AML Week 9: Sheffield at Port Allegany

SHEFFIELD WOLVERINES (0-8)

PORT ALLEGANY GATORS (5-3)

ALLEGHENY MOUNTAIN LEAGUE
NORTH DIVISION

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 30, 2015
PORT ALLEGANY, PENNSYLVANIA
7:00 PM ET

The Gators come in on a four-game winning streak after clinching the AML North championship at Smethport and can earn a District 9 playoff berth with a win, while the Wolverines still seek their first victory of the season.

HISTORY

MODERN AML ERA: Gators lead, 25-4, since the Allegheny Mountain League went to a two-division format in 1986. Sheffield’s last victory in the series came in 2001, giving Port a current 13-game winning streak.

LAST MEETING: October 25, 2014 – Gators 20, Wolverines 0

No last-minute dramatics this time.

Unlike Port Allegany’s first two victories of the season, nailbiters against Coudersport and Smethport which weren’t secured until late in the fourth quarter, the Gators didn’t need a clutch scoring drive or goal-line stand to escape from Sheffield’s ‘Wolverine Mountain’ on Saturday afternoon.

Instead, they jumped out to a quick two-touchdown lead for the second game in a row, then relied on a ballhawking defense to blank the Wolverines, 20-0, wrapping up the 2014 campaign with their third win in the last four weeks.

It was Port’s first shutout victory since 2012, leading to a shout of, “Now that’s how you win a football game!” from the jubilant postgame huddle.

“I can’t credit ‘Z’ (defensive coordinator Nate Zitnik) enough. Fantastic job with the gameplan this week,” head coach Justin Bienkowski said. “He executed some changes throughout the game, always seemed to know when to change us from an odd-man front to an even-man front, and the kids bought into it.

“I can’t say enough about this group of kids. We took a butt-whupping the first four games of the year, I guess even into the Cameron game, and those kids are just … That’s what football teaches you about life, and those kids learned it: ‘If I keep believing in what I’m supposed to do, things are going to happen.’”

LAST TIME IN PORT ALLEGANY: October 12, 2013 – Gators 18, Wolverines 13

Tyler Shaffer gathered in the bouncing football just inside his own 20-yard line, veered to his right toward the Port Allegany bench, dodged a pair of would-be tacklers, and sprinted toward the end zone.

On an afternoon where both offenses struggled to move the ball, making every point critical, the 81-yard kickoff return with just 2:36 remaining – Shaffer’s third touchdown of the afternoon, following scoring runs of 63 and 31 yards – proved to be the difference in Port’s 18-13 victory over visiting Sheffield in Allegheny Mountain League North Division action.

The Wolverines had taken their only lead of the game just seconds earlier on running back Jereek Jackson’s 47-yard burst through the line on a fourth-and-short play, realizing Gator coach Mike Bodamer’s worst-case scenario.

“It’s funny. When they got the ball back with like three minutes left, I was talking to Justin up top and said, ‘We’re gonna find a way to blow this.’ And sure enough, they scored that last touchdown,” he said. “But Shaffer had a nice return. He played well today, had some big runs for us. That’s what we’ve been looking for all year from him, and he definitely came to play today.”

Sheffield had one more chance for a comeback, quickly moving to the Port 29, but cornerback Cory Burr thwarted the drive with an interception and the Gators ran out the clock to improve to 2-5 (1-3 AML North), handing the Wolverines (4-3, 3-1) their first division loss.

“I actually thought that last one was going to go in the end zone. Luckily, Cory was able to go up and get it,” Bodamer said.

Fitting, really, that a game dominated by both defenses would end with one more stop. Sheffield owned the stat sheet, doubling up the Gators in first downs (14-7) and time of possession (32:41-15:19) and holding a 291-176 edge in total yardage, but the Port defense spent the afternoon in the Wolverines’ backfield, dropping quarterback Adam Higby five times and racking up eight other tackles for loss to help keep the visitors off the scoreboard.

While Brandon Raymo, Ethan Budd and Mac Tanner each notched a sack, junior linebacker R.J. Veilleux had a career day, dragging Higby down twice among his 4.5 tackles for loss and also flashing off the edge to block the extra point attempt following Sheffield’s first touchdown.

(Helmets courtesy of the Pennsylvania Helmet Project.)

Week 8: Gators clinch AML North

PORT ALLEGANY GATORS
(5-3, 4-0 AML NORTH)

36

SMETHPORT HUBBERS
(3-5, 3-1 AML NORTH)

18

Lori Chase
October 29, 2015

Friday night’s football game between Port Allegany and Smethport had additional meaning for the two century-old rivals, with the Allegheny Mountain League North Division title on the line at Smethport Stadium.

