Raabe Classic: Nick Conway

Big 30 Conway

April 4, 2013

Nick Conway turned in a stellar senior campaign for the Port Allegany football team in 2012, smashing the District 9 single-season records for receiving yardage (1,482) and touchdowns (24) as the Gators advanced to the PIAA Class A semifinals before falling to eventual state champ Clairton.

For his accomplishments, the 6-foot-2, 170-pound wide receiver was named to the Pennsylvania Sports Writers and Pa. Football News All-State teams – and even garnered a second-team nod from the MaxPreps.com Small School All-American squad – in addition to the Olean Times Herald Big 30 All-Star Team, which earned him an automatic invitation to play in next August’s Don Raabe Charities Classic.

But when the Raabe committee asked Conway to list his biggest football thrill, the New England Patriots fan didn’t pick any of his 31 career touchdowns or his record-setting 204-yard, three-score performance in the district championship game. It would be hard to argue with the play he did choose, though: recovering the fumble that led to Port’s miraculous 28-21 comeback win over Sharpsville in the state playoffs.

“I was just in the right place at the right time and dove on it,” he said after the game. “You can’t describe it with words. I don’t know what to say.”

Of course, that game was played at Bradford, as were the D-9 playoff tilts against Elk County Catholic and Clarion. According to the press release, Conway “sees the Raabe Classic as a chance to relive his senior season with his teammates.” Stepping onto the Parkway Field turf one more time is sure to trigger some of those memories.

Before then, though, the defending district 110- and 300-meter hurdles champ and two-time state medalist has his sights set on a third consecutive trip to the PIAA outdoor track and field championships in Shippensburg. Already the school recordholder in both events as well as the 200-meter dash, he added a 4th-place finish in the indoor 60-meter hurdles to last spring’s bronze in the 110.

A standout in the classroom as well as on the field, Conway plans to continue his track career at the Division 1 level at St. Francis (Pa.) University, where he’s been accepted into the accelerated Doctor of Physical Therapy program.

Two other Allegheny Mountain League standouts and Big 30 All-Stars, Smethport quarterback/defensive back Clay Schuler and Elk County Catholic lineman Shea Meyer, were also added to the Pennsylvania roster for the Aug. 3 game.

Raabe Classic: Alex Gular

June 6, 2013

Opposing offensive coordinators could be forgiven for thinking there was more than one No. 57 jersey on the field when they played against Port Allegany last fall.

It only seemed that way once they saw Alex Gular in action, wrapping up a ballcarrier in the backfield on one play and then racing downfield to break up a pass attempt on the next.

During his Gator career, the 5-9, 170-pound Gular did everything from returning kickoffs to catching a touchdown pass while filling in at fullback. But his most notable work was at linebacker, where the runner-up for the Olean Times Herald Big 30 Defensive Player of the Year award led the team in tackles for the second consecutive season, averaging nine stops – and several big hits – per game.

“Alex is a terror,” Port coach Mike Bodamer said after one typical performance. “He’s basically my defensive captain. He just plays so hard – a little crazy once in a while,” he added with a grin, “but Alex is just all over the place.”

A two-time Allegheny Mountain League All-Star, Gular was also selected to the Pennsylvania Football News All-State third team following the Gators’ stellar campaign, while his selection for the Big 30 squad came with an invitation to the Don Raabe Big 30 All-Star Charities Classic.

Gular was also a four-time AML All-Star, three-time District 9 champion and two-time Big 30 All-Star in wrestling, placing sixth at the PIAA State Championships in March. According to the Raabe Classic release, he plans to continue his mat career at Lycoming College, where he intends to earn a degree in biology and ultimately specialize in the study of reptiles.

Per the release, “Alex is excited to play with the best players in the bi-state area and to be recognized for his accomplishments. One of the Big 30’s most prolific hitters, he has been credited with over 100 tackles in each of his last two seasons. Alex enjoys working on cars, hunting and fishing in his spare time. He is a fan of the Miami Dolphins and Zach Thomas.”

Raabe Classic: Tyce Miller

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March 28, 2013

For the past two seasons, when opposing football coaches tried to figure out how to slow down Port Allegany’s high-powered offense, they knew they’d have to account for Tyce Miller.

Not very many of them succeeded.

Miller obliterated the District 9 career records for catches (177), yardage (3,065), and receiving touchdowns (36) during the Gators’ run to back-to-back District 9 championships and state playoff appearances. As a junior, he became the first wideout in school history to notch a 1,000-yard season, and followed it up with an even better senior campaign.

“He’s ridiculous, as good as he is. I’ve never seen hands like he has,” quarterback Matt Bodamer said after Miller broke the D-9 record with a three-touchdown performance – the last one a highlight-reel 65-yard catch-and-run – against Sheffield.

Miller’s effort didn’t go unnoticed. A two-time selection to the Pennsylvania Sportswriters and Pa. Football News Class A All-State squads, the 5-foot-11, 170-pound speedster also earned a repeat nod from the Olean Times Herald Big 30 All-Star team – and with it, an invitation to the 40th annual Big 30 Don Raabe Charities Classic.

