Pennsy wins 44th Big 30 Charities Classic

Lori Chase
August 10, 2017

Saturday’s Big 30 All-Star Charities Classic was billed as a matchup between two old-school, run-heavy offenses. Instead of a low-scoring slugfest, though, observers at Interstate Parkway Field were treated to the third-highest offensive output in the series’ 44-year history.

With the Pennsylvania defense making a slew of big plays and the offense scoring on six of seven possessions once they started rolling, the Keystone State squad erased an early two-touchdown deficit to roll to a 48-30 victory over New York on a gorgeous, if cool, summer evening in Bradford.

“I just told the kids, do what you do best and make plays,” fifth-year Elk County Catholic head coach Tony Gerg said. “The coaches weren’t gonna win this game, it was the kids. Let them go out and let ’em do what they know how to do, and they did.”

The 78 total points trailed only the 2003 (56-40) and 2010 (46-37) contests, a pair of New York shootout wins, and Pennsy’s 48-point outburst finished just behind their 2013 (53-12) and 2005 (49-22) counterparts for bragging rights as they narrowed the Empire State’s lead in the series to 22-20-2.

Quarterbacks Nate DaCanal (ECC) and Kyle Kirk (Bradford) combined for 264 yards and a trio of touchdown passes, with their point production matched by the power-running tandem of Seth Drummond (Otto-Eldred) and Matt Marconi (St. Marys).

Most of those Pennsy touchdown drives were set up by turnovers – including a pair of takeaways by Coudersport grad Aaron Wolfinger and a fourth-down stop by his Falcon teammate Brock Wilson – and a late pick-six by Ridgway’s Jacob Anderson capped off the scoring, beginning the celebration in earnest on the home team’s sideline.

“We just needed to settle in and get a good stop, get a chance for our offense to make a big move, and that’s what we did,” Wolfinger said. “All game long we were having a little trouble with the defense, but we found it and we came out on top.”

Gerg, who noted the athleticism of the Coudy duo during a post-practice interview last week, tabbed Wolfinger’s third-quarter interception as the key play on a night chock-full of momentum swings. With Pennsylvania clinging to its first lead of the game, the Falcon linebacker stepped in front of a pass attempt at his own 32-yard line to halt New York’s potential go-ahead drive, and DaCanal found Bradford receiver Dawson Ambrose for a 38-yard catch-and-run score shortly thereafter to open up a 34-22 margin.

“He’s an outstanding player,” Gerg said of the two-time Olean Times Herald Big 30 All-Star. “To come up and pick that off to stop the drive, because if they score on that drive … It’s a different game, maybe, because our strategy has to change from that point. So I really think that play meant a lot.”

Pregame preparation was the key for Wolfinger, who also made sure to credit the offense for cashing in on the opportunity he gave them.

“We had been doing a lot of flats coverage in practice, a lot of routes like that, and I just made a move on it,” he said. “It was definitely one of them (a momentum-changer), but we’ve got to give props to the offense to make a move on that. If they don’t do anything on that play, it really doesn’t mean much.”

If his pick wasn’t the defensive play of the game, a strong argument could be made for his earlier takeaway. Already down 14-0 and facing fourth-and-long early in the second quarter, Pennsylvania punted the ball away, but Wolfinger’s well-timed downfield coverage forced a muff that he recovered at the New York 26. On the next play, Kirk found tight end Parker Smith (St. Marys) open at the goal line to put Pennsy on the board.

“I had to check a couple times and make sure he wasn’t fair-catching it. I didn’t want to get any penalty like that. As soon as I saw that he didn’t, I took the opportunity,” Wolfinger said.

New York’s next possession came to an abrupt end at the Pennsylvania 42, with Wilson flashing into the backfield on fourth-and-an-inch to drag down Gowanda back Jason Gauthier for no gain.

“He had a great game, he really did,” Wolfinger said of his Falcon running mate. “Coming off-tackle and making those really good stops, he was a vital part of that defense.”

Added Gerg, “He’s going on to play at Alfred U, and I’m telling you what, they’re getting a gem up there. That kid is one of the smartest football players, football smarts, that I’ve ever met. He gets it. He’s going to be an outstanding college player.”

Pennsylvania took advantage of the turnover on downs to pull into a 14-14 tie on Marconi’s nine-yard touchdown run, but New York answered with a highlight-reel play. Randolph quarterback Jake Beaver completed a 10-yard out to Cordell O’Brien, who deftly flipped the ball to his Frewsburg teammate Caleb Caldwell for a 60-yard sprint past a stunned Pennsylvania sideline to finish off the successful hook-and-lateral.

