Gators’ quest for PIAA title ends in Western Final

PORT ALLEGANY GATORS (13-1)

12

CLAIRTON BEARS (15-0)

44

Lori Chase
Dec. 13, 2012

Trent Neal burst into the end zone from five yards out, and Port Allegany lined up for a two-point conversion to tie the score midway through the second quarter of Friday night’s PIAA Class A Western Final.

A buzz rumbled through the crowd at Deer Lakes High School. Could this possibly be the night Clairton’s state-record 61-game winning streak came to an improbable end against a team that Port head coach Mike Bodamer joked was probably a 60-point underdog?

The Gators gave it their best shot, holding the mighty Bears scoreless in the first quarter and trailing by just 10 points at halftime at foggy Lancer Stadium, but the District 7 powerhouse reasserted its dominance after the break. Led by stars Tyler Boyd and Terrish Webb, Clairton scored on all four second-half possessions to cruise into its fifth consecutive state championship game with a 44-12 victory.

“We did our best,” Bodamer said. “Just met a Goliath, and David didn’t beat him this time.”

Boyd flashed the talent that has multiple major-college coaches knocking on his door, rushing 15 times for a game-high 105 yards and two touchdowns and passing for another one to fellow Division 1 recruit Webb, who finished with five catches for 132 yards.

And when the game was still in doubt early in the third quarter, with Port desperately trying to keep the score within reach at 16-6, there was little doubt who was getting the ball. Boyd on a lateral from quarterback Armani Ford for seven yards. Boyd out of the wildcat for another 10. And Boyd picking his way through the entire Gator defense on a spectacular 33-yard touchdown run, starting to his right, cutting back across the field and diving for the left pylon. The two-point conversion made it 24-6, and the Bears were on their way back to Hershey for next Friday’s state final.

“We told them we were in the game,” Bodamer said of his halftime message to the team. “I said the big thing was the opening kickoff in the second half, if we could stop them, but they just came out and ran the ball right down our throats. We tackled real poorly in the second half, made way too many hand tackles.

“Boyd came out with a couple of those – I mean, we had him stopped on that one touchdown run. We had two guys on him in the backfield, and he broke it and went all the way back across the grain and scored. That’s the type of kid he is. He just breaks games wide open.

“Nick Budd came off and I just looked at him and said, ‘Boy, that kid’s got moves.’ Nick said, ‘Yeah, I can’t even touch him.’ That’s why he’s a Division 1 prospect. He definitely looks the part.”

While Boyd and Webb garner the headlines, it was the Bears’ overall team speed that contained Port’s prolific offense for the first time all season, flowing to the ballcarrier on running plays and making life miserable for Matt Bodamer and his receivers. The Gator quarterback was under heavy pressure all night, finishing 12-for-24 for 191 yards, one touchdown, and a pair of interceptions.

“Even their defensive ends were beating our tackles upfield,” Mike Bodamer said. “Matt couldn’t get outside, and when he stepped up inside they had the linebacker standing there. So he definitely didn’t scramble like usual, but they’re three-time state champs for a reason.”

The Gators gave as good as they got for most of the first half, earning a measure of respect for the team from lightly-regarded District 9. A big hit by Alex Gular forced a drive-killing incompletion the first time Clairton had the ball, and Port had a golden opportunity to start the second quarter when Boyd’s knee touched down at his own 27 after a low punt snap. But the Bears cranked up the heat on Bodamer, hitting him on consecutive incompletions, and the Gators turned the ball over on downs.

Clairton struck paydirt first midway through the second quarter, with a 43-yard catch by Webb setting up Boyd’s 16-yard touchdown run. But if anyone thought Port was going down without a fight, a 60-yard rocket screen from Bodamer to Nick Conway quickly erased that notion. Webb finally ran Conway down at the 5 – “I kind of teased him because that No. 5 caught him,” Mike Bodamer said – but Neal crashed in for the score on the next play, and the Gators were right back in it.

But with Ford, Boyd, and the speedy Bryan Clifford rotating at quarterback, keeping the Port defense off-balance, the Bears were beginning to find their groove. Webb hauled in a fourth-and-goal lob from Boyd for Clairton’s second touchdown, then picked off Bodamer deep in Bears territory to end a scoring threat just before the break.

And as they’ve done to so many other teams during their historic four-year run, the Bears took over the game in the second half, grinding out yards and touchdowns and shutting down the Gator attack until Bodamer hooked up with Conway for one final score with just under a minute remaining. The touchdown was the 24th of the year for Conway, who finished with a game-high 140 yards on seven receptions, and Bodamer’s PIAA record-tying 52nd. The Gator quarterback also added the single-season yardage record to his lengthy list of achievements, finishing the year with 3,951 to break Derek Buganza’s previous mark of 3,824.

“That’s a good accomplishment for him and for the team, but I think they’d much rather have the game or played a little bit closer,” his coach and father said. “Matt’s over the idea of any state records. He just wanted to keep winning.”

