D9 Class A Semifinal: Gators move on to title game



Lori Chase
Port Allegany Reporter Argus
November 23, 2011

Last year, Port Allegany was a late entrant into the District 9 Class A football playoffs, parlaying a Week 9 win over Coudersport into a pair of upsets before falling to Curwensville in the title game.

That was last year. The Gators entered the 2011 season with a talented roster and the lessons learned from their unexpected postseason push, making them one of the favorites to claim this year’s D-9 crown.

On Saturday afternoon in Bradford, Port High took the penultimate step toward that goal, shrugging off an early Brockway touchdown to score the next 42 points in an emphatic 49-21 semifinal victory over the defending Class AA district champs. The Gators’ third win in as many tries over the Rovers sets up a meeting with the Clarion Bobcats (8-4), who defeated Coudy (9-2) in the second half of the doubleheader, next Saturday at Frank Varischetti Field in Brockway (1 p.m., WHKS-FM 94.9).

“It’s been our main goal the whole season, to get back and see what we can do,” Port coach Mike Bodamer said. “Our kids are playing well enough, I like our chances against anybody. Hopefully we get a better feeling than we did last year.”

For Brockway’s Mike Pisarchick, the third time playing the Gators (11-1) felt an awful lot like the first two games, both double-digit Port wins.

“Tough to play defense when you don’t match up with them,” the first-year head coach said. “We were like that – we had the athletes and the quarterback – and now (Port has) the athletes and the quarterback. The only difference is, with us, Derek Buganza couldn’t kill you with his feet like Matt Bodamer.”

It was another banner day for the prolific Port offense, which lit up the scoreboard for 35 or more points for the fifth week in a row and the 10th time in 12 games. Bodamer finished the game 18-for-26 for 275 yards and tossed six more touchdown passes to increase his state-leading total to 41, and both he (3,170 passing yards) and Tyce Miller (1,074 receiving yards) achieved significant single-season milestones.

As in the previous two games against Brockway (8-4), though, the Gators had to overcome an early deficit. The Rovers took the opening kickoff and marched to Tom Vervoort’s 24-yard touchdown run, then forced a punt and a fumble on Port’s first two possessions to give their offense a quick chance to open up a two-score lead. But both times, the defense held firm, with Nick Budd and Dominick Magoon stuffing one fourth-and-short rushing attempt and Budd and Rex Windsor combining on a sack to stop another foray into Gator territory.

“We got a turnover, but couldn’t capitalize on it,” Pisarchick said. “We could’ve went up 14-0 and took some more time off the clock. That would’ve been huge, but we didn’t get the break and we ended up turning it over.”

Chalk up another win for the unheralded Port defense, which hasn’t allowed a point after any of the four turnovers the team committed in its first three playoff games. The squad has also forced seven takeaways of its own during the postseason, turning six of them into Gator touchdowns.

“They really took it to us in the first quarter,” Mike Bodamer said. “We were kind of lifeless, but as usual we kind of struggle that first quarter and then things start to click.”

When they did, the highlight show began. On a third-and-thirteen play, Matt Bodamer found Charlie Buchanan at the Rover 35 with one man to beat, and the senior wideout cut back inside and cruised into the end zone for a 56-yard touchdown to put the Gators on the board. Scott Brookens’ kick tied the game at 7-7, and Port was on its way.

The first of two Bodamer-to-Nick Conway touchdown passes, a 19-yarder late in the second quarter, gave the junior signalcaller his 3,000-yard season. The Rovers’ next drive came to an abrupt halt at their own 40, when Alex Gular and Conway teamed up for a bone-rattling hit on a Brockway passcatcher and Tyce Miller returned the ensuing fumble to the Brockway 34. Miller got his 1,000-yard season with an 8-yard catch on the Gators’ next play from scrimmage, and four plays later, Conway was in the end zone again for a 21-7 halftime lead.

“He’s probably the fastest kid we have,” Mike Bodamer said of Conway, the reigning D-9 hurdles champ. “So we’ve been trying to get him in these last few weeks, him and Trevor (Neal) trying to rotate in a little bit.”

As in the Allegheny Mountain League championship game, the Rovers rolled the dice on the second-half kickoff, but Rickie Bova corralled the onside attempt at midfield and the Gator offense went back to work. Miller’s toe-dragging sideline catch at the Brockway 1 set up Buchanan’s second score of the day, and he’d get his third just a few minutes later as the game began to slip away from the Rovers. Trent Neal’s diving interception – with a hand from some heavy pressure on the Brockway quarterback by Budd – led to yet another quick Port touchdown, this one on a Bodamer-to-Trevor Neal slant, and suddenly it was 42-7 Gators.

“Unfortunately, we just can’t match up with them,” Pisarchick reiterated. “Once you get behind, have to play catchup, our kids kind of folded then. Obviously, we were fighting that battle on the confidence level. When you face a team three times and you’re oh-and-two going in, you face that.”

With the clock running and both teams beginning to substitute, backup Rover quarterback Jack Glasl tossed a pair of fourth-quarter touchdown passes to starter Kyle Braun, and Trey Miller’s 23-yard jaunt around left end capped the scoring for the Gators as they began looking forward to a second straight trip to the district championship game.

