The 40th annual Don Raabe Big 30 Charities Classic will have a distinct Gator presence.
Following a stellar 2012 season that included a second straight District 9 championship, plus a trip to the state semifinals, Victor Bandish, Matt Bodamer, Rickie Bova, Nick Budd, Nick Conway, Alex Gular, Tyce Miller, and Rex Windsor have all been selected to play for a Pennsylvania squad coached by Mike Bodamer and assistants Justin Bienkowski, Jason Luther, and Nate Zitnik. Add cheerleaders Caitlyn Bachman, Sara Borro, Kelsey Kio, and Caitlyn Lindsay and Homecoming queen Gabby Drabert, and the odds are good that quite a few people from Port Allegany will be headed to Bradford on Saturday, August 3, for the Big 30 parade and game.
The coaching staffs for the game were introduced at Press Day on May 19, with Bodamer and Allegany-Limestone’s Chad Lyter addressing the crowd of players and parents in the Pitt-Bradford gym.
“I’ve been involved in a few other games, and it was a wonderful experience,” said Bodamer, who assisted Bob Haskins during Pennsy wins in 1994 and 2004. “The main idea of this game, of course, is for charity. It’s a great organization that has helped a lot of people in this area. This is going to be a fun game and I know we’re going to try our hardest, but in the end, win, lose, it doesn’t matter. The most important thing is the charity, so as much as you can do, please support that charity.”
Later, while the other participants were posing for photographs, Bodamer – who graciously submitted to every media request despite still being in a walking boot while recovering from a torn Achilles tendon – talked about joining so many of his players on the Pennsylvania sideline.
“It’s just an honor,” he said. “Not only Matt, but the other seven kids – I’ve known them since they’ve been in grade school, and they’ve been around my house forever. They’re all like my kids.”
With a roster stacked with the Gators’ record-setting offensive players, along with talent from other schools, fans can expect to see some points on the board on game night.
“We’ve got a lot of guys that want the ball and only one football, so I don’t know how that’s going to go,” Bodamer said, smiling. “They definitely loaded us up on skill, but we’re lacking offensive linemen. I told Matt he might be running a little more often, and the kid from Warren (quarterback Austin Jerman) is a great athlete too. So I think we’ll be all right.”
Luther and Zitnik will handle the offense, while Bodamer and Bienkowski will coach the D.
“That’s his offense. He’s been working on it for the last three years,” Bodamer said of Luther, the Gators’ offensive coordinator. “He knows what he’s doing, so let him do his thing. The kid from Warren runs basically the same type of offense, so it shouldn’t be too big of a deal for him. We’ve got a couple great backs. Hopefully (Caden) Whitman can stay healthy, and the kid from Eisenhower (John Pascuzzi) is a big-time runner.”
Lyter, a Bradford native, was equally thrilled about the chance to participate.
“This is a big deal, so I was real excited about it,” he said. “I just told the kids, my first thought was that I was honored to do it. My next thought was just to make sure my guys could coach with me – if they were in, I was in. We’re all excited to be here. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Although he hasn’t seen Port play, he joked, “I figure they’re going to throw the ball a lot.”
“I told him there’s a 25-minute video of Matt on YouTube, so it shouldn’t be too hard to find tape on us,” Bodamer said.
But as he noted during his remarks, win or lose, the game is still a great experience.
“We’ll just go and play the game, hopefully score and have some fun,” he said.