So while WPIAL champ Clairton (15-0) moves on toward a likely fourth consecutive state title, Port Allegany (13-1) concludes one of the most successful runs in the history of the program. For a team whose season-long motto was “Something To Prove,” they’ve proven plenty.

“The last two years these kids have been 25-3 and won two district titles. People try to compare District 9 and District 10 with this league down here. I’m the first person to be honest, District 9 is definitely the lesser between District 10 and District 7. So many people live in this area (D-7), it’s just a different brand of football,” Bodamer said.

A large senior class took the field for the final time as Gators on Friday night. Led by captains Rick Bova, Matt Bodamer, Nick Conway, Tyce Miller, Trent Neal, and Nick Budd, starters Trey Miller, Johnny Sena (who missed the game due to injury), Alex Gular, Victor Bandish, Billy Downey, and Rex Windsor, along with kickers Scott Brookens and Sam Kysor and reserves Josh Poorman, Aaron Majot, Logan Warnick, RJ Powell, and Paul Green, the Class of 2013 leaves behind a legacy which will be tough to top.

“Most of these kids were on my fourth-grade all-star basketball team,” Bodamer said. “I have one kid (Matt), but actually I have more like 10 kids. I’ve known them ever since they were little. Great athletes, great kids. They’ve worked so hard at it. Those kids from Clairton are true athletes. Our kids have had to work for it, and they’ve turned themselves into decent athletes.

“I love the kids and they’ve done everything we’ve asked them to do. I feel good for them. They’ve given us a good showing.”

At Cheswick, Dec. 7:

Score by quarters:
Port Allegany Gators O 6 O 6 12
Clairton Bears O 16 15 13 44

Second Quarter
C – Tyler Boyd 16 run (10 plays, 73 yards, 2:56), Boyd run, 8-0
PA – Trent Neal 5 run (2 plays, 65 yards, 0:19), pass failed, 8-6
C – Terrish Webb 3 pass from Boyd (8 plays, 52 yards, 3:46), Boyd run, 16-6

Third Quarter
C – Boyd 33 run (4 plays, 76 yards, 1:05), Brandon Murphy pass from Armani Ford, 24-6
C – Webb 61 pass from Ford (6 plays, 69 yards, 4:20), Bryan Clifford kick, 31-6

Fourth Quarter
C – Murphy 15 run (7 plays, 73 yards, 3:40), kick blocked, 37-6
C – Vinny Moody 1 run (6 plays, 54 yards, 2:49), Clifford kick, 44-6
(running clock)
PA – Conway 10 pass from Bodamer (8 plays, 66 yards, 5:21), pass failed, 44-12.

Team Statistics: Port A Clairton
First downs 9 21
Total Yards 241 480
Rushes-Yards 22-50 43-284
Passing Yards 191 196
Comp-Att-Int 12-24-2 9-15-0
Fumbles-Lost 1-0 2-0
Punts-Avg. 4-34.8 1-48.0
Penalties-Yards 2-28 11-60
Total Plays 46 58
Time of Possession 19:57 28:03

Individual statistics:

Rushing: Port Allegany – Neal 10-39, Bodamer 9-12, Shaffer 3-(-1). Clairton – Boyd 15-105, Clifford 10-65, Murphy 3-57, Moody 4-37, Booker 5-29, Ford 4-5, team 2-(-14).

Passing: Port Allegany – Bodamer 12-24-2-191. Clairton – Ford 8-13-0-193, Boyd 1-1-0-3, Clifford 0-1-0-0.

Receiving: Port Allegany – Conway 7-140, Tr. Miller 2-36, Ty. Miller 3-15. Clairton – Webb 5-132, Sims 2-36, Boatright 2-28.

GATOR FOOTBALL BY THE NUMBERS:

1: Port Allegany’s spot atop the Olean Times Herald large-school football poll for the last two seasons.

2: District 9 championships.

11: The number of Allegheny Mountain League titles Port now owns, including four since the modern two-division era began in 1986. The Gators claimed back-to-back AML crowns for the third time in 2011-12, matching the 1953-54 and 1967-68 squads.

13: PAHS record for wins in a season.

36: District 9 career touchdown-catch record.

52: PIAA single-season touchdown-pass record, shared with Kyle Smith (Lancaster Catholic).

137: PIAA career touchdown-pass record.

177: District 9 career receptions record.

669: District 9 scoring record. The Gators averaged 47.79 points per game, slightly ahead of the 2010 Brockway team which held the previous mark of 621 in 13 games.

3,065: District 9 career record for receiving yards, which belongs to Tyce Miller along with the marks for receptions and touchdowns. Remarkably, both Miller and running mate Nick Conway – who obliterated Mike Vervoort’s D-9 single-season marks with 1,482 yards and 24 touchdowns – eclipsed the previous district touchdown-catch standard of 29. Conway’s score against Clairton was his 31st.

3,951: PIAA single-season passing-yardage record.

10,948: PIAA career passing-yardage record – along with every other state record listed here, now owned by 2012-13 Gatorade Pennsylvania Football Player of the Year Matt Bodamer.

(Helmets courtesy of the Pennsylvania Helmet Project.)

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