“Practice at 10 Thanksgiving morning for those who can make it,” Mike Bodamer said with a smile.

Their work done for the day, the team stayed to watch part of the Clarion-Coudersport game to see which opponent they’d face. Capitalizing on some costly Coudy turnovers, the KSAC’s top small-school team jumped out to a 14-0 lead on two touchdowns by running back T.J. Armstrong, then held the Falcons at bay for a 27-7 final score.

The Gators can expect to see a heavy dose of the 6-foot-2, 215-pound Armstrong, who leads the team with 208 carries for 985 yards and 13 rushing touchdowns, in the Bobcats’ run-heavy offense. Quarterback Brandon Heeter has a decent arm, but Clarion doesn’t throw the ball often – at least compared to Port’s aerial attack – averaging just over 12 attempts and 100 yards per game. Camron Kirkland (30 catches-515 yards, four touchdowns) is Heeter’s top target, but Armstrong can sneak out of the backfield as well, as Coudy discovered when he burned them for a 37-yard touchdown catch.

Veteran head coach Larry Wiser employs a “creep” defense on some plays, with the linemen standing at the line of scrimmage until just before the snap to make the offensive line calls more difficult, and a blitz off either edge is possible at any time. The Bobcats have been stingy, allowing seven or fewer points in six of their 12 games and pitching two shutouts along the way, and have forced 31 turnovers and 24 sacks.

But the way Pisarchick saw it on Saturday afternoon, the ‘Cats will have an uphill battle to deny the Gators their first district title.

“I will wish Port the best,” he said. “They’ve got a great team, and I’m hoping that they can give us a D-9 rep if they’re successful. They’re going to be tough to beat – either Coudy or Clarion, the winner here, has to play a perfect game to beat them. And if it is them, I hope they represent D-9 well and can get us to the Western final, and anything can happen against Clairton.”

At Bradford, Nov. 19:

Score by quarters:
Brockway 7 0 0 14 21
Port A 7 14 21 7 49

First Quarter
Brockway (8:44) – Tom Vervoort 24 run (7 plays, 63 yards, 3:16), Phil Esposito kick, 7-0
Port Allegany (0:46) – Charlie Buchanan 56 pass from Matt Bodamer (3 plays, 53 yards, 0:36), Scott Brookens kick, 7-7

Second Quarter
Port Allegany (3:43) – Nick Conway 19 pass from Bodamer (5 plays, 69 yards, 1:36), Brookens kick, 14-7
Port Allegany (1:31) – Conway 13 pass from Bodamer (5 plays, 34 yards after Tyce Miller fumble recovery, 1:39), Brookens kick, 21-7

Third Quarter
Port Allegany (9:45) – Charlie Buchanan 1 pass from Bodamer (7 plays, 50 yards, 2:15), kick failed, 27-7
Port Allegany (5:05) – Buchanan 4 pass from Bodamer (6 plays, 61 yards, 1:46), Rickie Bova pass from Bodamer, 35-7
Port Allegany (3:36) – Trevor Neal pass from Bodamer (3 plays, 56 yards after Trent Neal interception, 0:26), Brookens kick, 42-7
(running clock)

Fourth Quarter
Brockway (11:16) – Kyle Braun 16 pass from Jack Glasl (9 plays, 59 yards, 4:20), Esposito kick, 42-14
Port Allegany (5:24) – Trey Miller 23 run (9 plays, 53 yards, 5:52), Brookens kick, 49-14
Brockway (3:24) – Braun 54 pass from Glasl (2 plays, 63 yards, 2:00), Esposito kick, 49-21

Team Statistics: Brockway Port A
First downs 14 18
Rushes-Yards 43-197 24-141
Comp-Att-Int 7-16-1 18-26-0
Passing Yards 133 275
Total Yards 330 416
Fumbles-Lost 1-1 2-1
Punts-Avg. 1-45.0 2-32.0
Penalties-Yards 5-46 7-84
Total Plays 59 50
Time of poss. 27:42 20:18

Individual statistics:
Rushing: Brockway – Tom Vervoort 17-121, TD; Chad Melillo 15-84; Levi Miller 3-5; Jack Glasl 1-(-4); Kyle Braun 7-(-8). Port Allegany – Trent Neal 7-45; Matt Bodamer 7-44; Trey Miller 5-33; Garrett Drabert 5-19.

Passing: Brockway – Glasl 4-8, 82 yards, 2 TDs; Braun 3-6, 51 yards; Vervoort 0-1; Ryan States 0-1, INT. Port Allegany – Bodamer 18-26, 275 yards, 6 TDs.

Receiving: Brockway – Braun 2-70, 2 TDs; Levi Miller 3-33; Anthony Benson 1-21; States 1-9. Port Allegany – Tyce Miller 5-95; Charlie Buchanan 6-80, 3 TDs; Rickie Bova 3-36; Nick Conway 2-32, 2 TDs; Trevor Neal 2-32, TD.

(Helmets courtesy of PAHelmetProject.com)

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