After forcing another punt, the blue-clad New Yorkers were in position to reclaim control, but the first of two interceptions by Ridgway cornerback Josh Raubenstrauch gave Pennsylvania the ball back at midfield with just 1:08 remaining in the half.

That proved to be just enough time. Kane’s Davis Gardner made a leaping 41-yard grab to put Pennsy in the red zone, and DaCanal followed with a five-yard slant to Ambrose for the score with 8.1 seconds left on the clock to make it 22-20 at the break.

The second half belonged to the Keystone defense and running game, with the other two Potter County players in the game, Coudy guard Corey Thompson and O-E tight end (and Oswayo Valley grad) Grant West helping open holes for the Pennsy backs. Taking direct snaps out of the single-wing set, Drummond pounded out 84 of his game-best 98 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns in the final 30 minutes, including 10 carries and a catch on a backbreaking 15-play, 71-yard drive which chewed up almost half of the fourth quarter after New York had scored on a 46-yard catch-and-run by O’Brien to cut the margin to 34-30.

“It’s kind of nice, isn’t it?” Gerg said, smiling. “You’ve got two big bowling balls in there with Marconi and Drummond. That’s what we’re designed for, even back at Elk County, that kid that can take the ball and just drive down the field and have the faith that they can handle the ball, not turn it over. They took over the game. Once you can manage that clock at the end with that lead, you’ve won it. They were outstanding.”

On the other side of the ball, the Pennsy defense settled in after its early-game jitters, forcing a total of five turnovers in the final three quarters while allowing just the two big-play scores.

“The first quarter was a little iffy, because we didn’t know what they were going to be running, they didn’t know what we were going to be running. We were a little rough in some patches,” Port Allegany tackle TyDel Green said. “Once we straightened it around, though, we just pretty much overcame it. “

Afterward, players and coaches mingled with their families and posed for pictures on the Parkway Field turf, promising each other to keep in touch with their newfound friends.

“When it came down to it, everybody executed when they needed to. Really fun game,” Green said. “Everybody did what they were asked in practice, and it showed on the field. Great group of guys, some memories that all of us can take forever. Just a great experience.”

Wilson added, “It’s once in a lifetime, it really is. The whole process, going through it, is fantastic. It’s a lot of fun, and to show out like we did is even better. Icing on the cake.”

NOTES:
-The Pennsylvania defense tied a pair of game records, matching New York’s four-interception night in 1978 while Raubenstrauch joined six other players, including Port Allegany’s Kerry Hawver (2001), with a pair of pickoffs. Raubenstrauch also broke up two passes, as did Bradford’s Mitch Vleminckx.
– Beaver put his name in the record book for his three touchdown passes (including the hook-and-lateral), a feat previously accomplished by Gator quarterbacks Tom Nasto in 2001 and Matt Bodamer in 2013 as well as New York’s John Ditcher in 1986.
-Kane kicker Joe Johnson missed an early field-goal attempt but finished with six successful extra-point attempts, one short of the mark set by Bradford’s Kyle MacFarlane in 2005.
-Smethport defensive end Akete Kindle notched a pair of sacks, while Gowanda passrushers Ethan Francis and Marcus Jones each recorded a takedown for New York. Each team also made seven tackles for loss, including one by Green and two by Ridgway’s Justin Kasmierski.

44th BIG 30 CHARITIES CLASSIC
At Bradford, Aug. 5:

SCORE BY QUARTERS:
New York 14 8 8 0 30
Pennsylvania 0 20 14 14 48

Scoring Summary
First Quarter

New York – Cordell O’Brien 10 pass from Jake Beaver (6 plays, 58 yards); kick blocked, 6-0
New York – Devin Carr 2 run (12 plays, 60 yards after Chris Johnson fumble recovery); Jason Gauthier run, 14-0
Second Quarter
Pennsylvania – Parker Smith 26 pass from Kyle Kirk (1 play, 26 yards after Aaron Wolfinger fumble recovery); Joe Johnson kick, 14-7
Pennsylvania – Matt Marconi 9 run (3 plays, 58 yards after turnover on downs); Johnson kick, 14-14
New York – Caleb Caldwell 60 lateral from O’Brien after 10 pass from Beaver (3 plays, 74 yards); O’Brien pass from Beaver, 22-14
Pennsylvania – Dawson Ambrose 5 pass from Nate DaCanal (7 plays, 50 yards after Josh Raubenstrauch interception); pass failed, 22-20
Third Quarter
Pennsylvania – Seth Drummond 12 run (8 plays, 79 yards); Johnson kick, 22-27
Pennsylvania – Ambrose 38 pass from DaCanal (6 plays, 68 yards after Wolfinger interception); Johnson kick, 22-34
New York – O’Brien 46 pass from Beaver (7 plays, 64 yards); Beaver run, 30-34
Fourth Quarter
Pennsylvania – Drummond 4 run (15 plays, 71 yards); Johnson kick, 30-41
Pennsylvania – Jacob Anderson 30 interception return; Johnson kick, 30-48

