Twice as nice: Gators repeat as AML champs

BACK-TO-BACK: A happy congregation of Gators poses with the Allegheny Mountain League championship plaque they’ll be hanging on to for another year, following Port Allegany’s 54-7 win over Brockway.
(Photo credit: Pam Fischer)

BROCKWAY ROVERS (8-2)

7

PORT ALLEGANY GATORS (10-0)

54

Lori Chase
Nov. 8, 2012

The means may have been different, but Saturday’s Allegheny Mountain League championship-game rematch at Port Allegany ended with the same result as last week’s regular-season finale:

Gators by a knockout.

Visiting the end zone multiple times via both land and air – and adding a couple more on defense – Port (10-0) rolled to a 54-7 victory over Brockway (8-2), successfully defending the AML crown for the first time since the league instituted the two-division format and championship game in 1986.

“The kids just came out to play today,” coach Mike Bodamer said. “I was extremely worried this week about the field conditions – last year we played in the mud and the cold and we didn’t do so well – but the kids came out and responded. The field definitely wasn’t as bad as I expected it to be, so that was a good benefit for us, but they just did their job.”

The game began as all 10 have this season, with the Gators hitting paydirt on their opening drive. The Rovers gambled and failed on the opening kickoff, as lineman Nate Lowery recovered the onsides attempt at the Port 47. A long touchdown run by Matt Bodamer was called back on offsetting penalties, but two plays later, the Gator quarterback spotted Nick Conway a step behind the defense for a 42-yard score, the first of three six-point connections between the two on the afternoon.

A STEP AHEAD: Nick Conway stretches the ball across the goal line for the first of his three touchdown catches in Saturday’s AML Championship Game win.
(Photo credit: Pam Fischer)

The teams traded possessions, with Brockway reaching the 50 before being forced to punt and Port turning it over on downs. The Rovers were on the move again on their next drive, nearing midfield, when Bodamer flipped the momentum by ripping the ball away from Kyle Titler and racing 45 yards for a touchdown to give the Gators a 14-0 first-quarter lead.

“They were driving right down the field. I don’t know how Matt did it – he just kind of came up and took it, and I saw him running,” coach Bodamer said. “That was just a good heads-up play by Matt to do that.”

Brockway responded, forcing a rare punt the next time the Gators had the ball and putting together an 83-yard march to get on the scoreboard. Rover quarterback Alec Shaffer-Doane was 3-for-3 on the drive, hitting Titler for the diving touchdown to bring the visitors back within seven, and perhaps creating a little doubt in the air along with a few flurries as the Port offense took the field.

Neither snow or doubt lasted long. It took the Gators exactly 56 seconds of gametime to reply, with Conway breaking into the clear and waving to get Bodamer’s attention before hauling in a 49-yard toss to regain a two-score lead. The catch also pushed him over 1,000 yards for the season, joining running mate Tyce Miller in that exclusive club.

“He and Tyce are both neck-and-neck with everything; Tyce has the yardage, Nick has the touchdown catches. They just both work so well together,” coach Bodamer said. “Like I’ve said all year, they just kind of look at Matt and he knows what they’re doing, and he just throws it up to them. Big-play makers.”

Seconds later, the Port defense turned in yet another big play of its own, with Victor Bandish drilling Shaffer-Doane to force a toss that linemate Rex Windsor easily intercepted, rambling down to the Brockway 18 before the Rovers managed to drag him down. The Gators couldn’t capitalize, losing the ball on downs, but a quick three-and-out set up a 41-yard punt return by Tyler Shaffer to set up his 28-yard touchdown run.

Brockway answered with another long drive, but the defense stiffened and Shaffer-Doane’s fourth-down pass sailed out of the back of the end zone to turn the ball over at the Port 7.

But if the Rovers had any hopes of pinning the Gators deep, they were erased just two plays later as Shaffer headed toward the corner, turned on the jets, and sprinted 89 yards for his second score of the quarter to give the Gators a 34-7 halftime lead.

AFTERBURNER: Tyler Shaffer races down the Brockway sideline for the first of his two touchdown runs.
(Photo credit: Pam Fischer)

“Nick Conway made a great block to seal the outside and I just headed for the sideline, hoping nobody was going to catch me. Luckily I have one of the fastest guys in the state to block for me on the outside,” the junior running back said.

“Shaffer played big for us today, made a couple of nice runs for us,” coach Bodamer said. “I think that was kind of the straw that broke the camel’s back, those runs by Shaffer. Definitely nice to see that.”

With starter Trent Neal grinding out the tough yards up the middle and Shaffer finding room to run around the end, the Gators’ tandem is giving opposing District 9 defensive coordinators something else to worry about in addition to their high-flying passing attack.

“The coaches have been calling it ‘Thunder and Lightning,’” said Shaffer, who led all rushers with 148 yards on just five carries. “I think I’ve been adapting pretty well, and the coaches are giving me the chance to do it. So I’m thankful for that, for sure. And it wouldn’t be possible without the line – we have the one of the best lines in our district, I think, and they do a great job of sealing their men and making it able for me to get around the outside.”

Port was off to the races again early in the third quarter, with Conway catching his third touchdown pass of the day and 19th of the season from Bodamer to invoke the PIAA mercy rule, but the standout senior had one more big play left in his arsenal. With the Rovers driving, playmaking linebacker Alex Gular forced a fumble, and there was no catching Conway once the District 9 hurdles champ scooped up the loose ball and sprinted down the Gator sideline for an 80-yard score.

