JOHNSONBURG – Port Allegany senior starting quarterback Matt Bodamer showed Friday night that he hasn't lost a step since last season as he threw for five touchdowns and ran for three more in a dominating 54-0 victory over host Johnsonburg.
Bodamer completed 17 passes on the night for 342 yards, including seven tosses to Tyce Miller, a senior standout wide receiver who finished with 190 yards through the air and three scores. Bodamer had 312 passing yards at halftime against the Rams' 18 yards of total offense at the break.
The defending District 9 and Allegheny Mountain League [AML] champions scored four touchdowns in the first quarter alone and stormed to a 54-0 victory, having the running clock thanks to the mercy rule in effect for the duration of the second half.
"There was no doubt that this would be a difficult game because Port Allegany has a very good football team and you have to give them all the respect in the world," said Johnsonburg head varsity football coach Jesse Schreiber. "They work hard and they've put their time in 12 months out of the year, and even though they lost a few pieces from last year, they still have a lot of great athletes. It's a good program and they'll do good things this year."
Bodamer keyed a quick 4-play drive to open the game, highlighted by a 37-yard pass to senior wide receiver Nick Conway and a 29-yard pass to senior running back Trey Miller. Bodamer capped the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run to give the Gators the early 6-0 lead just 59 seconds into the game.
After a Johnsonburg 3-and-out, one of six quick dismissals on the night, a high snap sailed over senior Kyle Sheldon's head. The senior punter fell on the football, giving Port Allegany possession on the Rams' 5-yard line. After a rare Bodamer incomplete pass, the star senior found Conway in the end zone for the score. A 2-point conversion run from Bodamer put the visitors ahead 14-0 not even three minutes into the game.
With Johnsonburg senior quarterback Frank Kocjancic making his first varsity start, the Rams managed to gain several first downs before the Gator defense caught up.
The subsequent drive saw Kocjancic hit Sheldon with a 12-yard pass but an interception from Kocjancic to Bodamer stalled the drive and gave the Gators excellent field position on the Rams' 40-yard line.
"We had some receivers wide open early on and with that spread offense, you have to match up early on, athlete to athlete, and they did that," Schreiber said. "We were hoping to spread it out and maybe get some of our athletes open. We are hoping to 'out-athlete' some teams but you're not going to 'out-athlete' Port Allegany.
"Our offensive line faulted a little bit [Friday] but it's tough going up against such a talented football team."
Five plays later, the Gators were in the end zone again on a drive highlighted by a 12-yard run by Bodamer off a broken play on 4th-and-4. Bodamer found Tyce Miller in the end zone from 24 yards out for a 20-0 lead.
Port Allegany took advantage of another Johnsonburg 3-and-out and short punt, again starting out on the Rams' 40-yard line. Bodamer capped off a 5-play drive with an 18-yard toss to Trey Miller with 3:07 in the opening quarter. An extra point from senior kicker Sam Kysor set the score at 27-0.
After negative yardage on the first two plays, a third-down Kocjancic throw fell incomplete, forcing another punt. The Gator offense, however, would temporarily sputter on the next drive as the Rams turned the trick and forced a 3-and-out to end the first quarter.
The Rams had possession deep in their own territory to start the second quarter and were forced the punt the ball away after three plays. After a penalty on the Gators and an exceptional punt from Sheldon, Port Allegany started on their own 29-yard line and after a 6-yard run from senior running back Trent Neal, Bodamer found Tyce Miller down the right sideline for a 65-yard pass for a 34-0 lead.
After another Johnsonburg 3-and-out, Bodamer led the Gators on a 6-play drive to the end zone, highlighted by a 24-yard grab from Trey Miller on 4th-and-13; a helmet-to-helmet penalty was tacked on, giving the Gators 1st-and-goal on the 5-yard line. Bodamer danced in on the next play for a 41-0 lead.
Kocjancic managed three rushing plays for 19 yards and a 5-yard pass to senior wide receiver Mitchell Holmberg on the next play before the Gator defense held, forcing another punt before halftime. The Gators took advantage of the opportunity, using an 8-play drive to find the end zone just before halftime. Bodamer completed three passes down the stretch, a 37-yard throw to Tyce Miller followed by a 12-yard toss to Trey Miller to set up shop at the 10-yard line. Bodamer then found Tyce Miller with 13.2 seconds on the clock and a Kysor extra point gave them a 48-0 halftime lead.
Kocjancic was plagued by incompletions in the second half but managed to convert with a 10-yard rush on 3rd-and-10 in the third quarter, then followed with a 19-yard pass to Holmberg before he was picked off on 2nd-and-10 by Gator junior cornerback Cory Burr.
"[Kocjancic] did well for his first go of it and now he knows what he has to do," Schreiber said. "Really, they all know what to do now. We can talk all we want about working hard, but playing in the game is the next step. All you can do is keep doing the repetitions and it comes with time.
"The more time that we can give Frank [Kocjancic] back there, the better off he'll be able to see it. We did well in the first two scrimmages and our performance wasn't all that bad when you consider Port Allegany is the best team in the AML."
Bodamer capped off a 5-play drive with a 27-yard touchdown run with four minutes to go in the third quarter for a 54-0 lead.
After a 3-and-out from the Rams, Port Allegany's second-string unit orchestrated a 7-play drive before turning the ball over on downs. The Rams' second unit fared reasonably well with an 8-yard pass from sophomore quarterback Christian Cherry to sophomore wide receiver Cole Myers, and a 4-yard toss from Cherry to senior wide receiver Caleb Garvey. A 10-yard run from sophomore running back Mason Wazelle and subsequent 15-yard penalty on the Gators for a late hit set up the Rams on the visitors' 40-yard line but a third-down interception from Cherry gave Port Allegany the ball on their own 28-yard line. With time dwindling, backup quarterback Jordan Seefeldt nearly scored with a rush down the left side of the field but was finally tripped up on a 36-yard rush to end the game.
With the Rams hoping to install a spread offense with the possibility of some "no-huddle" opportunities, Schreiber said it was an excellent lesson in watching the Gator offense.
"Their efficiency is key and they know it inside and out. It's a building block for us, learning to work with the spread offense," Schreiber said. "The quarterback [Bodamer] knows it, he knows how many linebackers are coming and he knows where the blitz is, and he may miss a play or two there, but he calls it and everybody knows it.
"It's a learning curve for us and we have a long way to go with it but we obviously have to study it and understand the game."
NOTES: Johnsonburg (0-1) will travel to Smethport Friday, Sept. 7 for a 7 p.m. game; Port Allegany (1-0) will host Kane (1-0) on Saturday, Sept. 8 for a 1:30 p.m. game… the Ram Band 300 Club winners from the game were: first quarter, Rocky Retzer; second quarter, JoAnne Ryan; third quarter, Chuck Simpson and Ruth Pennington; and fourth quarter, Nancy and Dave Fuhrman.