Aug. 11, 2016
Going into Saturday night’s Big 30 All-Star Charities Classic, Pennsylvania coach Jim Berlin said his players were “ready and anxious” to start the game.
They had good reason to be confident about their level of preparation.
With Port Allegany quarterback Tre’ Garzel playing a major role, the Keystone State squad erased an early New York lead by scoring on three straight possessions, then pounded out two more long touchdown drives in the second half to secure a 38-20 victory in an entertaining and well-played 43rd edition of the annual all-star game at Interstate Parkway Field in Bradford.
“You really can’t script it any better than that,” an ecstatic Berlin said after watching his team stop a two-game New York winning streak to close the Empire State’s lead in the series to 22-19-2. “All week long they said, ‘Coach, when the lights come on we’re ready to roll,’ and they showed up. They played a hell of a good ballgame tonight.”
The trio of Shane Rolick (107 yards), Tyler Rolick (92) and Alex Colosimo (89) keyed a Pennsylvania ground game which stacked up 343 yards and five touchdowns, while Garzel, who was originally named to the roster as a defensive back, repaid Berlin’s decision to move him to the other side of the ball with what the Smethport mentor called “the game of his life.” He was an efficient 9-for-13 for 197 yards through the air in leading his offensive unit, which included Gator teammates Nate Lowery and Dylan Baumgarner, on four scoring drives in six attempts. The Port signalcaller escaped the pass rush on several occasions to complete throws downfield, keeping the chains moving, and capped off a second-quarter march with a 3-yard touchdown run that eventually proved to be the game-winning score.
“I got to see him play for four years in the AML, and he came to play tonight,” Berlin said.
For Garzel, though, it was a team effort.
“I can’t take any of the credit, really. My receivers were athletes, all of them, and my line was fantastic. Can’t say enough about those guys,” he said. “You know these guys for two weeks, and you grow so close to them. Especially your line, because they’re the guys that have got my back. A couple of moments in the game, things got a little out of hand, and I had some linemen stick up for me. Linemen, a quarterback’s best friend.”
Both teams moved the ball with relative ease in the first half, with New York pushing inside the Pennsy 20 on its opening drive before losing the ball on a fumbled handoff. Following Pennsylvania’s lone three-and-out, the Empire State squad turned a nifty bit of trickery into the game’s first points, with receiver Elijah Ramadhan (Olean) taking a reverse pitch near the right sideline and lofting a cross-field pass to quarterback Ben Burk (Southwestern), who strolled into the end zone for the 23-yard score.
It didn’t take long for Pennsylvania to reply. Taking over at the New York 48, Garzel opened the drive with a 27-yard toss to Brady Bauer, then hit the 6-foot-4 St. Marys receiver for another eight yards to convert a fourth-and-5 from the 16, setting up a 1-yard dive by Colosimo (Bradford) to knot the score. Eisenhower kicker Grant Venmon added the extra point for a 7-6 lead.
Three plays into the second quarter, New York’s next possession ended with a fourth-down sack near midfield, and the Rolick twins started showing off the talent that propelled their Kane team to AML and District 9 championships last fall. Shane did most of the damage on this drive, turning a bootleg into a 47-yard gain before scoring on a 9-yard keeper.
The Burk-Ramadhan connection struck again on the ensuing New York possession, with the Olean receiver pulling in a 7-yard pass as he crossed the goal line and Caleb Rinko (Ellicottville) adding a two-point conversion to pull into a 14-all tie.
That sent Garzel’s unit back onto the field. Taking advantage of the New York pass rush, Berlin called a perfectly-executed middle screen, with ECC fullback Noah Werner rumbling for 69 yards before finally being dragged down at the 3. Garzel snuck into the end zone on the next play, and the Pennsylvania defense forced another fumble deep in its own territory to keep the score 21-14 as the teams headed to the locker rooms.
A couple of key halftime adjustments by Berlin and his Smethport staff helped break the game open. Seeking a better matchup at the line of scrimmage, he flipped the offensive units so New York’s bigger defensive linemen would have to chase Garzel around, while providing more room to run for the Rolick-led unit.
“It seemed to really wear them down in the second half,” he said.
Pennsylvania marched down the field to open the third quarter, with Garzel eluding a seemingly inevitable sack, then spotting Sheffield tight end Ryan Lemay open to convert another fourth down, setting up first-and-goal at the 3.
As Garzel remembered it, “I saw the end coming out of the corner of my eye, so I spun out. Then the second guy was there, and it was like, ‘oh no.’ I just gave a little push off and I was away from it. It just happens sometimes. I saw Lemay running down the field and I was like, ‘All right, there it is.’ Nice big target, delivered a good ball, he made a nice catch and got a couple of yards after.”
Werner punched in from the 1 to give Pennsylvania a two-score lead, and following a New York punt, Shane Rolick added his second touchdown run of the night on a pretty 23-yard bootleg to open up a 35-14 third-quarter margin.
Meanwhile, the Pennsy defense was starting to shut down the New York attack. After rolling up over 300 yards and 17 first downs before halftime, the northerners went nowhere on their first three second-half drives before finally finding the scoreboard again on a spectacular 44-yard touchdown run by Big 30 Player of the Year Jakeb Jones midway through the fourth quarter.
“Man, was he a heck of a ballcarrier,” Berlin said of the Cuba-Rushford star, who finished the game with 17 carries for 159 yards to break Virgil Graham’s 2005 rushing record by a single yard. “That last run for the score, you don’t get to see that every day. Even from that side of the field, it was enjoyable to watch that kid.”
But if New York had any hopes of mounting a late-game comeback, they were dashed by a grinding 14-play, 70-yard drive which chewed up all but 13 seconds of the remaining time. Once again, it was Garzel breaking free to find his receivers downfield.
