Raabe Classic: Matt Bodamer

Big 30 Matt

July 18, 2013

Fittingly, the last play of Matt Bodamer’s stellar high school football career was a touchdown pass.

The Port Allegany quarterback tossed plenty of those in his four years as the starter, obliterating the Pennsylvania state records for passing yardage (10,948) and touchdowns (137) as the Gators went 25-3 and claimed back-to-back Allegheny Mountain League and District 9 championships in his junior and senior years.

The postseason accolades rolled in for the 6-0, 185-pound signalcaller: Gatorade Pennsylvania Player of the Year, Pennsylvania Football News “Mister Football,” MaxPreps Small-School All-American, multiple All-State selections, even an appearance in “Faces in the Crowd” in Sports Illustrated.

Locally, Bodamer became just the second player to win back-to-back Big 30 Player of the Year honors in the more than 50 years the Olean Times Herald has handed out its awards, also earning an automatic invitation to play in the Don Raabe Big 30 Charities Classic on Aug. 3 at Parkway Field in Bradford. The Raabe press release states, “From the time he was a young boy working as a team manager for the Gators he has dreamed of playing in the Big 30 Game.”

Of course, it won’t be the first time he, the seven other Gator players on the Pennsy roster, and Port coaches Mike Bodamer, Justin Bienkowski, Jason Luther, and Nate Zitnik will make the trip to Bradford High’s home turf. On their last visit to Parkway Field last November, Bodamer tossed a touchdown pass with 17.7 seconds left on the clock to beat Sharpsville in Port’s state playoff opener, a play he and several teammates understandably chose as their greatest football thrill.

A four-year starter in baseball and basketball as well as football, Bodamer – also an honor roll student and Davies-Foy Award finalist – plans to major in engineering management at Edinboro University and continue his gridiron career with the Fighting Scots. A Cleveland Browns fan who lists Peyton Manning as his favorite player, he enjoys playing golf in his leisure hours.

Practices for the Raabe Classic begin on July 18 in Johnsonburg and run through Aug. 2 in Port Allegany, with most weeknight sessions scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. Gameday festivities include a parade through downtown Bradford to the field stepping off at 2:30 p.m., followed by a tailgate party at Callahan Park.

Raabe Classic: Rick Bova

A trio of Knights try to drag down Gator tight end Rickie Bova. (Pam Fischer / Reporter Argus)

A trio of Union Knights try to drag down Gator tight end Rickie Bova in a 2011 playoff game. (Photo: Pam Fischer)

June 6, 2013

Rickie Bova was a critical part of the prolific Port Allegany passing offense in 2011 and 2012, a big, dependable target over the middle of the field for quarterback Matt Bodamer.

Just ask any of the defensive backs who tried – and usually failed – to tackle the 6-0, 220-pound tight end one-on-one.

Bova finished his Gator career with 75 catches for 1,108 yards (14.8 average) and 10 touchdowns, most of those coming with at least one defender either going along for an unexpected ride or left on the ground in his wake. Port coach Mike Bodamer recalled one instance following Bova’s seven-catch, 100-yard night against Coudersport:

“That one time, he caught a ball over the middle and their safety hit him, I think that safety was looking for a big hit. He hit Rick and just stopped right there, and Rick just kind of looked at him,” he said with a chuckle. “Rick’s come alive. He’s a big strong kid to bring down and he’s got great hands.”

Twice named honorable mention for the Pennsylvania Football News Class A All-State team, Bova is one of eight Gators invited to play in the 40th annual Don Raabe Big 30 All-Star Charities Classic. The game is a family tradition for the Bovas, with older brothers Jarvis (1997) and Willie (2006) and sister Cora (2011) all participating in Pennsy wins. (Uncle Barry, the 1978 Olean Times Herald Big 30 Player of the Year, was unable to play in the 1979 game.)

“It will also be a chance to play with and against the best athletes in the area for a worthy cause,” Bova wrote on his Raabe Classic information sheet.

Per the Raabe release, “Rickie says his biggest thrill came beating Sharpsville in the final seconds of their playoff game and advancing to the state semi-final against the eventual state champion. Fishing and weight training are his hobbies and he is a fan of the Buffalo Bills and Russell Wilson.”

An honor roll student who also started for the Gators’ basketball and baseball teams, earning Northern Allegheny League All-Star mention in the latter this spring after leading the team with a .517 batting average and 30 RBIs, Bova plans to attend St. Bonaventure University and play rugby for the Bonnies.

Raabe Classic: Nick Budd

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May 9, 2013

Nick Budd became a member of two exclusive clubs last fall. With his selection to the Big 30 All-Star and Pennsylvania Football News All-State teams, the Port Allegany senior made both squads for the second time – once each on offense and defense.

A four-year starter on the offensive line, the 6-3, 250-pound Budd was also a force at defensive tackle, contributing 56 tackles and a team-best seven sacks as the Gators (13-1) claimed their second straight District 9 championship and advanced to the Class A state semifinals.

The 2012 recipient of the Big 30 “Unsung Lineman of the Year” Award, Budd has accepted an invitation to play in the 40th annual Don Raabe Charities Classic. According to the press release, Budd “has long considered the invitation to play in the Raabe Big 30 Game a great honor and something he has looked forward to since he was a small child.” He lists the comeback win against Sharpsville as his greatest football thrill, and the Pittsburgh Steelers and James Harrison as his favorite team and player.

A two-sport standout also named to the Olean Times Herald’s “Fab 15” wrestling all-stars for the third time after winning the D-9 285-pound title and placing second at states, Budd has decided to continue his mat career at Gannon, where he plans to study mechanical engineering. He enjoys hunting and boating in his spare time.

Nick’s father, Gregg Budd, was selected to play in the 1983 Big 30 Game, a 16-14 Pennsy victory.

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.