Through the first half of play, it looked like anyone’s game as both teams moved the ball effectively, and the Hubbers took a slim four-point lead into the locker room.

The second half was a different story.

With Gator back-turned-receiver Dylan Baumgarner running free in the secondary and the defense making the necessary adjustments to shut down Smethport’s power game, Port pulled away for a 36-18 victory, clinching the program’s seventh AML North title since the league went to a two-division format in 1986.

“North champs. That’s a great accomplishment. It’s like any level of football, you want to win your division. That’s the first step,” said coach Justin Bienkowski, still soaked from a celebratory postgame Gatorade-bucket dousing.

“Our guys continue to amaze me on and off the field. Family first, football family, our kids just played their hearts out for one another. Week 2, Elk County at our place, we had 16 kids in pads. Week 4, Kane, we had 16 kids in pads. So we’ll take it.”

It was a night to remember for Baumgarner, who hauled in all four of Tre Garzel’s touchdown passes, added a fifth on the ground, and also ran and passed for a pair of two-point conversions in an 11-catch, 202-yard performance which earned him the D9Sports.com District Nine Player of the Week award.

“They were giving Dylan a lot of leverage on the edge, and Dylan’s a quick kid that has the ability to make tacklers miss,” said Garzel, who joined his favorite target on this week’s D9Sports.com honor roll after completing 18 of 25 passes for a career-best 274 yards.

“Tre spun it well tonight,” offensive coordinator Jason Luther said. “He was throwing darts.”

After weeks of slogging through foul-weather games, the Gators finally got a decent night to throw the ball, and took full advantage of the opportunity.

“I want to thank Mother Nature for this one,” Garzel said, smiling. “The rain’s been pretty rough.”

Smethport controlled the ball and the clock in the first half. Alternating carries between the brute force of powerback Jimmy Duffy and the speed and shiftiness of tailback Adam Shunk, the Hubs slammed out two long scoring drives behind an offensive line averaging more than 250 pounds per player, with Duffy crashing into the end zone from 5 and 15 yards out. The Gators countered with a 30-yard rocket screen from Garzel to Baumgarner and looked like they were headed in for another score just before halftime, but the ball popped free and Smethport recovered on its own 3-yard line. The Port sideline argued that the runner’s knee was down, but to no avail, and the half ended with Smethport up 12-8.

“We should have had the score,” Bienkowski said. “I couldn’t let it go, couldn’t let it go that Jo thought he was down. But I’ll let it go now.”

After an exchange of punts to begin the third quarter, the Gators were on the move again. Garzel began the drive with completions of 12 yards to Baumgarner and 38 to Jordan Seefeldt, then ended it with a fourth-and-10 toss from the Hubber 13 that Baumgarner took in for the score.

“Just feed him the ball,” Garzel said. “They weren’t even long passes, it was just short things to get him the ball so he could make people miss.”

With momentum already snowballing toward the visitors’ side of the field, a heads-up play on defense turned it into an avalanche, as Seefeldt stepped in front of a Hubber pass to give the Gators the ball back deep in Smethport territory.

“Jordan came off telling me previous that he had an idea of pass routes figured out. He’s an intelligent kid; once he sees something he has it,” Bienkowski said.

Defensive coordinator Nate Zitnik explained, “We rolled coverage with the Jet and between film and basic play design it’s a route we work on with the isolated receiver away from the trips side. That’s the great thing about having these older guys … As four-year seniors, they’re great dissecting plays as they develop.”

Three plays later, Baumgarner was in the end zone again to give Port a 22-12 lead, forcing Smethport away from its run-first gameplan.

“Jason and I talked that if we could get two scores up it would really force Smethport to throw more. That’s what happened and the tide had definitely turned in our favor,” Bienkowski said. “Overall, the adjustments our assistant coaches reviewed with the guys at the half worked really well.

“We had a 40 front, and switched to a 50. Got rid of the free safety, went zero-coverage and dared them to throw. They hit us on a couple of out routes, but we dared the Long kid to throw the ball. We said all week, ‘If they beat us with the run, shame on us.’ So we forced their hand a little bit.”

The Hubs had limited success through the air, managing just three second-half first downs until finally putting together a scoring drive late in the fourth quarter to make it 30-18. But Jacy Richardson alertly called for a fair catch on the ensuing kickoff to thwart Smethport’s onsides attempt, and the Gators tacked on one final Garzel-to-Baumgarner hookup to complete the scoring.

“Those kids muscling up and stopping that power game in the third quarter changed the game,” Bienkowski said. “You could see the exuberance and the life go into them, and it was great to see.”

Port closes out its home schedule on Friday night against 0-8 Sheffield, then heads to Kane the following week for a rematch against the Wolves in the AML championship game.