Slated for a 7 p.m. kickoff on Aug. 3, the Raabe Classic matches teams of graduated seniors from Pennsylvania and New York. In the previous 39 years, more than $1.5 million has been raised for groups and individuals in need on both sides of the border.

Miller, a Minnesota Vikings fan who would like to major in nursing but is still undecided on his college choice, told the Big 30 Committee he’d “dreamed of playing in the Raabe Classic since he was a little kid because he had wanted to play with and against the best athletes in the area.”

At least four of his teammates – fellow Big 30 All-Stars Matt Bodamer, Nick Budd, Nick Conway, and Alex Gular – automatically received invitations to the game, and several other Gators could also be added to the squad.

In addition, Mike Bodamer and the Port High staff have been invited to coach the Pennsy squad, which already includes several other players from the Allegheny Mountain League:

Cameron County: Devin Mason (6-0, 180 pounds, TE/LB)

Coudersport: Mitch Freeman (6-1, 190 pounds, RB/LB) and Caden Whitman (5-10, 184 pounds, RB/S)

Elk County Catholic: Hank Cappiello (6-0, 215 pounds, FB/DE)

Johnsonburg: Mitch Holmberg (5-9, 160 pounds, WR/S)

Kane: Loren Kumher (5-10, 190 pounds, C/LB)

Otto-Eldred: Nate Rodgers (5-10, 220 pounds, OL/DL)

Ridgway: Cortland Smith (5-7, 190 pounds, OL/DL)

Smethport: Karl Lightner (5-6, 150 pounds, RB/S)

Raabe Classic: Rex Windsor

2013 big 30 rex

May 2, 2013

Last fall, the Port Allegany offensive line was an often underappreciated – but critically important – reason for the team’s success. Week after week the front five kept the pass rush away from Matt Bodamer or opened up a gaping hole for a Gator running back, then quietly lined up and did it again on the next play.

In the middle of it all was senior Rex Windsor, calling the line signals and making hundreds of shotgun snaps to Bodamer. For his efforts, the 6-0, 215-pound center was named to the Allegheny Mountain League All-Star team, and also received All-State honorable mention in both 2011 and 2012.

And this week, he becomes the third Port Allegany player named to the Pennsylvania roster for the 40th annual Don Raabe Big 30 Charities Classic, slated for a 7 p.m. kickoff on Aug. 3 at Bradford’s Parkway Field.

Windsor, an avid hunter and fisherman who plans to enroll in the nursing program at Pitt-Bradford to prepare for a career in the health care field and lists Pittsburgh Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey as his favorite player, said the dramatic ending of the Sharpsville state playoff game was his “greatest football thrill.”

Playing defensive end, Windsor recovered a fumble on the game’s final play to ensure the Gator victory. “You know it’s over, because we’ve got the ball back and the time was out,” he said that night. “Best feeling I’ve ever had.”

The Raabe Classic, featuring teams of graduated seniors from New York and Pennsylvania, marks its 40th anniversary this year with New York leading the series 20-17-2. Youngsville’s T.J Hardy and Sheffield’s Tyler Fitzgerald were also named to the Pennsy squad this week.

40th Don Raabe Big 30 Charities Classic: Countdown to Kickoff

Featuring teams of graduated seniors from southwestern New York and northcentral Pennsylvania, this year’s 40th annual Raabe Classic will kick off at 7:00 p.m. on Saturday evening, Aug. 3, following a parade down Main Street in Bradford and a tailgate party at Callahan Park. The previous 39 games have raised more than $1.5 million for area charities. Following last year’s 25-15 New York victory, they lead the series 20-17-2, with the two teams splitting the last six meetings.
According to information posted on the game’s Facebook page, the parade will line up at the Best Western Inn parking lot on Davis and Chestnut Street (behind Tops Market) at 12:30 p.m. The parade will move north on Main Street at 2:30 p.m., proceed to Barbour Street, then up Campus Drive and conclude at the Pitt-Bradford ballfields.
The gates at Parkway Field will open at 5:30 p.m. Tickets for the game are $5.00 for adults, $2.00 for children 12 and under.

Online: Facebook/Don Raabe Big 30

 

Lori Chase
Aug. 1, 2013

The Don Raabe Big 30 Charities Classic, formerly known as the Big 30 All-Star Game, marks its 40th birthday at Bradford’s Parkway Field on Saturday night. And if the Port Allegany players and coaches on the Pennsylvania roster have anything to say about it, observers can expect plenty of fireworks to celebrate the occasion.

Starting with six players from the offense that propelled the Gators to a 25-3 record and back-to-back District 9 championships, shattering multiple district and state records for passing and scoring, then adding a dozen more of the area’s best?

“We’re going to try to spread them out as best we can, and if we can beat them vertical, we can score as many points as the game will allow,” offensive coordinator Jason Luther said following last Wednesday’s practice on the familiar turf at Parkway Field.

Considering that Port scored an astounding 90 touchdowns on offense last fall, an average of almost six and a half per game – and in games with 12-minute quarters, not the Raabe Classic’s 15 – New York’s 2003 record of 56 points could be well within reach.