TEAM STATISTICS: NY PA
First downs 19 23
Rushes-Yards 49-197 48-182
Passing Yards 188 264
Comp-Att-Int 8-20-4 14-21-0
Total Yards 385 446
Fumbles-Lost 2-1 1-1
Punts-Avg. 2-32.5 3-31.0
Penalties-Yards 8-61 4-35
Total Plays 69 69

Individual Statistics
Rushing:
NY – Kameron Alexander 9-82; Jason Gauthier 18-72; Devin Carr 13-47; Casey Williams 5-17; Alexander Edstrom 2-(-1); Jake Beaver 2-(-20). PA – Seth Drummond 18-98, 2 TD; Matt Marconi 14-66, TD; Kyle Kirk 5-15; Brendon Mattson 3-14; Jared Braun 3-2; Tristan Reed 1-(-3); Nate DaCanal 4-(-10).
Passing: NY – Beaver 6-12-1, 165 yards, 3 TD; Carr 2-7-2, 23 yards; Gauthier 0-1-1. PA – DaCanal 10-12-0, 143 yards, 2 TD; Kirk 4-9-0, 74 yards, TD.
Receiving: NY – Cordell O’Brien 5-94, 2 TD; Caleb Caldwell 1-71 (60 on lateral), TD; Ryan Schlosser 2-23. PA – Dawson Ambrose 4-92, 2 TD; Davis Gardner 3-68; Parker Smith 2-34, TD; Braun 1-27; Mattson 2-23; Drummond 1-13; Marconi 1-7.

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From last month: “Team Bruno” continues to pay it forward

And while I’m dusting off the blog, I’ve been promising Sean Lathrop this story for about a month now. Finally…..

Team Bruno 2017

Team Bruno, 2017. (Courtesy of the BIWC.)

Lori Chase
July 13, 2017

They’ve reached the heights of their sport: NCAA champions and All-Americans, Hall of Fame college coaches, jiu-jitsu black belts, mixed martial arts fighters who’ve entered the UFC and Bellator cages – and, for a select few, even representing their countries in Olympic and world championship competition.

And for a week every June, they gather in the northern Pennsylvania mountains to remember a fallen comrade by sharing their knowledge with the next generation.
The 14th annual Bruno Iorfido Wrestling Camp, held from June 19-23 this year, once again combined top-level instruction in the sport with a variety of off-the mat activities for campers and clinicians alike.

“It’s a great experience. Some of these kids have never seen hills like this, or even put a fishing pole in the water, until they come here,” said Al Beattie, whose son ‘Little Al’ was one of three collegiate scholarship winners along with Port Allegany alumni Mac Tanner (Clarion) and Casey Vollmer (Gannon), bringing the total amount awarded to the $30,000 mark.

But while there’s time for fun and games, the main focus is to remember Iorfido, the former Ridgway standout who went on to become an All-American at Pitt-Johnstown before dying in an auto accident in 2003. The idea is to not just teach wrestling moves, but Bruno’s work ethic, dedication, determination and moral values to the young campers.

“We talk all week about leaving a legacy: What kind of person are you going to be when it’s your time? Are you going to be someone that’s going to be remembered for the type of person that you were, the type of person that was there to help people? Someone that someone would want to do something like this for you? That’s exactly why we have this going in Bruno’s name,” said Isaac Greeley, one of the camp’s co-founders along with Sean Lathrop, Aaron Rendos and Jared Kuleck.

Greeley, a Port High alum who went on to earn All-American status on UPJ’s 1999 national-championship squad, was an assistant coach when Iorfido was a Mountain Cat, while Rendos, a Brockway native, was both Bruno’s teammate and roommate.

“You’ve heard it year after year that a lot of the new kids don’t know what he was all about and what he meant to all of us,” Rendos told the young wrestlers. “We kind of want to instill that with you. I try to do that with my own kids, try to get them to grow up like Bruno, the type of person Bruno was. We miss him every day, but he’s here in spirit. Things that happen in my life, I’m always thinking of him and he’s with me.”