“Alex tackles so well. He always seems to come in there and give that punch at the end. He’s been able to punch the ball out a couple of times the last few weeks,” coach Bodamer said of Gular, by far the team’s leading tackler.

Conway’s score was the first of three consecutive takeaways and five overall by the Gator D, with Matt Bodamer picking off a pass and Bandish snaring another fumble to end any last Brockway threat, and R.J. Veilleux tacked on a 1-yard touchdown run to complete the scoring as the Port starters doused their head coach with the contents of a Gatorade bucket.

“That was Johnny (Sena), he was the mastermind,” Bodamer said, chuckling. “He came up all teary-eyed, shaking my hand and thanking me, and they got me from behind. It’s just fun for the kids. They’re such a good group of kids, it’s been fun.”

FORECAST: SHOWERS — As Port Allegany offensive coordinator Jason Luther (left) and players Ricky Bova (7) and Nick Conway look on, head coach Mike Bodamer (right) reacts after the traditional celebratory Gatorade-bucket dousing courtesy of running back/linebacker Trent Neal.
(Photo credit: Pam Fischer)

But while the AML championship plaque will spend another 365 days resting safely in the Gators’ trophy case, they know they’re not done yet.

“It’s nice for the kids, it’s nice for the school, but we have bigger aspirations,” coach Bodamer said. “We just keep moving. Nice to celebrate, but we’ve got bigger things.”

NOTES: The AML crown is Port’s fourth in the championship-game era and 11th overall, adding to titles from 1953, 1954, 1962, 1967, 1968, 1978, 1980, 1986, 1988, and 2011 … Windsor recorded the Gators’ only sack, catching Shaffer-Doane for a 7-yard loss on the last play of the first quarter, while Morgan Murray and Tyler Kuhn each notched takedowns of Bodamer … Conway’s fumble recovery was his team-leading third of the season … The AML All-Star team was announced on Tuesday night, with the Gators’ Victor Bandish, Matt Bodamer, Nick Budd, Nick Conway, Alex Gular, Tyce Miller, Billy Raymo, and Rex Windsor all earning selection.

NUMBERS: The Gators’ quick-strike offense was on full display, with their four first-half scoring drives averaging just over a minute each and none lasting longer than 1:27 … After finishing 7-for-13 for 142 yards, Bodamer now has a state-leading 2,937 yards and 44 touchdown passes this season and 9,934 and 129 for his career, and also surpassed the 2,000-yard rushing milestone during the win … The tandem of Tyce Miller (57 catches-1,071 yards, 15 TDs) and Conway (51-1,028, 19 TDs) also continues to rank high on the state leaderboard.

LOOKING AHEAD: With Coudersport and Allegheny-Clarion Valley choosing not to participate in the District 9 playoffs after finishing with 3-6 records, top-seeded Port gets the weekend off, and will meet the winner of the Union-Elk County Catholic game at a neutral site on Nov. 16 or 17.

At Port Allegany, Nov. 3:

Score by quarters:
Brockway Rovers 0 7 0 0 7
Port Allegany Gators 14 20 14 6 54

First Quarter
PA – Conway 42 pass from Bodamer (4 plays, 53 yards, 1:27), Brookens kick, 10:33
PA – Bodamer 45 fumble return, Brookens kick, 4:40

Second Quarter
B – Titler 25 pass from Shaffer-Doane (8 plays, 83 yards, 2:45), Esposito kick, 10:14
PA – Conway 49 pass from Bodamer (5 plays, 63 yards, 0:59), Brookens kick, 9:15
PA – Shaffer 28 run (2 plays, 37 yards, 0:49), Brookens kick, 4:41
PA – Shaffer 89 run (2 plays, 93 yards, 0:46), kick failed, 1:41

Third Quarter
PA – Conway 20 pass from Bodamer (7 plays, 43 yards, 9:03), Ty. Miller from Bodamer, 9:03
(running clock)
PA – Conway 80 fumble return, kick blocked, 5:30

Fourth Quarter
PA – Veilleux 1 run (8 plays, 44 yards, 4:51), run failed, 1:54

Team Statistics: B PA
First downs 9 15
Total Yards 223 412
Rushes-Yards 33-103 36-237
Passing Yards 120 175
Comp-Att-Int 8-24-2 9-15-0
Fumbles-Lost 4-3 1-0
Punts-Avg.  4-28.8 2-38.5
Penalties-Yards 5-50 5-49
Total Plays 57 51
Time of Possession 25:30 22:30

Individual statistics:
Rushing:
Brockway – Melillo 16-61, Benson 6-35, Titler 2-7, Shaffer-Doane 8-1, Foradori 1-(-1). Port Allegany – Shaffer 5-148, Neal 11-48, Bodamer 12-31, Seefeldt 5-7, Ty. Miller 1-2, Veilleux 1-1, Tanner 1-0.

Passing: Brockway – Shaffer-Doane 8-22-2-120, Martini 0-2-0-0. Port Allegany – Bodamer 7-13-0-142, Seefeldt 2-2-0-33.

Receiving: Brockway – Benson 4-38, Perrin 2-30, Melillo 1-27, Titler 1-25. Port Allegany – Conway 4-113, Poorman 1-36, Ty. Miller 2-16, Tr. Miller 1-13, Gaines 1-(-3).

(Helmets courtesy of the Pennsylvania Helmet Project.)

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