PORT ALLEGANY GATORS (7-0)
SHEFFIELD WOLVERINES (2-5)
Oct. 18, 2012
Port Allegany’s 69-30 Allegheny Mountain League football victory over Sheffield last Saturday afternoon was filled with highlight-reel footage, from long touchdown passes to even longer interception returns, but the most memorable play of all was a simple 10-yard toss from Matt Bodamer to Tyce Miller six seconds into the second quarter.
Simple, because the two All-State players have put in hundreds of hours of practice to make it look easy. Memorable, because both the PIAA touchdown-pass and District 9 touchdown-reception career records fell as Miller hauled in Bodamer’s throw along the right sideline, ducked a defender, and sidestepped past the pylon into the end zone.
“We got that fumble (recovery by Nick Budd at the Sheffield 10), Matt looked at me and said, ‘I’m throwing it to Tyce.’ I’m like, ‘Okay.’ I think they had that planned,” Port coach and proud father Mike Bodamer said.
“Yeah, we had a conversation about that,” Matt said, smiling. “It was pretty cool.”
With his 119th touchdown pass – and third of the game – the Gator quarterback broke the state record he’d briefly shared with Lancaster Catholic’s Kyle Smith, while Miller’s 31st scoring catch claimed sole possession of the D-9 mark from Clarion-Limestone’s Brad Beggs.
“The kid busts his rear,” Mike Bodamer said. “From April to July, he went to 11 different camps this past summer. Can’t ask for a kid to try harder. And all through his career – his ninth grade year it was his brother and Lucas Kline and then Camrin Stuckey, and then last year Charlie (Buchanan) and Trevor (Neal). Now he has Tyce and Nick (Conway) and Ricky (Bova) and all those guys, so it’s definitely a team effort. And the big boys up front – Nick Budd’s been with him all four years. They work together as a team.”
The milestone moment opened the floodgates, as Port rebounded from an early Sheffield pick-six – the first points they’d allowed in the first half all season – to explode for six second-quarter touchdowns and a 62-14 halftime lead to put the game out of reach.
Shrugging off a slow start on their opening drive, the Gators cashed in on Bodamer’s 1-yard sneak to take the early lead. A quick three-and-out and a short Wolverine punt put the ball at midfield, setting up a 25-yard Bodamer-to-Miller connection for the first of their three scores on the day.
Then, with Port driving deep into Sheffield territory yet again, a rare mistake by the reigning Big 30 Player of the Year: About to be sacked, Bodamer tried to loft a screen pass over the rush. Instead, he found Wolverine defensive end Tony Burt with nothing between him and the Gator goal line 75 yards away.
“Not a smart play on his part, but only his second interception through Week 7. We’ll take that,” coach Bodamer said.
Undeterred, the Port offense went back to work, with Conway, Trent Neal, Bova, and Trey Miller all pulling down passes and Neal adding a 14-yard run before Bodamer found Bova alone in the corner of the end zone to regain a two-touchdown lead.
Budd came out of a pileup at the Sheffield 10 with the football just two plays later, setting the stage for the record-breaking score, and the Gators were rolling.
Already trailing 26-7, Sheffield finally managed its initial first down of the game early in the second frame, but couldn’t keep the drive alive as linebacker Alex Gular raced deep downfield to break up a third-and-long pass. The Gators turned to the ground game on their next two possessions, pounding out a nine-play, 78-yard drive capped off by Neal’s 8-yard rumble, then calling on the “jumbo” package to punch in another score by tackle-turned-fullback Budd.
The Wolverines weren’t done yet, though, as starting quarterback Shequan Wright found Brendan Winslow open behind the defense for a 65-yard bomb to draw within 41-14 with 3:31 left in the half.
“They sent four deep, and they just caught us in a bad coverage,” coach Bodamer said, blaming himself for the score.
It didn’t take long for the Gators to answer. Dropping back on first down, Matt Bodamer lofted a pass deep down the Sheffield sideline to his left, where Tyce Miller outleaped one Wolverine defender, spun away from a second would-be tackler, and raced in for a matching 65-yard score.
“I kind of just put my hands up and it landed in my hands, stepped over each of them and started running. It was pretty funny,” Miller said.
Bodamer had a few different words to describe it.
“That was absolutely amazing,” he said. “I underthrew him and I was kind of down, and then he went up and got it. He’s ridiculous, as good as he is. I’ve never seen hands like he has.”
And as Sheffield found out to their dismay, the Gator quarterback knows a little about catching footballs as well as tossing them. Playing deep at safety in the final minute of the half, Bodamer intercepted one pass and ran it back for a 65-yard touchdown with 0:35 left, then managed to top that with a 95-yard return for another score. Gathering backup quarterback Adam Higby’s Hail Mary attempt as the clock expired, he started down the Sheffield sideline, then cut back across the field to pick up a convoy of blockers more than happy to escort him to the end zone.
“I’m always trying to make plays. I don’t get to be on special teams, so when I’m in, even though it’s frowned upon for me to try to run there, I like to try to run it back,” he said. “It just happened to work – I got good blocks. I was hoping they wouldn’t catch me from behind. That’s all I was thinking. I was still tired from the pick-six right before that.”