That mindset has stayed the same for the last decade and a half, witnessing the camp’s growth from a couple dozen kids to one which draws clinicians from around the country – and now the world.

“We’ve got a lot of younger kids coming here just to train, especially some of the fighters. Wrestling might not be their thing, but if you come to this camp you can roll around with some of the best guys in the country. It’s a special thing. I think a lot more people are coming from the outside, wanting to come in, which makes it easier for us to expand the camp and bring in some of these top guys,” Rendos said at one of the camp’s traditional events, a Thursday-afternoon picnic.

“I mean, yesterday we had a four-time All-American, two-time national champ (Penn State’s Quentin Wright) in the morning, and then in the afternoon you get an Olympian (Uzbekistan’s Bekzod Abdurakhmonov) that beat one of America’s best in the world at Rio. He showed some really cool stuff.

“It’s been amazing to see the growth of this, especially in the last five years. Kind of the Bruno spirit, bringing that back to where they got it from.”

Abdurakhmonov, an All-American at Clarion in 2012, claimed bronze at the 2014 world championships before stunning USA star Jordan Burroughs at Rio, knocking him out of the 2016 Olympic tournament.

“It’s good to have him. He’s part of the Bruno family,” Rendos said. “He came, I want to say, about five years ago, then took a couple of years off. Now he’s coming back and helping us out again. He brought one of his buddies, his countrymen, who’s going to Paris to wrestle the under-21 world trials. And Flo (Temengil, a two-time Olympian for Palau) brought one of his boys that’s going to wrestle in Paris as well.
“That’s cool to see, two world team members not even from the United States that are coming to Port Allegany to share what they have and train alongside some of the best kids in the country.”

So where does the camp go from here?

“We need more mats,” Rendos said, chuckling. “We bring in around the 120-140 range, and we’re pretty packed with the mats we have. We have our steadfast clinicians, the college kids that come in every year, but then we get the feature ones and the Olympians. We’re just kind of building on that, trying to give the kids a different variety during the week so they’re not seeing the same thing every year.

“On Wednesday, (Bekzod) had every single, not only camper, but clinician and coach saying ‘Holy cow’ and bringing back what he shows. He coaches at Harvard right now, so he’s showing us some things he shows his college kids and what he’s learning there. I was captivated by that. I thought it was pretty cool, stuff I don’t see on a regular basis. The sport evolves so fast it’s hard to keep up.”

While the mats are set up in the Port Allegany High School gyms, the real camp headquarters is the Lathrop house, where Laurie and daughters Becca, Allison and Hannah keep everything running smoothly.

“They all put us up every year. It’s amazing, what they do. Those four right there are the reason this camp actually works,” said Jon-Marc Burdick, a former scholarship winner who wrestled at Smethport and Edinboro and is now a board member. “If it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t be here. They make it work. They mean a lot to us. They’re like sisters.”

According to Allison, the feeling is mutual.

“It’s one big support system,” she said. “We’ll go watch them wrestle, and they came to some AAU games for Becca. A few of them, when I was in Shippensburg for states, they came to watch me jump, they’ve watched Hannah play softball. We’re their sisters, even if they have sisters. They call Mom ‘Mama Lathe’.

“Everything they say is, ‘Laurie is such a saint.’ Some people think Dad’s the boss, and then they meet Mom and they’re like, ‘Oh, it’s definitely her.’”

Working with the camp even helped lead to a career choice for Allison. Following in the footsteps of Greeley, a successful chiropractor who also happens to be her godfather, she’s now a licensed massage therapist at the Charles Cole Memorial Hospital Wellness Center.

“I knew that I wanted to do something along the lines of what he does, and this was the next best thing,” she said.

Like Lathrop, ‘Little Al’ Beattie plans to pay his Team Bruno experience
forward. Now a redshirt sophomore heavyweight at UPJ after winning a PIAA championship at Burrell High School, he’s working toward an education degree to become a teacher and coach.

“I love this camp. I’ll be coming here as long as I’m able to physically. When I’m 60 years old, I hope I’m able to do this,” he said. “It’s awesome. It’s great for the kids, and it’s great for the person that Bruno was. Bruno was an exceptional person, he was a good wrestler, he did everything the right way.

“The tragedy that happened to his family and to our community… I feel like I knew Bruno, and I never met him. I feel like he’s there. Every single person that comes here that believes in the system, the lifestyle, doing everything the right way, is what Bruno would want. What we want to put onto the younger kids, and what we try to have the kids see in us. It’s just incredible.”

