RIDGWAY ELKERS (1-2)
PORT ALLEGANY GATORS (1-2)
Sept. 19, 2013
Tyler Shaffer took the snap and rolled to his right, trying to outrun the defense to the corner of the end zone, then pulled up at the last second and shoveled the football to a wide-open R.J. Veilleux.
In a defensive struggle on a gorgeous Saturday afternoon at Gator Field, that two-point conversion ended up being the margin of victory in Port Allegany’s 8-6 Homecoming win over Ridgway in an Allegheny Mountain League crossover game.
Shaffer finished the game with 120 yards and Port’s lone touchdown in his return to the starting lineup, and the defense made his third-quarter score stand up, nabbing three interceptions and stuffing the Elkers twice on fourth down on drives deep into Gator territory.
“Like I said at the beginning of the year, defense is going to have to win games for us. And they definitely came through today,” Port coach Mike Bodamer said.
Cory Burr accounted for two of those thefts, sandwiching them around being named Homecoming king at halftime, and Jordan Seefeldt ended the Elkers’ final drive with their third turnover of the afternoon.
Neither offense made much early headway, but as the second quarter began, Ridgway was knocking on the door at the Port 20. That was as far as they got, though, with Brandon Raymo sacking Elker quarterback Ben MacDonald for a seven-yard loss on first down and Burr sniffing out a third-and-long screen for his first pick.
“They tried to throw that screen, and Cory read it well and stepped in front of the kid,” Bodamer said.
Burr’s 40-yard return gave the Gators their best field position of the day at the Ridgway 35, but a Shaffer punt fake on fourth-and-long came up just short of the sticks to end the possession. The Elkers threatened again late in the half when Dane Cappiello corralled a muffed punt to set them up at the Port 20 with 2:10 left in the second quarter, but blitzing cornerback Chris Lashway dropped MacDonald for a sack on fourth down to end the first half at 0-0.
Still in the game despite mustering just 33 net yards and two first downs, the Gators doubled both of those numbers on the opening drive of the second half, mixing runs by Tanner and Shaffer with a pair of Seefeldt completions to Lashway on an 11-play, 64-yard march capped by Shaffer’s dive from the 1. The two-point pass to Veilleux made it 8-0, snapping a string of nine scoreless quarters dating back to the opening of the Athens game and giving the defense some room to breathe.
They’d need every bit of it. After MacDonald put the Elkers on the board with a broken-field 56-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter, the tying two-point conversion failed, leaving the Gators clinging to an 8-6 lead. But when another punt fake by Shaffer failed, Ridgway was right back in business at the Port 25, momentum seemingly on their side.
Once again the defense held, this time with Veilleux stuffing MacDonald for a two-yard loss on fourth-and-3, and the Gators managed to move out from the shadow of their own goalpost before Shaffer’s 52-yard punt rolled to a stop at the Ridgway 14.
“That really pinned them down there. That was a big play,” Bodamer said.
The Gator secondary took over from there, with Lashway tipping one pass attempt to Burr for his second pick and Seefeldt ending the Elkers’ final drive with another one.
“We switched up our coverage. That last one, we dropped back into a cover-3 and Jordan was just standing right in the middle of the field. The kid must not have seen him,” Bodamer said.
If Ridgway entertained any thoughts of getting the ball back for one more chance, Shaffer’s last carry of the game – a 26-yard jaunt to the Elker 11 to put him over 100 for the afternoon – ended them. A defensive penalty gave the Gators first-and-goal, but with just 1:31 on the clock and the Elkers out of timeouts, the game ended with a pair of kneeldowns by Seefeldt.
“We made a lot of mistakes, but then we made some big plays to make up for them. As long as you come out with a W, the score doesn’t matter,” Bodamer said.
“My hat’s off to Port Allegany. They really came to play today, and they did a good job against us,” Ridgway coach Mark Heindl said. “Defensively, I couldn’t ask for a better effort from our kids. Offensively, we’ve got to start finding some answers. We’re really struggling on that side of the ball.”
Both teams now enter AML division play at 1-2 – “Definitely better than 0-3,” Bodamer said – with the Gators back under the lights to host Coudersport (2-1) this Friday.
“They’re going to give us fits,” Bodamer said. “Ridgway ran that counter today and killed us, and Coudy uses a lot of misdirection stuff. We’re going to have to work on that all week, make sure kids stay home.
“We’ll get ready for Coudy and see what we can do with these next five teams, and still have a chance for the AML game. We just have to get healthy and shore up our defense, and just be going as hard as we can.”
Three games into the Ridgway-Johnsonburg co-op agreement, Heindl thinks the merger between the longtime rivals will be a success.
“The kids are fantastic, and I couldn’t ask for a better group of kids to be around and to be teammates with. I can speak for all the coaches – it’s really worked out well,” he said.
It was a team effort for the Gator defense, with five different players notching a tackle for loss in addition to the three turnovers. Raymo finished with two, including a sack, while Shaffer, Ethan Budd, Lashway (sack), and Veilleux each added one.
At Port Allegany, Sept. 14:
|Score by quarters:
|Port Allegany Gators
Port Allegany (8:00) – Tyler Shaffer 1 run (11 plays, 64 yards, 4:00), R.J. Veilleux pass from Shaffer, 8-0
Ridgway (2:30) – Ben MacDonald 56 run (5 plays, 65 yards, 2:53), pass failed, 8-6
|Time of Poss.
Rushing: Ridgway – Ben MacDonald 9-77, Cole Myers 7-36, Sam Delhunty 12-34, John Paul Cerroni 4-13, Cameron Grumley 1-2. Port Allegany – Tyler Shaffer 29-120, Jordan Seefeldt 7-7, Mac Tanner 1-5, R.J. Veilleux 1-2.
Passing: Ridgway – MacDonald 4-15-3-44. Port Allegany – Seefeldt 7-16-0-56.
Receiving: Ridgway – Myers 3-27, Jack Toncich 1-17. Port Allegany – Shaffer 2-24, Chris Lashway 2-18, Chad Gaines 3-14.
ALLEGHENY MOUNTAIN LEAGUE RECORD: Gators lead, 10-6-1, including a 19-14 victory in the 1988 AML championship game. Port has claimed the last four games in the series, with the last Ridgway win coming in 2006.
LAST MEETING: September 14, 2012 – Gators 55, Elkers 14
Needing three touchdown passes to break the District 9 career record of 95, Matt Bodamer finished with seven – all in the first half – as Port cruised to the win to open up an early two-game lead in the AML North division.
LAST TIME IN PORT ALLEGANY: September 3, 2011 – Gators 46, Elkers 35
On a blistering hot Saturday afternoon at Gator Field, Bodamer threw for five touchdowns – four to Charlie Buchanan – as Port crafted a 40-14 lead before two long fourth-quarter Ridgway touchdown passes brought the Gator starters back into the game. (Originally posted as part of last year’s preview.)
(Helmets courtesy of the Pennsylvania Helmet Project.)