Gator football takes top honors at Olean Times Herald Big 30 Testimonial

AWARD NIGHT: Front row, from left: Mike Bodamer (Coach of the Year), Tyce Miller, Alex Gular, Matt Bodamer (Player of the Year). Back row: Nick Conway, Nick Budd (Unsung Lineman Award). All five players were named to the Olean Times Herald Big 30 All-Star Team, Bodamer, Budd, and Miller for the second consecutive year. Miller is holding the plaque awarded to the top team in the Times Herald’s large-school poll.
(Photo: Pam Fischer)

A strong Port Allegany presence gave the 65th annual Olean Times Herald Big 30 Testimonial a distinct Gator flair, with a quintet of All-Star players, family members, and coaches making the trip north to the Knights of Columbus banquet hall in Olean last Wednesday night.

Considering how much hardware they brought back with them, maybe they should’ve taken the equipment truck, too.

After the unbeaten Gators collected the plaque for topping the OTH ‘s large-school poll for the second consecutive season and Nick Budd was named the E.B. Fitzpatrick Memorial Unsung Lineman of the Year, it was time for the evening’s two biggest awards.

And to almost no one’s surprise, it was a night to remember for the father-son duo of Matt and Mike Bodamer, with the record-shattering Gator quarterback becoming just the second two-time Gary Sage Memorial Big 30 Player of the Year while the elder Bodamer accepted the plaque as the Alfred J. Bunnell/Rod Rohl Memorial Coach of the Year.

“I don’t know how much I really deserve this. There’s a lot of great coaches out there,” Mike Bodamer said after outpolling a pair of previous winners, Randolph’s Pat Slater and Ellicotville’s Tim Bergan, for the award. “To me, I’ve been preaching to my team the whole season that it is a team effort, and with our situation this year that is definitely true. If you have 17 seniors and you have 10 starting on both sides of the ball, fellow coaches out there know that makes it awful easy.

“I had extremely good senior leadership this year, and the coaching staff did an outstanding job. Jason Luther is in charge of the offense; all those numbers that we’ve been putting up, that’s because of the hard work he’s been doing. Coach (Bob) Rankin is with me here tonight; he works with the linebackers and running backs. Coach (Nate) Zitnik has done a wonderful job with our receivers over the last few years. Mr. Bienkowski’s worked with the linemen. So it’s definitely a team effort. I should take a chainsaw and cut the plaque up and hand it out, but I think I’ll just take a picture and give them a picture of it.

“I think our offense has done an outstanding job, and our defense has played a lot better this year. If we could just find a quarterback who could throw the ball, maybe we could do a little better,” he deadpanned.

As the room erupted in laughter, he held the plaque up in the direction of his players and concluded his remarks, “Guys, this is for you. Congratulations.”

In contrast to the three-man race to pick the top coach, there was no real debate for Player of the Year honors, with the younger Bodamer the consensus choice after breaking the Pennsylvania records for career passing yardage and touchdowns. He joins the late Tim Myers, the Johnsonburg quarterback who won in 1986 and 1987 before moving on to play at Clarion University, as the lone back-to-back winners of the award.

“It’s pretty cool to have my name up there,” Matt Bodamer said, “but having a team like I did last year and I have this year sure helps a lot. I would never take all the credit – I definitely don’t deserve all the credit – but it’s a pretty cool thing seeing all the other names up there.”

And while he was happy to have Budd, Nick Conway, Alex Gular, and Tyce Miller join him on the Big 30 All-Star Team, he wouldn’t have minded seeing a few other familiar faces on there, too.

“In my opinion we always deserve more, because there are more kids on our team that are just outstanding,” he said. “Alex on defense definitely deserved it, Nick and Tyce, Nick Budd … I mean, Tyce and Nick, I wish there was a wide receiver award for them, because having those two on the outside is the best threat you can have.”

Gular was one of five nominees for the Lou Foy Defensive Player of the Year Award, which went to Randolph’s Cody Oldro.

“Alex has been a tremendous defensive player for us,” Mike Bodamer said. “If you have Alex in there just tearing up everybody, you can just kind of sit back and watch him play. Alex has really been the force in that defense.”

Allegany-Limestone won the Leon Abbott Memorial Sportsmanship Award, while Randolph claimed the top spot in the final Times Herald small-school poll.

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