PORT ALLEGANY GATORS (3-0)
RIDGWAY ELKERS (1-2)
Sept. 20, 2012
Three games into the 2012 Allegheny Mountain League football season, Port Allegany is living up to the lofty expectations placed on them this year.
Last Friday in Ridgway, neither a rainy night nor the Elkers defense had a chance to slow down the Gators’ aerial assault as Port scored on seven of eight first-half possessions to cruise to a 55-14 victory in an AML crossover game.
“We win games, but our goal is to try to play perfect. I think that first half, we were pretty darn close to doing about everything that we needed to do,” Gator coach Mike Bodamer said following his squad’s 12th consecutive win over a District 9 opponent.
This one came with an added bonus – the D-9 career passing touchdown record for Gator quarterback Matt Bodamer. Needing two to tie and three to pass 2010 Brockway grad Derek Buganza’s mark of 95, Bodamer and his corps of talented receivers took care of business before the first quarter was out, with the senior quarterback sandwiching two touchdown tosses to tight end Ricky Bova around a 60-yard catch-and-run by Tyce Miller. And they didn’t stop there, adding four more scores in the second stanza while the defense was stopping the Elkers’ Wing-T in its tracks to take a shutout into the locker room for the third week in a row.
By the time the clock ran out to end the half – with yet another touchdown pass, Bodamer’s seventh of the night and the third to Nick Conway – the Gators had piled up 344 yards of total offense and a 48-0 lead despite holding the ball for an astoundingly low 4 minutes, 47 seconds of play.
“They were blitzing seven or eight kids on every play. I don’t know what they expect, but Matt’s going to pick them apart,” Mike Bodamer said. “The line did a great job holding the kids out, and kids were wide open all over the place and made some nice runs after the catch.”
In just over a half of play before the first string gave way to the reserves, Bodamer completed 16 of 18 passes for 282 yards, with those seven touchdowns giving him an even 100, good enough for third on the all-time PIAA list. Miller finished with five catches for 102 yards – his fifth 100-yard game, and one which put him over the 2,000-yard milestone for his career – with Conway adding 86 yards and a career-high three TDs on four receptions. Bova chipped in with 46 yards on a trio of catches, while fullback Alex Gular, filling in after starter Trent Neal went out, scored his first touchdown of the season on a 25-yard screen pass.
“They needed me to step in,” Gular said. “I didn’t really think Matt was going to throw one to me, but I ran the route like the coaches told me to, and it was there.”
With the two PAHS track stars on the outside of the formation – “Fast and Faster,” assistant coach Nate Zitnik suggested – Bova and H-backs Trey Miller and Tyler Shaffer slipping into the seams, and the backs circling out of the backfield, few area teams have the manpower to cover the Gators, allowing Bodamer to pick and choose his targets at will.
“We just find openings, and Matt gets us the ball,” Tyce Miller said.
“It makes it easy for me,” Bodamer said. “I get a lot more credit than I deserve, I think. Because of our line, there was no pressure all night. And these guys are just amazing athletes for our school district – and, as you can see, for around here.”
The D-9 record-breaker came on a short toss over the left side to Bova, who hauled in the ball at the Ridgway 25 and broke into the clear, leaving several would-be tacklers in his wake on the way to the end zone for the 32-yard score.
“After the first broken tackle, I thought maybe,” Bodamer said of watching the tight end rumble to paydirt after his throw. “I didn’t know if his speed was going to kick in …”
“I was faaaaast,” Bova cracked as several teammates chuckled.
Meanwhile, with Gular all over the field on defense and Nick Budd and Brandon Raymo anchoring a five-man line to counter Ridgway’s running game, the Elkers were stuck in reverse for most of the first three quarters before finally managing to put some points on the board against the Gators’ second string.
“We knew our offense this year coming in was going to keep scoring. Our goal was to play a fast-paced defense just like our offense. The first three games we’ve been doing extremely well,” Mike Bodamer said. “Last week we gave up some passes against Kane, but our kids fly all over the place. Team speed definitely helps. They’ve been playing well on the defensive side.
“Alex is a terror. He’s basically my defensive captain. He just plays so hard – a little crazy once in a while,” he added with a grin, “but Alex is just all over the place. Defensive line, Nick and Bubba do a really good job and Rex Windsor plays a good end. Christian Moses is a little young, but he plays awful aggressive. The secondary did well tonight; they didn’t seems to give up too much passing on us.”
With the rest of the AML North struggling, the Gators (3-0) head to Coudersport on Friday night with a two-game lead already in hand. The Falcons are 1-2 after being surprised by Johnsonburg, 22-14, on their home turf last weekend.