Game firmly in hand, there was one more order of business to conduct before the starters took a seat, with Bodamer finding Tyce Miller once more to give the Gator receiver the D-9 career yardage record in addition to the touchdown mark. Miller finished the game with 2,462 yards, eclipsing the 2,445 put up by Brockway’s Mike Vervoort.
“He’s had a great career,” coach Bodamer said. “(He and Matt) work so well together, and he’s basically done it in two years – he played a little bit as a sophomore, but basically last year and this year – and he’s another kid that’s worked his rear end off to be that good.”
Neal finished the drive with his second touchdown run of the game, and backup quarterback Jordan Seefeldt came in on the next series, with the rest of the reserves joining him for the fourth quarter. Sheffield’s starters tacked on two more touchdowns in the final two minutes of the game to complete the scoring.
Next up is a visit to Cameron County, where the Gators (7-0) haven’t won since 2004.
“They’ve got a decent run game and their quarterback likes to roll, so we’ll have to contain him and keep putting up the points,” coach Bodamer said of the Red Raiders (1-6), who are coming off a 20-0 loss to Otto-Eldred.
After that, Brockway visits in Week 9, with the Rovers (7-0) likely to make the same trip north for the AML Championship Game rematch seven days later. And after that …
“We said it from day one, we want to go undefeated,” Matt Bodamer said. “We need to go farther than we did last year. Because last year, we didn’t think we had a chance against Sharpsville, but we should have won that game … We’re shooting to go all the way. I think we have that kind of determination.”
NOTES: Bodamer (7 carries-117 yards) and Neal (13-101) hit the century mark in the same game for the second time this season, matching their performance against Kane … Port won the turnover battle 4-3, as Budd and Tyler Bee each recovered a fumble to go with Bodamer’s two pick-sixes. Burt, Ricky Prosen, and Mister Ussery each intercepted a pass for the Wolverines … Gular notched Port’s only sack, forcing a fumble the Wolverines scrambled to recover just before halftime, while Tyler Fitzgerald and Ken Marshall each recorded a takedown for Sheffield.
NUMBERS: With a 27-yard pass to Conway late in the first quarter, Bodamer became the third quarterback in PIAA history to hit 9,000 career yards. He now has 9,188, just 61 shy of Brendan Nosovitch (Allentown Central Catholic) for second place and 564 behind Brockway’s Derek Buganza for the state record … Both Bodamer (2,191 passing yards, 35 TDs) and Miller (822 receiving yards, 14 TDs) lead the state in those categories, according to statistics supplied to MaxPreps.com.
LOOKING AHEAD: Cameron County is 6-4 in its last 10 games against Port, with the Gators’ 54-6 victory snapping a six-game Red Raider winning streak in the series … The broadcast should be available on WHKS 94.9 FM and at redzonemedia.com, with scoring updates also available on Twitter by following @LChase_RA.
At Sheffield, Oct. 13:
|Score by quarters:
|Port Allegany Gators
PA – Bodamer 1 run (11 plays, 77 yards, 3:32), kick blocked, 8:28
PA – Ty. Miller 25 pass from Bodamer (4 plays, 49 yards, 1:09), Conway from Bodamer, 5:55
S – Burt 75 interception return, Wright kick, 2:32
PA – Bova 4 pass from Bodamer (6 plays, 67 yards, 2:04), pass failed, 0:28
PA – Ty. Miller 10 pass from Bodamer (1 play, 10 yards after Budd fumble recovery, 0:06), run failed, 11:50
PA – Neal 8 run (9 plays, 78 yards, 2:47), Ty. Miller from Bodamer, 6:18
PA – Budd 1 run (4 plays, 55 yards, 1:14), Kysor kick, 4:28
S – Winslow 65 pass from Wright (2 plays, 64 yards, 0:57), Wright kick, 3:31
PA – Ty. Miller 10 pass from Bodamer (1 play, 65 yards, 0:23), Kysor kick, 3:08
PA – Bodamer 65 interception return, Kysor kick, 0:35
PA – Bodamer 95 interception return, Kysor kick, 0:00
Third Quarter (running clock)
PA – Neal 10 run (7 plays, 64 yards, 4:03), Kysor kick, 5:50
S – Johnston 5 pass from Wright (4 plays, 42 yards after Prosen interception, 2:20), Wright run, 1:53
S – Ussery 55 interception return, Wright run, 0:55
|Time of Possession
Rushing: Port Allegany – Bodamer 7-117, Neal 13-101, Shaffer 4-26, Seefeldt 6-7, Tanner 1-3, Budd 1-1. Sheffield – Johnston 9-23, D. Smith 5-16, Reynolds 4-7, Wright 6-(-9).
Passing: Port Allegany – Bodamer 19-26-1-298, Seefeldt 5-7-2-27. Sheffield – Wright 6-13-0-135, Higby 2-8-2-23.
Receiving: Port Allegany – Ty. Miller 9-176, Conway 5-77, Bova 3-32, Neal 2-18, Gaines 2-15, Tr. Miller 1-8, Shaffer 1-0, Lashway 1-(-1). Sheffield – Winslow 1-65, Fitzgerald 2-37, Reynolds 2-28, McNeal 2-23, Johnston 1-5.
(Helmets courtesy of the Pennsylvania Helmet Project.)