PORT ALLEGANY – With under one minute remaining in regulation and the seconds quickly ticking away in the fourth quarter of Saturday afternoon’s football game, the Elk County Catholic Crusaders faced fourth-and-goal at Port Allegany’s one-yard-line with the score tied at 19-all. Two possessions earlier the team had been in a similar scenario, driving all the way to the Gator’s three-yard-line before being shut down by Port’s defense and turning the ball over on downs. The Gators had seized that opportunity, marching right back down the field to even the score, and they appeared ready to once again squash ECC’s momentum. In need of just one more yard, Elk Catholic quarterback Mitchell Vallone took the snap and handed the ball off to senior Cole Gerber. Gerber pushed forward and was able to pick up just enough ground to put the ball into the endzone and give ECC a 25-19 lead with 15.7 seconds remaining.
“We wanted to keep our offense on the field as long as possible [through] long, sustained drives, and keep their offense off the field as much as we could. I think we got them in some bad situations where they were deep and weren’t as willing to throw the long ball as much. But Port’s a great team. They’re having a great run at it right now and all the respect in the world to them,” said ECC coach Travis Skrzypek.
The Crusaders were led on the ground by Brock McCullough and Cole Gerber. McCullough had 142 yards on 24 carries and a touchdown while Gerber finished with 128 yards on 28 carries and two touchdowns.
“Cole ran good today and so did Brock McCullough. Brock had a good game. I think he kind of had his homecoming today. He came out and he played some inspired football. It was nice to see him running hard as well,” said Skrzypek.
“I think Hank Cappiello had an outstanding game on both sides of the ball,” he added.
Skrzypek also credited the team’s offensive and defensive lines with setting the tone of the game.
“Our line did a good job on both sides of the ball. The secondary, we were bending but we weren’t breaking, not giving the deep ball down the sidelines,” Skrzypek said.
Port Allegany was led by quarterback Matt Bodamer, who completed 20-of-29 for 258 yards and also rushed for 53 yards. Also for the Gators, Trent Neal finished with 24 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
Port Allegany won the coin toss and elected to receive.
The Gators jumped out to an early 6-0 lead, needing 11 plays to drive to 60 yards for the touchdown at the eight-minute mark in the first quarter. The try for two failed.
The Crusaders put on an impressive first drive of their own, using seven plays to move the ball 55 yards. Vallone scored on a one-yard run and Scott Krellner added the extra point to give the Crusaders a 7-6 advantage with 5:08 left in the first quarter.
ECC’s defense forced the Gators to turn the ball over on downs on their next possession, and the Crusaders got to work marching back down the field. The team was able to make it as far as Port’s 18-yard-line when Gator Alex Gular was able to strip the ball from Joe McLaughlin for a fumble that was ultimately recovered by Port Allegany’s Trent Neal.
Not to be deterred, McLaughlin kept his head in the game and picked off a pass by quarterback Matt Bodamer on the Gator’s ensuing drive. The interception gave the Crusaders good field position, as they were able to start their drive at the 50-yard-line. Thirteen plays later the Crusaders found the endzone on a six-yard run by Brock McCullough to go up 13-6 with 2:42 remaining in the half.
Port Allegany answered with a touchdown of their own on their next drive. The team moved the ball 71 yards in just five plays as Neal made a 15-yard run to narrow ECC’s advantage to 13-12 with 1:24 to go in the half.
Elk Catholic started their next drive at their own 43-yard-line and used big plays by McCullough and Gerber to quickly move the ball back down the field to widen their lead as Gerber scored on a nine-yard run as time ran out. The try for two failed, leaving the Crusaders with a 19-12 lead headed into halftime.
The teams traded punts to start the second half. The Crusaders looked set to add to their lead on their next possession, marching to the Gators’ three-yard-line. On third-and-goal, Vallone handed the ball off to McCullough, but he was unable to gain any ground. Following the play, Vallone went down with a leg cramp and was replaced by McLaughlin. On fourth down, McLaughlin attempted a quarterback keep but was stopped for a loss, turning the ball over to the Gators.
Port Allegany used a 10-play drive to reach the Crusaders’ endzone on a two-yard run by Neal, tying the score at 19-all with 10:53 remaining.
The teams again traded punts before the Crusaders began their final 14-play drive that resulted in Gerber’s 1-yard touchdown run with 15.7 seconds remaining to seal their 25-19 victory.
The Gators were able to get two final plays off following Gerber’s touchdown; however, Bodamer’s first pass was incomplete and he was only able to pick up about 20 yards on the final play of the game.
“It’s a big win. Last week (against Coudersport) was a tough loss, but [we] regrouped and get better every week, and we have to do the same starting Monday,” Skrzypek said.
The Crusaders are now 3-1 on the season and 3-1 in the Alleghany Mountain League.
ECC will return to action on Friday evening as they play host to the Johnsonburg Rams at 7 p.m. at Dutch Country Stadium. ECC’s 2011 homecoming queen will be crowned during a halftime ceremony at the game.
Unofficial game statistics
First downs 19 21
Yards gained rushing 288 96
Passes attempted 5 29
Passes completed 1 20
Intercepted by 1 0
Yards gained passing 15 258
Total yards 303 354
Punts-average 2-35 2-31
Penalties-yards 4-25 3-37
Fumbles-lost 1-1 2-0
Offensive plays 66 47
Score by quarters
Elk Catholic 7 12 0 6 25
Port Allegany 6 6 0 7 19
First quarter – Port Allegany – Matt Bodamer passed to Tyce Miller, 20-yard play. 2-point-conversion failed, 6-0, 8:00.
First quarter – Elk Catholic – Mitchell Vallone 1-yard run. Scott Krellner kicked PAT, 7-6, 5:08.
Second quarter – Elk Catholic – Brock McCullough 6-yard run. PAT failed, 13-6, 2:42.
Second quarter – Port Allegany – Trent Neal 31-yard run. 2-point-converstion failed, 13-12, 1:24.
Second quarter – Elk Catholic – Cole Gerber 9-yard run. 2-point-converstion failed, 19-12, 0:0.
Fourth quarter – Port Allegany – Trent Neal 2-yard run. Scott Brookens kicked PAT, 19-19, 10:53.
Fourth quarter – Elk Catholic – Cole Gerber 1-yard run. PAT failed, 25-19, 15.7.
Rushing – Elk Catholic – Brock McCullough 24 carries, 142 yards; Cole Gerber 28 carries, 128 yards; Mitchell Vallone 5 carries; 16 yards; Joe McLaughlin 3 carries, 0 yards; Hank Cappiello 1 carry, 2 yards. Port Allegany – Matt Bodamer 9 carries, 53 yards; Trent Neal 5 carries, 24 yards; Trey Miller 2 carries, 19 yards; Garrett Drabert 2 carries, 9 yards.
Passing – Elk Catholic – Mitchell Vallone 1-5-15. Port Allegany – Matt Bodamer 20-29-258.
Receiving – Elk Catholic – Joe McLaughlin 1 catch, 15 yards. Port Allegany – Charlie Buchanan 4 catches, 39 yards; Tyce Miller 7 catches, 90 yards; Trevor Neal 4 catches, 35 yards; Trent Neal 1 catch, 0 yards; Rickie Bova 2 catches, 51 yards; Nick Conway 2 catches, 28 yards.