AML Week 9: Sheffield at Port Allegany




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.


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.)

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