Friday night marked the beginning of a brand-new football season across District 9. But in Johnsonburg, where the Rams hosted Port Allegany, it looked a lot like last year.
Revving up the same high-flying aerial attack that carried them to the 2011 D-9 title, the deep and talented Gators simply overpowered an undermanned Johnsonburg squad, lighting up the scoreboard early and often in a 54-0 victory.
“You’ve got to give them all the respect in the world. They have a great football team,” second-year Rams coach Jesse Schreiber said. “They work hard, they put their time in 12 months out of the year, and they have good athletes. You saw what they had last year; they lost a couple pieces from last year, they plugged them back in and they’re continuing to go. So it’s a good football team and they’re going to do great things this year.”
Port (1-0) was in midseason form right from the kickoff, needing just 59 seconds to find the end zone for the first touchdown of the year. The first play from scrimmage was something Gator opponents should expect to see a lot of this year, with Nick Conway hauling in a high-arcing spiral from Matt Bodamer deep down the left sideline for a 37-yard gain. A 28-yard completion over the middle to Trey Miller set up first-and-goal, and after tackle-turned-fullback Nick Budd bulled down to the 1, Bodamer snuck in for the touchdown.
Johnsonburg (0-1) tried to counter with its own version of a spread no-huddle offense, but a quick three-and-out turned into disaster when the snap sailed past the punter, who was forced to down the ball on his own 5-yard line. Eight seconds and a Bodamer-to-Conway connection later, the score was 14-0 and the Gators were on their way.
Bodamer was an efficient 17-for-21 for 338 yards and five first-half touchdown passes – a trio to fellow All-State first-teamer Tyce Miller, including a rainbow which hit the senior receiver perfectly in stride for a 65-yard catch-and-run down the visitors’ sideline – and rushed for three more. Miller finished the game with seven catches for 185 yards, while Conway and Trey Miller, stepping into full-time starting roles this season, were also on the receiving end of scoring throws from Bodamer as the Gators rolled up a 48-0 halftime lead and 480 yards of total offense.
Focused on coaching the line while offensive coordinator Jason Luther called the plays, Port head coach Mike Bodamer knew his son was having a good game, but not just HOW good. “Wow,” he said, shaking his head with a smile when informed of Matt’s eight-touchdown night.
As talk turned to the receiving corps, he continued, “Tyce is amazing. Nick bummed up the shoulder a little bit; he had some nice catches to begin with, but was kind of slowed down with his shoulder, so hopefully he’ll be all right. And I told Trey at the start of the game – he basically just ran for us last year – I said, ‘Trey, this is a good position. You’re going to get the ball quite a bit.’ That first series, he had that first catch down on the goal line. When he came off, I said, ‘I told you, you’ve got to be ready to catch that ball.’ He caught them tonight and made some nice runs, so that was a good sign. I was kind of concerned about losing Chuck (Buchanan’s) position, but he did a good job tonight. So that’s a good benefit.”
Trent Neal led all rushers with 55 yards on seven attempts, lowering his shoulder to punish would-be tacklers on several strong carries. And when the Ram defense tried to key on him, the Gators unveiled a new wrinkle which should make the offense even more dangerous – an option play which left the other side of the field wide open on Bodamer’s 27-yard scamper for the game’s final score.
“Our kids did what they had to do offensively; it doesn’t seem like they missed a beat too much,” Mike Bodamer said. “Tyce had some really nice runs, we got the running game going and Trent had some nice runs. We put in that new zone read; that’s the couple Matt ran on. He reads that end, and everyone’s following Trent so Matt just keeps it and goes the other way. First time we ever ran that, so it wasn’t too bad.”
While the offense was racking up video-game numbers, the Gator defense was keeping the Rams bottled up on their own side of midfield, stuffing the running game and harassing first-time starting quarterback Frank Kocjancic into a four-sack, two-interception evening.
“I think the blitz had everything to do with that,” Schreiber said. “I think we did have some receivers that were wide open. With that spread offense, you’ve got to match up athlete-to-athlete, and they did that. We’re hoping to spread it out and maybe get a couple more athletes, maybe we could out-athlete another team. Obviously, we didn’t out-athlete Port. They chucked us on the line, our receivers couldn’t get open, plus our offensive line faltered a little bit tonight. It was the first really good look that we’ve seen. It’s a good football team.”
Mike Bodamer noted the strong play of linebackers Alex Gular and Johnny Sena and linemen Nick Budd, Christian Moses, and Victor Bandish, and mentioned that the combination of Johnsonburg’s thin 23-man roster and the warm evening also worked in his team’s favor.
“They have four or five good athletes, but they go no-huddle too and they don’t have any time to rest,” he said. “Defensively, I subbed as much as I could, and that really helps us – I have 16 kids I can play on defense, and they’re getting rest every other series. That’s beneficial.