***

As usual, Lathrop posted a list of people he wanted to thank to the BIWC Facebook page after the event (with apologies to anyone he missed):

“John Caden, Barry and Donna Sauers, Perry and Jon-Marc Burdick, Mick and Sue Greeley, Ray and Janet Howard, my wife Laurie and my daughters, Pam Fischer, Lori Chase, the Port Allegany School District, the Carlson’s, Port Shop and Save, Port VMI, Isaac Greeley, Aaron Rendos and all board members.”

Big 30 Game kicks off at 7

With kickoff just over four hours away, my advance from Thursday for tonight’s Big 30 All-Star Charities Classic:

Lori Chase
Aug. 3, 2017

The sounds of football pads colliding and coaches’ whistles tweeting filled the air at Gator Field last Friday evening, as the Pennsylvania team in this weekend’s 44th Big 30 All-Star Charities Classic made its annual visit to Port Allegany for a two-hour practice session.

Afterward, Tony Gerg liked what he’d seen from his squad. The Elk County Catholic head coach admitted to some “sleepless nights” after the first couple of workouts, but said, “By Tuesday of this week, I could see a bounce in their step. The last two nights, the offense looked like it was in a rhythm. That’s what we were looking for.”

Acknowledging the challenges in molding players from the 13 different high schools in the southern half of the Big 30 area into a cohesive unit in just nine padded practices, Gerg noted, “These are new kids. First time a lot of them have met each other, ever. They’re being supportive, they’re bringing each other up. They know how to win games, they just have to learn how to do it as a unit.

“I feel a lot better than I did a week and a half ago.”

Those sentiments were echoed by Port Allegany defensive tackle TyDel Green, the lone Gator tabbed for this year’s roster.

“It’s going good. Things are coming together,” he said. “Everybody’s kind of getting closer together. Some of us haven’t played together in a long time, or even ever seen each other, but it’s coming along pretty well. We’re more in rhythm now.”

One additional wrinkle for this year’s Pennsy offense: Gerg and his staff run some of their plays from the single-wing offense, a system most of the other local schools had only seen on decades-old film before facing the Crusaders’ version. Devised more than a century ago by the legendary “Pop” Warner, the predecessor of the “shotgun” formation relies on a combination of deception and blocking mismatches to keep the opposing defense on its heels.

“Weird stuff,” Gerg said, chuckling. “It’s kind of the same approach we run with our kids: If you look at it and you’re open to it, it’s pretty fun. I think it fits well, because it gives you the opportunity to hand the ball off to everybody. It’s an all-star game. We want everybody to be involved in this thing, everybody get their touches. That’s the main game plan.

“And win,” he concluded with a smile.

On the other side of the ball, Green and his teammates are adapting to the mandatory 4-3 defense.

“Definitely a challenge,” he said. “Something new to learn, but most of us have it down.”

And the work, Green said, is well worth it.

“It’s a commitment, for sure, going to every practice in different towns,” he said. “But it’s definitely very nice to be able to say you’ve been asked to play in the game. And it’s for a good cause, all the charity work that goes into it. The Big 30, it’s a big organization. A lot of work, a lot of time not just for the players, but for the organization as well.

“It’s definitely an achievement for everyone who’s been told they can play in the Big 30.”

There’s a banquet for the participants on Thursday night, and a parade and tailgate party on Saturday afternoon, but Green is already focusing on one thing: Kickoff.

“Saturday night, 7 o’clock,” he said.

***

The Big 30 All-Star Charities Classic, a game between teams of graduated seniors from Allegany, Cattaraugus, and eastern Chautauqua counties in New York and Potter, McKean, Warren, Elk, and Cameron in Pennsylvania, has raised more than $1.6 million for various organizations and individuals in need across the Twin Tiers. New York leads the series, 22-19-2, but Pennsy’s 38-20 win last year earned the Keystone State squad the home sideline for this year’s game at Bradford’s Interstate Parkway Field.

In addition to Green, Port Allegany cheerleaders Marianna Seefeldt, Karlye Rifle, Morgan Causer and Homecoming Queen Autumn Buchsenschutz are also taking part in this week’s festivities.

Saturday’s parade will start at 2:30 p.m., with participants asked to line up in the Best Western parking lot at 12:30, and proceed down Main Street to the Pitt-Bradford athletic fields on Campus Drive. There will be a tailgate party in the high school parking lot outside the football field in the pavilion. As this is a high school campus, no alcohol or tobacco products are permitted anywhere on the grounds.

Gates will open at 5 p.m., with pregame activities set to begin at 6:15.