“A lot of that’s just will,” he said. “I never want to go down. One guy will not tackle me, is my mindset. You’ve got to make things happen. You see one guy and your mindset is, I’ve got to put a move on him and make a play afterwards.”
A 30-yard scamper by Colosimo moved the ball to the New York 3, and with time winding down, Berlin sent in the field goal unit. Late Bradford Era sports writer Greg Clark, remembered with a moment of silence during the pregame ceremonies, would’ve liked the move as Venmon, who was perfect on five extra-point attempts, booted the 22-yard three-point try “halfway to Derrick City” to close out the scoring.
For Berlin, the 1996 Big 30 Defensive Player of the Year who snagged an crucial interception during Pennsylvania’s 20-14 win in the 1997 game, completing the playing-coaching double was “an awesome opportunity.” Thanking both the Big 30 committee and his assistant coaches, he concluded, “I am super pumped right now. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get to play and then coach this game. It’s pretty cool. Pretty cool.”
While obviously happy about the victory, Pennsylvania players also spoke glowingly about the entire experience, with words like “friends” and “family” repeated often.
Perhaps Port defensive back Jordan Seefeldt, a last-minute addition to the Pennsy roster, said it best:
“It was an absolute ball. Everyone said it was going to be a lot of fun, a great time, and that was an understatement. You get to play with all the players you’ve played against and see a different side of them. There’s a lot of them that are really great guys and they work really hard. The last two weeks with Coach Berlin and his staff, we’ve just had an absolute blast. It’s been a lot of fun, and then to come out and get the ‘W’ just sums it up for a lot of great careers. It was really just a good one to end on.”
43rd Big 30 All-Star Charities Classic
At Bradford, Aug. 6:
NY (4:24) – Ben Burk 23 pass from Elijah Ramadhan (13 plays, 74 yards); run failed, 0-6
PA (1:06) – Alex Colosimo 1 run (8 plays, 48 yards); Grant Venmon kick, 7-6
PA (11:54) – Shane Rolick 9 run (5 plays, 52 yards); Venmon kick, 14-6
NY (7:42) – Ramadhan 7 pass from Burk (10 plays, 60 yards); Caleb Rinko run, 14-14
PA (6:17) – Tre’ Garzel 3 run (4 plays, 72 yards); Venmon kick, 21-14
PA (10:24) – Noah Werner 1 run (10 plays, 79 yards); Venmon kick, 28-14
PA (5:41) – Rolick 23 run (7 plays, 55 yards); Venmon kick, 35-14
NY (7:57) – Jakeb Jones 44 run (4 plays, 50 yards); run failed, 35-20
PA (0:13) – Venmon 22 field goal (14 plays, 70 yards), 38-20
First Downs: PA 22, NY 19
Rushes-Yds: PA 58-343, NY 47-258
Passing Yds: PA 197, NY 122
Comp-Att-Int: PA 9-16-1, NY 13-20-1
Total Yds: PA 540, NY 380
Punts-Avg: PA 2-39.5, NY 2-52.5
Penalties-Yds: PA 10-82, NY 6-45
Fumbles-Lost: PA 1-0, NY 4-2
Plays: PA 74, NY 67
Rushing: PA: Shane Rolick 10-107 (2 TD), Tyler Rolick (7-92), Alex Colosimo 19-89 (TD), Noah Werner 5-23 (TD), Adam Shunk 9-21, Tre’ Garzel 8-11 (TD).
NY: Jakeb Jones 17-159* (TD), Andrew Morris 12-64, Ben Burk 10-19, Caleb Rinko 4-11, Simon Glogouski 1-7, Andrew Fair 1-1, Elijah Ramadhan 1-(-1), team 1-(-2).
* Big 30 Charities Classic record
Passing: PA: Garzel 9-13-1-197, S. Rolick 0-3-0-0.
NY: Burk 12-19-1-99 (TD), Ramadhan 1-1-0-23 (TD).
Receiving: PA: Werner 1-69, Ryan Lemay 4-59, Brady Bauer 3-58, Dylan Baumgarner 1-11.
NY: Rinko 4-44, Glogouski 5-32, Burk 1-23 (TD), Hunter Evingham 2-16, Ramadhan 1-7 (TD).
- Defensive end Bryan Stahlman served as one of four Pennsylvania captains, joining Brayden Howard (Smethport), Jake Shrubb (Kane) and Daniel Salinas (St. Marys.) New York captains were Nate Tackentien (Pioneer), Zach Bierfeldt (Allegany-Limestone), Wesley Senn (Randolph), and Matt Hanft (Cattaraugus-Little Valley).
- Stahlman, one of three Port players on defense along with Seefeldt and Mac Tanner, was also one of several Allegheny Mountain League players who took part in both Saturday’s game and the inaugural Frank Varischetti All-Star Game (AML vs. KSAC) in Brockway in early July, giving him a 2-0 record this summer. While saying he enjoyed both experiences, he noted both the history of the Big 30 Game and the chance to bond with teammates over a longer two-week practice period. “Lot different than playing in the AML,” he said. “Everything was a lot quicker than what I’m used to, but we adjusted and it worked out all right.”
- Two Port Allegany families are now a combined 6-0 in Big 30 history, with linemen Ethan Budd and Nate Lowery joining their fathers, Greg Budd and Scott Lowery (both 1983), and older brothers Seth Lowery (2011) and Nick Budd (2013) in the win column.
- Cheerleaders Joyanna Landes and Kendra Pelchy also participated in this year’s game, and McKean County Fair Queen candidate Savannah Gray was announced with the other nominees during pregame ceremonies.