“That definitely makes it tough (for them). A couple of their receivers I’d like to have; that No. 9 (Mitchell Holmberg) is a nice athlete, No. 14 (Kyle Sheldon) is a good athlete. Their quarterback, I think he’s out of position because of necessity, but he’s a good football player.”
With the season opener safely in the books, Port returns to Gator Field to face a solid Kane team in Saturday afternoon’s home opener (1:30 p.m., WHKS 94.9 FM, redzonemedia.com). The Wolves (1-0) put together a balanced performance in last week’s 35-13 win over Sheffield, with Sean Jordan tossing four touchdown passes to Jeff Kocjancic and running for another while Jonah Smith rushed for 121 yards and the defense sacked Wolverine quarterback Shequan Wright multiple times.
“Forget about this one and start with Kane,” Mike Bodamer said. “It’s going to be a good game. They’ve got some nice ballplayers, so we’ll have to be ready.”
At Johnsonburg, Aug. 31:
Port Allegany 27 21 6 0 – 54
Johnsonburg 0 0 0 0 – 0
PA – Bodamer 1 run (4 plays, 64 yards, 0:59), kick failed, 11:01
PA – Conway 5 pass from Bodamer (2 plays, 5 yards, 0:08), Bodamer run, 9:09
PA – Ty. Miller 24 pass from Bodamer (5 plays, 39 yards after Bodamer interception, 1:44), pass failed, 5:42
PA – Tr. Miller 18 pass from Bodamer (5 plays, 60 yards, 1:25), Kysor kick, 3:07
PA – Ty. Miller 65 pass from Bodamer (2 plays, 71 yards, 0:42), Kittilson kick, 9:46
PA – Bodamer 5 run (5 plays, 70 yards after Zak Tarr blocked punt, 2:42), Kysor kick, 6:09
PA – Ty. Miller 10 pass from Bodamer (8 plays, 75 yards, 3:11), Kysor kick, 0:13
Third Quarter (running clock)
PA – Bodamer 27 run (5 plays, 65 yards after Cory Burr interception, 3:37), kick blocked, 4:03
First downs 21 8
Total offense 490 74
Rushes-yds 29-139 18-14
Passing yds 351 60
Comp-Att-Int 19-23-0 10-26-3
Punts-avg. 1-41.0 6-27.7
Fumbles-lost 1-0 0-0
Penalties-yds 4-35 3-20
Time of Poss. 25:46 22:14
Rushing: Port Allegany – Neal 7-55, Seefeldt 4-40, Bodamer 9-25, Tanner 4-7, Tr. Miller 1-4, Budd 1-3, Shaffer 1-3, Gular 1-2, Lashway 1-0. Johnsonburg – Kocjancic 12-20, Robuck 3-15, Bickford 2-(-6), team 1-(-15).
Passing: Port Allegany – Bodamer 17-21-0-338, Seefeldt 2-2-0-13. Johnsonburg – Kocjancic 8-22-2-44, Cherry 2-4-1-16.
Receiving: Port Allegany – Ty. Miller 7-185, Tr. Miller 4-82, Conway 4-57, Poorman 1-13, Neal 1-8, Bova 1-6, Burr 1-0. Johnsonburg – Holmberg 4-33, Garvey 2-16, Sheldon 2-12, Myers 1-8, Bickford 1-(-9).
– Matt Bodamer’s eight-touchdown performance (five passing, three rushing) matched his career best from last year’s Allegheny Mountain League championship game against Brockway (four passing, three rushing, one interception return). His first pass of the night put him over 7,000 yards – one of just 13 Pennsylvania prep quarterbacks to achieve that milestone – and he finished the game with 7,335, moving past Pat Bostick (Manheim Township/Pitt) into 10th on the all-time list. Next up: No. 9 Ron Powlus (Berwick/Notre Dame), at 7,342.
– Bodamer also moved two notches up the PIAA career touchdown list, currently standing in seventh place with 90 behind Derek Buganza’s D-9 record (95) and all-time leader Kyle Smith’s 118. It was the fifth time he’s thrown for at least five scores in a game; his best is six, set against Smethport and Brockway (in the D-9 playoff semifinal) last season.
– Tyce Miller tied a personal best with three touchdown catches, matching performances against Brockway (Week 2) and Otto-Eldred in 2011.
– The Gators forced three turnovers, all interceptions, while hanging onto the ball themselves. Picks by Matt Bodamer and Cory Burr set up scoring drives, while the one by Tre Garzel allowed the Gators to run out the clock in the fourth quarter.
– Victor Bandish recorded two of Port’s four sacks, with Nick Budd and Trent Neal combining for one and Dylan Kio the other.