Saturday was doubly special for assistant coach Justin Bienkowski, whose wife Ashley delivered the couple’s second child earlier in the afternoon.
“Interesting day,” he said with a chuckle. “I woke up at 6:30 to my wife pushing me, saying, ‘Get up, get up, we need to go to the hospital.’ So her parents came over, my parents came over, we got over there, and I sat next to a hospital bed until about 5:30 when my wife pushed her out.
“They cleaned her up, and my wife said, ‘Get your (butt) to the game.’ Interesting day, but I’m glad I got the chance to have my daughter Alivia born, and get a chance to culminate the experience I’ve had with these guys for the last two and a half weeks.”
Bienkowski arrived on the sideline during the first half, the crowd cheering the announcement over the PA system, then teared up afterward when head coach Mike Bodamer awarded him a game ball.
Alivia joins older sister Sophia, who arrived on the day of the Port-Coudersport game three years ago.
“She’s got football in her blood before she even knows it,” Bienkowski said. “It was a heck of a good day, and it was great to culminate it with these guys because it’s a great group of kids. A lot of talent and no egos. Reading Mike’s and Jason’s quotes from previous days, I’d have to echo what they said – the kids worked hard. And it’s always good to work with Jason and Nate and Mike.
“All in all, I can’t say a negative word about tonight.”
Likewise, the Port players involved in the game were pleased with the experience.
For offensive tackle Victor Bandish, it was “one last game with my teammates, and our coaches being there for the last game.”
“It’s fun to bring together the best of the best. Those were our enemies; now I’m really good friends with most of them. It was very fun to play with them,” receiver Nick Conway said. “The Warren guys, that’s probably my favorite memory. My twin brother (Mark Davis), we had a great two weeks together. I imagine we’ll keep in touch after this.”
Added Nick Budd, “Like he said, bringing everybody together and getting the best of the best from each team really makes it fun. I don’t know if I have a best memory, but it was nice to hit again, get out on the field one last time. You never know if you’ll ever play football again or not. The whole thing was great.”
“One last time,” Conway agreed. “I was calling it an encore. It’s nice.”
With so many talented players executing Luther’s fast-break offense, a number of records were sure to fall:
Most attempts (team) – PA, 48
Most completions (team) – PA, 31
Most passing yards (both teams) – 650
Most passing yards (team) – PA, 426
Most TD passes (game) – 6
Most TD passes (team) – 4 (ties NY 1986)
Most TD passes (player) – Bodamer 3 (ties John Ditcher, NY 1986, and Tom Nasto, PA 2001)
Most total yards (team) – PA, 624
Most plays (team) – PA, 86
Game chairman Paul Pfaff estimated attendance at more than 5,000, and said he was hoping to hit the $40,000 mark for the game’s Giveaway Day in October. In the previous 39 years, the Raabe Classic has raised close to $1.7 million for area charities and individuals in need.
If there was one negative from Saturday night, it was the amount of yellow handkerchiefs littering the field. For the second year in a row, a parade of penalties – including several personal fouls and an ejection – forced the game well past the three-hour mark despite the running clock for the entire fourth quarter, frustrating Pfaff.
“I am disappointed about the conduct, and I don’t know what we’re going to do. It’s an all-star game, not a war. They should be having fun,” he said of the chippy play in recent years.
“I’m going to call some guys, get some people from New York, get together and have a meeting and discuss the whole situation, what can be done. We’re not going to tolerate this.”