PORT ALLEGANY 33
Port Allegany Reporter Argus
December 8, 2011
For a while, it looked like Port Allegany’s magical 2011 football season was going to continue for at least one more week.
The Gators built a 26-6 second-quarter lead over Sharpsville on the frost-tipped turf at Slippery Rock’s Mihalik-Thompson Stadium, delighting their fans who had made the three-hour drive for Friday night’s PIAA Class A quarterfinal game and stunning the blue-clad contingent in the home stands. If Port could just hold on for 30 more minutes of gametime, a berth in the Western final awaited.
Unfortunately, Sharpsville had other plans. Roaring back with four consecutive touchdowns, the unbeaten District 10 champs took the lead for good on DerSean Alberty-Brown’s 35-yard punt-return score late in the third quarter. Following their 35-33 win, it will be the Blue Devils (13-0) who face District 7 powerhouse Clairton (14-0) for the right to go to the state championship game in Hershey.
“Can’t fault the kids. I’m happy with the way they performed,” Gator head coach Mike Bodamer said afterward. “We proved to everybody that Port Allegany could play football with the best of them. We just came up on the short end.”
That outcome would have been hard to imagine just an hour or so earlier, when the Gators (12-2) were busy dominating the first half of play. After taking the opening kickoff and marching down to the Sharpsville 5 before the drive ended on a lost fumble, Port didn’t stop short of the end zone on its next four possessions.
Tyler Burr’s fumble recovery at the Sharpsville 11 set up the first Gator score, with quarterback Matt Bodamer audibling to a bootleg and sprinting to his right for a 2-yard touchdown. The Blue Devils would answer on fullback Spencer Bland’s 13-yard run, but with both teams missing the extra point, the first quarter ended in a 6-6 tie.
That lasted one play into the second stanza, when Nick Conway snared Bodamer’s pass, put his hand down to steady himself on the slippery turf, and eluded a would-be tackler on his way to the first of two touchdown catches. Bodamer followed that with a 28-yard strike to Trevor Neal to make it 19-6, and the Gators struck again when Victor Bandish’s fumble recovery at midfield set up the second Bodamer-to-Conway score to give them a 20-point lead.
Sharpsville finally managed to battle back late in the second quarter, driving to a short Bland touchdown run. Port nearly got that one back as the half ended, but the clock ran out with the score still 26-6 and the Gators at the Blue Devil 15.
The tide began turning with the second-half kickoff, with Alberty-Brown racing to the Gator 32 before Conway managed to knock him out of bounds. Port managed to hold for three downs, but on fourth-and-6, Joey Pagliaroli got a step behind the defense and hauled in Jake Henwood’s pass for a 28-yard touchdown and a healthy dose of momentum.
“We talked at halftime; we knew this team was good enough to come back,” coach Bodamer said. “We said, We can’t let them score on the opening kickoff. Basically, two long passes killed us there, and they were right back in the game.”
Meanwhile, the normally prolific Gator offense was stuck in neutral, going three-and-out on its first three second-half drives. The second one proved a back-breaker, as punter Tyce Miller ended up on the ground after the kick while Alberty-Brown rambled 35 yards into the end zone on the return. While the Port sideline searched in vain for a flag on the play, Henwood hit Bryan Stafford for the two-point conversion to make it 27-26, and the Blue Devils were ahead to stay.
“We kind of lost control a little bit in the third quarter with some of those calls,” Bodamer admitted. “I was almost positive that kid ran into Tyce on the punt. We didn’t get the call there, and then the kid returned it on the same play. That just absolutely killed us. We tried to fight back, but it just didn’t happen for us.”
Bland’s third touchdown, a 2-yard run as the fourth quarter opened, and his two-point conversion gave Sharpsville a 35-26 lead. With time running out on their season, the Gators managed to draw back into the game when Matt Bodamer followed Trent Neal’s block into the end zone on fourth-and-goal with 9:30 remaining. Scott Brookens’ kick was good, and Port was back within two.
Trailing 35-33, the District 9 champs got the defensive stops they needed as they sent Sharpsville three-and-out on back-to-back possessions. But they couldn’t capitalize, as one Port drive stalled near midfield and another at the Blue Devils’ 20.
Knowing they didn’t want Port to get another shot at the end zone, Sharpsville handed the game over to Bland on fourth-and-inches from their own 29-yard line, and the 5-foot-11, 200-pound senior delivered with a 2-yard run.
“I knew with fourth-and-short, with that offensive line and that running back, I would’ve gone for it too. That was no surprise,” coach Bodamer said.
Two more Bland runs and another first down later, with no more timeouts, all the Gators could do was watch Henwood take the snap and kneel as the Blue Devils and their fans began to celebrate.
“We did what we had to do. We scored in the 30s. We knew we had to get that far. We just had to keep them in the 20s, which we couldn’t do,” Bodamer said.
“What caused us problems was their passing game. We let those three or four long passes go. We said during the week, we’ve got to stop the run and we’ll give up some on the pass, but that’s what burned us. I thought we controlled their run pretty darn well. They didn’t have too many sustained drives with the run. They would run a little bit, then hit one of those long passes to get them down to the goal line and we couldn’t stop them there.”