“You’ve got to stop (Mitch) Freeman and (Caden) Whitman. That’s basically their whole offense,” Mike Bodamer said. “Mitch runs the ball hard. He’s a good runner. Caden’s been banged up, I don’t know how he’s feeling, but he’s a lethal weapon. Definitely got to stop their run game. Their new quarterback throws a lot of roll passes, but I don’t know how much he’s going to depend on his throwing.
“It’ll be a good game. I don’t know what happened (in the loss to Johnsonburg), but I don’t expect that to happen next week. Could’ve been turnovers or whatever … If it’s a nice day, those two backs are tough to bring down, so we’ll have to have our defense ready again.”
And like their coach, the Gator players sounded like they’re not about to take anyone lightly, adding their own final thoughts as they shouldered their gear and headed for the bus:
“Something to prove.”
“On to the next one.”
“Go to work, baby.”
“Celebrate it tonight, forget about it tomorrow.”
“One step at a time.”
NOTES: Port’s captains were Bodamer, Budd, Conway, and Tyce Miller, while McKnight, Logan Wickett, Joe Jaques, and Cortland Smith handled those duties for Ridgway … Although the run-heavy Elker offense didn’t provide many opportunities to rush the passer, Gular and Raymo both recorded third-and-long sacks in the first quarter to force Ridgway to punt … Both teams turned the ball over twice via fumble. Logan Warnick and Billy Downey each set up a Gator scoring drive with their takeaways, while Nate Steis and John Mitchell recovered for Ridgway.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS: How dominant has Port been on both sides of the ball? Try 122-0, the combined halftime score of their first three games. In fact, all 15 of Bodamer’s touchdown passes have come before the break, with the Gators merely looking to run out the clock for the final two quarters … Port’s longest possession of the first half lasted just 1:20, with single-play scoring drives of five and seven seconds.
LOOKING AHEAD: After snapping a seven-game Falcon winning streak in the long series, Port has won the last two games against Coudy by a combined score of 88-15 … Friday night’s 7 p.m. broadcast should be available on WHKS 94.9 and at Red Zone Media.
At Ridgway, Sept. 14:
|Score by quarters:|
|Port Allegany Gators||21||27||7||0||–||55|
PA – Bova 5 pass from Bodamer (1 play, 5 yards after turnover on downs, 0:05), Brookens kick, 10:48
PA – Ty. Miller 60 pass from Bodamer (3 plays, 64 yards, 0:45), Brookens kick, 7:30
PA – Bova 32 pass from Bodamer (3 plays, 82 yards, 0:29), Brookens kick, 3:00
PA – Conway 23 pass from Bodamer (5 plays, 71 yards, 1:20), Brookens kick, 10:51
PA – Gular 25 pass from Bodamer (4 plays, 42 yards, 1:02), kick failed, 7:21
PA – Conway 18 pass from Bodamer (1 play, 18 yards after Logan Warnick fumble recovery on kickoff, 0:07), Brookens kick, 7:07
PA – Conway 31 pass from Bodamer (5 plays, 66 yards, 0:59), Brookens kick, 0:00
Third Quarter (running clock)
PA – Seefeldt 13 run (8 plays, 66 yards after Billy Downey fumble recovery, 4:03), Brookens kick, 1:38
R – McKnight 71 run (1 play, 71 yards, 0:33), McKnight pass from MacDonald, 1:05
R – McKnight 41 run (3 plays, 74 yards, 1:25), kick failed, 9:17
|Time of Possession||16:31||31:29|
Rushing: Port Allegany – Bodamer 3-50, Gular 4-41, Seefeldt 4-31, Tanner 6-22, Neal 2-1, Garzel 1-(-9). Ridgway – McKnight 9-165, S. Delhunty 9-72, Gardner 6-27, Stark 1-12, Cerroni 2-10, Lineberger 3-9, Pierce 1-2, Wickett 4-0, team 1-(-11), MacDonald 6-(-41).
Passing: Port Allegany – Bodamer 16-18-0-284, Seefeldt 2-2-0-10, Garzel 1-1-0-24. Ridgway – MacDonald 2-6-0-7, Cerroni 1-1-0-11.
Receiving: Port Allegany – Ty. Miller 5-102, Conway 4-86, Bova 3-46, Gular 2-44, Gaines 1-23, Burr 2-6, Tanner 1-6. Shaffer 1-4. Ridgway – Sorge 1-11, S. Delhunty 1-10, McKnight 1-(-3).
(Helmets courtesy of the Pennsylvania Helmet Project.)