PORT ALLEGANY GATORS
Nov. 5, 2015
Four weeks into the 2015 schedule, Port Allegany High School’s varsity football season stood at a crossroads. Following a lopsided 66-22 setback at Kane with just 16 players healthy enough to dress, the Gators were 1-3. How would they respond?
By not losing another game since that night.
Last Friday, with the defense pitching its third shutout in five weeks, Port celebrated Senior Night at “The Swamp” with a 40-0 demolition of Sheffield to complete a sweep of the Allegheny Mountain League North Division, clinch a District 9 playoff berth, and tune up for a rematch with the Wolves in the AML championship game.
“It’s 100 percent, without a doubt, a credit to our kids for just buying into what we were trying to sell them,” coach Justin Bienkowski said. “I can’t say it enough: I would take the assistant coaches that I have the pleasure to work with, and those 20-plus kids that we have the opportunity to work with … I love all of them. I told them that I would be there for them, I would do anything for them. We’ve created a football family. It’s been really cool.
“Just to stick the course, stay the course. 1-and-3, 66 to 22, looking uphill. But that’s a credit (to the kids). That’s football. You fall down, you get back up.”
Following a Sheffield three-and-out on the Wolverines’ first series, Mac Tanner jumpstarted Port’s point production by fielding a punt on the bounce at midfield and streaking down the sideline for a 50-yard touchdown. Josiah Ramadhan ran in for the two-point conversion, and the Gators took an 8-0 lead six minutes into the game.
As the first quarter ended, Sheffield thought they had a long punt-return score of their own, but a holding penalty brought the ball back to the Gator 45 and the offense couldn’t gain any ground from there. On the night, the Wolverines managed just 50 yards of total offense, never running a play from inside the Port 30-yard line until the final three minutes of the game.
The Gators were on the move again midway through the second stanza, with quarterback Jordan Seefeldt breaking free for a 44-yard jaunt from a read-option before a desperate shoestring tackle brought him down.
“(Jordan) runs the zone read really well. He reads everything really well. I told him I just wish he was a little bit faster,” Bienkowski said, smiling. “With the three-quarterback system we’ve got now, with Jordan, Dylan, and for the most part Tre, it makes teams prepare.”
The tandem of Tanner and Ramadhan moved the ball to the Sheffield 1, and Port rolled out its heavy equipment to cover the final yard. Lining up with a “jumbo” full-house backfield of linemen Nate Lowery, Ethan Budd, and Bryan Stahlman, Lowery rumbled into the end zone behind his blocking backs, and Stahlman tossed a two-point pass to Tanner to double the Gator lead to 16-0.
“I wouldn’t care to guess the average backfield weight on that formation,” Bienkowski joked. “But just to see those kids out there … Bryan Stahlman was a quarterback his sophomore year, he threw the pass to Mac. Nate Lowery getting some love, Ethan Budd getting some touches, the kids just smiling and having fun. I mean, it’s a game. Obviously you want to win, but it’s a game. And watching them enjoy it and play hard, get knocked down and get back up and having some tough adversity, but always sticking the course and doing what we ask them to do.”
Port had a chance to add another score just before the half, but a Sheffield interception with 0:03 remaining kept it a two-touchdown margin at the break.
For the fifth game in a row, the Gator defense had the upper hand in making halftime adjustments, forcing a three-and-out on the opponent’s opening possession of the third quarter. Sheffield’s bad series got even worse when the snap sailed over the punter’s head, turning the ball over at its own 22, and Port needed just three plays for Tre Garzel to fire a 16-yard strike to Dylan Baumgarner for the score. This time, it was Budd crashing in for the two-point conversion to make it 24-0.
Another Sheffield punt led to another Gator score a couple of minutes later, with Ramadhan taking a handoff 40 yards to paydirt on the first play of the drive. Lowery added the conversion, and as the third quarter ended with a 32-0 Port lead, time was running out on the Wolverines’ penultimate chance to get into the win column.
Baumgarner tacked on his second score of the half following another long Tanner punt return, with a Garzel run keeping the Gators perfect on two-point plays, invoking the running-clock mercy rule at 40-0 with 8:31 left in the game.
Sheffield had one final chance to get on the scoreboard after a roughing-the-passer call erased an 80-yard pick-six by Garzel, but a fumble recovery by Cody Lentz ended the threat and one last kneeldown ran the last few seconds off the clock.
“Heck of a way for our seniors to go off on their last home game,” Bienkowski said. “Luckily, our quality time together isn’t done yet. But it’s always good to obviously win the North, win your last home game and go off this field with a good feeling. I’m super proud of them.”