Guiding what Luther and assistant coach Nate Zitnik describe as a “multiple-concept” spread offense, based on the “Air Raid” system perfected by Mike Leach at Texas Tech but with plenty of other wrinkles tossed in to baffle opposing defenses, will be a pair of record-setting dual-threat quarterbacks.

PIAA all-time passing leader Matt Bodamer will have plenty of familiar faces surrounding him, with Gator receivers Nick Conway and Tyce Miller, center Rex Windsor, and tackle Victor Bandish anchoring his platoon. Warren’s Austin Jerman – who compiled a county-record 4,348 career passing yards in his own right, and also led the Dragons in rushing last season – will helm the other offensive unit, which includes tight end Rickie Bova.

“Austin’s a pretty heady kid. He came in running a similar system, and he’s very gifted athletically and he’s very intelligent. He asks minimal questions, and he steps up, I would say 80 percent of the time and makes the correct reads in a system that we’ve run for the last two years,” Luther said.

If Jerman does need an assist during the game, he won’t necessarily have to look to the sideline for help.

“Rick knows the offense really well. So we feel like we need one guy, that if there’s ever a question he can go right to him. Rick knows it like this,” Luther said, snapping his fingers, “as good as Matt. We kept him there for that purpose, and he’s always in the right spot. Every single play.”

Conway, Miller, and 6-foot-5 Mark Davis – Jerman’s favorite target at Warren – headline the receiving corps, but both quarterbacks will have plenty of options in the single-back, four-receiver set.

“Between Matt Yurkewicz (Bradford) and Mitch Holmberg (Johnsonburg) in the slot area, they are as shifty as you can get,” Luther said. “Tyce on the edge. Zac McKnight from Ridgway has just made some guys look silly on turf tonight, so I’m really interested to see him in space. At tight end, Rick’s Mister-right-place-right-time-every-time, and adding Nate O’Brien (Eisenhower) to Matt’s repertoire of what he can do, Nate is a huge target running across the middle and he’s got great hands.”

“We were used to Tyce and Nick, but now instead of two kids, we’ve got 10 kids that can run and catch the ball. So if we can get the ball out in their hands, we should have a good chance to run down the field with it,” agreed Pennsy head coach Mike Bodamer.

With New York concentrating on trying to stop an aerial assault, running backs John Pascuzzi and Caden Whitman (Coudersport) should get some chances to shine, too.

“John Pascuzzi packs a punch, and he’s got shifty feet,” Luther said of Eisenhower’s all-time leading rusher. “Then we have Whitman, who’s healthy for the first time in three years and in an offense where he has no other choice but to be successful because of the numbers situation.

“My big concern is what we can do up front. We’ve got a group of kids that, other than Rex and Victor, have all come from a system that is run-heavy, and it’s completely different. So we’ve been working with them. They’re great kids, they’ve been receptive to everything, they ask intelligent questions and they work hard. That’s all we can really ask.”

Mike Bodamer and Justin Bienkowski are in charge on the other side of the ball, with Gator defensive tackle Nick Budd and linebacker Alex Gular on their squad.

“We definitely have a real good defensive line – Nick, Shea Meyer and Hank Cappiello from Elk County, they’re real good up front,” Bodamer said. “It’s kind of hard trying to piece things together, but the kids know the coverages, they know their assignments. We just have to figure out what New York’s going to run against us.”

Gular, speaking for the Port players, has enjoyed the experience.

“It’s been real fun, getting to meet a lot of new kids,” he said. “We’re running the same offense and defense packages that we ran all year, so it’s not much of a change for us. Some of the other kids are having a little trouble understanding it, but it’s all starting to come together.”

A jelling process hastened, no doubt, by the number of Port players and coaches involved.

“It’s a real big help for us, because we have so many of us that know both ways of the ball,” Gular said. “Like me, I’m playing defense, but I can still help some of the kids on offense and vice-versa. We have so many Port kids that it’s almost like instead of having our four coaches, we’ve got 12 coaches out there.”

Luther agreed, saying, “You can’t put a price tag on it. I spend a lot of time with Austin, and then Matt goes and takes somebody, Nate takes somebody, Rick’s helping somebody, Nick’s helping somebody – it’s like you have six or seven coaches. And then Rex knows everything offensive-line wise, so if we go over a draw concept, we don’t even have to be there. He can tell them exactly how to do it. It’s easy. It’s about as stress-free football as I’ve had in a long time.”

That’s a view New York’s defensive coaches may not share on Saturday night.

***

The Port Allegany participants in the game will be trying to keep two unbeaten streaks intact on Saturday evening.

Pennsylvania is 4-0 when coached by the Port staff, with Mike Borro notching the first Pennsy win in 1979 and Bob Haskins adding a trio of victories in 1987, 1994, and 2004. Current Gator head coach Mike Bodamer was an assistant for the latter two squads.

Also, the PAHS Class of 2013 and their coaches are 4-0 in playoff action at Parkway Field, downing Brockway 49-21 in the 2011 District 9 semifinal, then sweeping Elk County Catholic (48-7), Clarion (47-8) and Sharpsville (28-21) in three consecutive trips to Bradford last November.