Matt Bodamer finished the game 19-for-39 for 211 yards, with just three completions and 15 yards of that coming after halftime. He also led all rushers with 19 carries for 121 yards, while Conway paced the receiving corps with five catches for 76 yards. For Sharpsville, Bland totaled 98 yards in 24 carries, while Alberty-Brown added another 57 rushing yards on 10 attempts.
Bodamer’s three touchdown tosses gave him 49 for the season, tying Chad Kroell’s 1994 District 9 record at Clearfield and three shy of the PIAA standard set by South Fayette’s Christian Brumbaugh last season. The 6-foot, 175-pound junior also made a strong run at the state single-season yardage mark; statistics provided to MaxPreps.com show him finishing the season with 3,766 yards, just 58 short of Derek Buganza’s 2009 campaign at Brockway.
“It comes with the team,” coach Bodamer said. “He can’t do it without the line, he can’t do it without the receivers. Those kids worked all summer, and I think it showed this season. We’ll get those juniors back in the weight room and back on the field, and see what we can do next year.”
While the Gators lose wideouts Charlie Buchanan (62 catches-813 yards, 13 touchdowns) and Trevor Neal (34-643, 9 touchdowns), and linemen Tyler Burr, Brock Taylor, Kyle Austin, and Dominick Magoon to graduation, a strong core of starters returns on both sides of the ball. Along with Bodamer and fellow Big 30 All-Stars Tyce Miller (74 catches-1,248 yards, 15 touchdowns) and Nick Budd, running backs Trent Neal (121 carries-682 yards, 9 touchdowns) and Trey Miller (61-274, 6 touchdowns), receivers Rickie Bova (44-695, 4 touchdowns) and Nick Conway (17-237, 7 touchdowns), leading tackler Alex Gular (113), and sack master Victor Bandish (5.0) are all part of a junior class that could make next season another one to remember at Gator Field.
They’ll have to work to top this one, though.
“I told the kids – they were upset and crying – I said, ‘You guys can’t cry. It’s been a great season,” coach Bodamer said. “We got our first district title, and came here proving to people that we can play. I think we proved to everybody that District 9 can play some football. Definitely doesn’t feel good losing, but I’m not upset at all. It’s been a great season and I’m very proud of the kids.”
Slippery Rock University
December 2, 2011
|Score by quarters:|
|Port Allegany Gators||6||20||0||7||–||33|
|Sharpsville Blue Devils||6||7||14||8||–||35|
Port Allegany (7:27) – Matt Bodamer 2 run (3 plays, 11 yards after Tyler Burr fumble recovery, 0:56), kick blocked, 6-0
Sharpsville (2:23) – Spencer Bland 15 run (11 plays, 78 yards, 5:04), kick failed, 6-6
Port Allegany (11:53) – Nick Conway 16 pass from Bodamer (7 plays, 69 yards, 2:30), pass failed, 12-6
Port Allegany (7:28) – Trevor Neal 28 pass from Bodamer (4 plays, 41 yards, 1:59), Scott Brookens kick, 19-6
Port Allegany (3:19) – Conway 27 pass from Bodamer (8 plays, 50 yards after Victor Bandish fumble recovery, 2:09), Brookens kick, 26-6
Sharpsville (0:44) – Bland 1 run (7 plays, 58 yards, 2:35), Joey Pagliaroli kick, 26-13
Sharpsville (10:12) – Pagliaroli 28 pass from Jake Henwood (4 plays, 32 yards after DerSean Alberty-Brown 57 kickoff return), kick failed, 26-19
Sharpsville (3:43) – Alberty-Brown 35 punt return, Bryan Stafford pass from Henwood, 27-26
Sharpsville (11:21) – Bland 2 run (6 plays, 57 yards, 2:17), Bland run, 35-26
Port Allegany (9:30) – Bodamer 4 run (6 plays, 58 yards, 1:51), Brookens kick, 35-33
|Time of poss.||21:00||27:00|
Rushing: Port Allegany – Matt Bodamer 19-121, 2 TDs; Trent Neal 6-30; team 1-(-12). Sharpsville – Spencer Bland 24-98, 3 TDs; DerSean Alberty-Brown 10-57; Joey Pagliaroli 6-19; Jake Henwood 6-19; Derrick Odem 2-14; Tyler Luchey 1-2; team 3-(-11).
Passing: Port Allegany – Bodamer 19-39, 211 yards, 3 TDs. Sharpsville – Henwood 4-10, 86 yards, TD.
Receiving: Port Allegany – Nick Conway 5-76, 2 TDs; Tyce Miller 5-45; Trevor Neal 3-40, TD; Rickie Bova 3-27; Charlie Buchanan 2-23; Trent Neal 1-0. Sharpsville – Alberty-Brown 1-33; Pagliaroli 1-28, TD; Luchey 2-25.
(Helmets courtesy of PAHelmetProject.com)