAHelmetProject.com)

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