Now, Port (6-3, 5-0 AML North) turns its attention once again to Kane (9-0, 4-0 AML South), with head coach Todd Silfies leading a deep and talented pack of Wolves seeking their second league title in three years. Both teams own four modern-era AML crowns, tied for second place behind Smethport’s seven: Port won two of the first three in 1986 and 1988, then went back-to-back in 2011-12, while Kane is 4-0 in the championship game with wins in 2002, 2007, 2008, and 2013.
“Coach Z and I have been talking about Kane, what we can do defensively, and coach Luther and I will talk about what we can do offensively. But our motto all year has kind of been to let kids be kids, enjoy their weekend, enjoy the fun that comes with winning. And then we’ll be in the film room on Monday and try and figure out the best possible way we can beat a tough, tough, tough, well-coached Kane football team,” Bienkowski said. “Try to keep the ship afloat, and hopefully let Kane know we’re not backing down. They don’t win the AML championship just because they beat us by 44 points back on Sept. 25. They know that. Coach Silfies has put a great plan together. We’re going to try and put a great plan together, and we’re gonna let the kids have fun.”
Bienkowski knows what his squad is up against, with a Wolves offense capable of scoring either on the ground or through the air and a hard-hitting, turnover-happy defense. But, he cautioned, this isn’t the same Gator team that took the field back in September.
“It’s completely different,” he said. “Dylan was injured that night, Jordan was very new (coming back from a preseason injury), Nate Lowery had kind of a tender hamstring. The line was a little bit unsure of themselves. Cameron Fryer gives us more time, Brock Veilleux has seen some more snaps, Jared Mahon got some experience tonight.
“We’re a much different team. You always want to be playing your best ball at the end, and I really think we are. So we’re going to roll the dice and see what happens. We’ve got nothing to lose, because we’re playing the first round of districts the following week, which could potentially be Kane again unless we’re able to beat them next week. So we’ll see.”
- It was Port’s 14th consecutive win over Sheffield dating back to 2001, their longest current streak against any AML team. The Gators now own a 26-4 edge over the Wolverines since two-division play began in 1986, and lead 47-17-1 since the two schools helped create the original six-team league (along with Coudersport, Otto Township, Smethport, and St. Marys) in 1951.
- The Gators moved up to second in this week’s Olean Times Herald large-school poll, replacing St. Marys, which dropped to third. Kane, the only undefeated team left in the Big 30, remained the unanimous choice for No. 1.
- Port placed a division-best eight players on the AML North all-star team: Dylan Baumgarner (E), Ethan Budd (G), Tre Garzel (QB), and Bryan Stahlman (T) on offense, and TyDel Green (DT), Nate Lowery (LB), Jordan Seefeldt (DB), and Mac Tanner (DB) on defense.
At Port Allegany, Oct. 15:
|Score by quarters:|
|Port Allegany Gators||8||8||16||8||–||40|
PA (6:49) – Mac Tanner 50 punt return; Josiah Ramadhan run, 8-0
PA (3:13) – Nate Lowery 1 run (8 plays, 76 yards, 3:40); Tanner pass from Bryan Stahlman, 16-0
PA (8:24) – Dylan Baumgarner 16 pass from Tre Garzel (3 plays, 22 yards after turnover on downs, 0:52); Ethan Budd run, 24-0
PA (5:29) – Ramadhan 40 run (1 play, 40 yards, 0:11); Lowery run, 32-0
PA (8:31) – Baumgarner 6 run (4 plays, 21 yards, 1:46); Garzel run, 40-0
|Team Statistics:||Sheffield||Port A|
|Time of poss.||28:42||19:18|
Rushing: Sheffield – Myquandre Stevenson 20 carries-45 yards, Demon Dunning 8-38, Shawn McCullough 2-(-1), Cale Albaugh 3-(-19), team 2-(-29). Port Allegany – Josiah Ramadhan 5-68 (TD), Jordan Seefeldt 6-66, Mac Tanner 10-56, Dylan Baumgarner 4-30 (TD), Tre Garzel 2-13, Nate Lowery 1-1 (TD), Wyatt Dean 2-1, Jared Mahon 1-0.
Passing: Sheffield – Albaugh 3 completions-16 attempts-0 interceptions-16 yards. Port Allegany – Seefeldt 5-9-1-37, Garzel 2-5-0-28 (TD).
Receiving: Sheffield – Dunning 3 catches-16 yards. Port Allegany – Baumgarner 2-28 (TD), Tanner 3-23, Garzel 1-8, Mahon 1-6.
(Helmets courtesy of the Pennsylvania Helmet Project.)