“We’re going to focus on Sheffield next week. We’re certainly not gonna think about Sheffield for a couple days. We’re gonna enjoy ourselves,” Bienkowski said. “We’re gonna make sure these kids know what they’ve earned. Then we’ll worry about Sheffield.”

For Garzel, one of eight Gator seniors who suited up as freshman on the 2012 squad which won the AML/District 9 championships and advanced to the state semifinals, no reminders were necessary.

“It means a lot to us,” he said. “We followed up behind those guys and saw all the success they had, and we know how much fun it was to do what they did. To us, this is almost that level. We just want to keep going. The next step is to hopefully play well and win the AML.”

NOTES:
– Baumgarner was the first Gator player with five touchdowns in one game since Camrin Stuckey scored on three pass receptions, a fumble recovery and a kickoff return against Ridgway in the 2010 opener.
– He became the first Port player this season to win the D9Sports.com Player of the Week award, in his third appearance on the honor roll and second in a row. Both Baumgarner and Garzel were also tabbed following the Week 3 win over Moniteau.
– The victory was the second-straight for Port and the 13th in 14 seasons in the longstanding rivalry between the neighboring schools. Port and Smethport have played more than 100 games against each other since 1906, including at least once (and sometimes twice) every year since 1925.
– As noted in the game story, this is the second AML North crown for eight Gator seniors who were also members of the 2012 team as freshmen: Ethan Budd, Cameron Fryer, Tre Garzel, Nate Lowery, Josiah Ramadhan, Jordan Seefeldt, Bryan Stahlman, and Mac Tanner.
-Tanner (10 tackles), Budd (9) and Ramadhan (7) led the Gator defense, with Baumgarner (2), Seefeldt and Garzel contributing tackles for loss, Stahlman and Lowery applying pressure, and Jesse Rush notching a sack.
– Port moved up a spot to ninth in this week’s D9Sports.com District 9 poll, while remaining tied for third in the Olean Times Herald Big 30 large-school rankings.

At Smethport, Oct. 23:

Score by quarters:
Port Allegany Gators 0 8 14 14 36
Smethport Hubbers 6 6 0 6 18

Scoring summary:
First Quarter
S (0:58) – Jimmy Duffy 5 run (14 plays, 90 yards); kick failed, 0-6
Second Quarter
PA (9:52) – Dylan Baumgarner 30 pass from Tre Garzel (9 plays, 61 yards); Mac Tanner pass from Baumgarner, 8-6
S (3:08) – Duffy 15 run (12 plays, 75 yards); run failed, 8-12
Third Quarter
PA (5:26) – Baumgarner 13 pass from Garzel (9 plays, 78 yards); Baumgarner run, 16-12
PA (2:40) – Baumgarner 10 pass from Garzel (3 plays, 28 yards after Jordan Seefeldt INT); pass failed, 22-12
Fourth Quarter
PA (6:43) – Baumgarner 10 run (6 plays, 66 yards); Josiah Ramadhan run, 30-12
S (3:23) – Blake Kinner 12 pass from Austin Speedy (6 plays, 50 yards); pass failed, 30-18
PA (0:42) – Dylan Baumgarner 35 pass from Tre Garzel (4 plays, 40 yards); run failed, 36-18

Team statistics:
First Downs: Port 17, Smethport 19.
Rushes-Yds: Port 21-103, Smethport 47-222.
Passing Yds: Port 274, Smethport 46.
Comp-Att-Int: Port 18-25-0, Smethport 5-11-1.
Total Yards: Port 377, Smethport 268.
Fumbles-Lost: Port 1-1, Smethport 1-0.
Punts-Avg: Port 2-29.5, Smethport 2-27.0.
Penalties-Yds: Port 6-75, Smethport 5-35.
Total Plays: Port 46, Smethport 58.
Time of Poss.: Port 17:47, Smethport 30:13.

Individual statistics:
Rushing:
Port Allegany – Mac Tanner 9 carries-55 yards, Dylan Baumgarner 5-17, Josiah Ramadhan 5-16, Tre Garzel 2-15. Smethport – Adam Shunk 22-96, Jimmy Duffy 10-65 (2 TDs), Austin Speedy 9-40, Devon Brown 4-16, Kevin Long 2-5.
Passing: Port Allegany – Garzel 18 completions-25 attempts-4 TDs-0 INTs-274 yards. Smethport – Long 3-7-0-1-24, Speedy 2-4-1-0-23.
Receiving: Port Allegany – Baumgarner 11-202 yards (4 TDs), Seefeldt 3-50, Tanner 4-22. Smethport – Blake Kinner 3-26 (TD), Akete Kindle 1-11, Brown 1-9.

(Helmets courtesy of the Pennsylvania Helmet Project.)