PORT ALLEGANY-The first game of the year for any football team is a test to see where they stand as a unit. On a sun-filled Saturday afternoon the Curwensville Golden Tide and the Port Allegany Gators clashed to find out which unit was more prepared.
After 48 minutes of ground-and-pound football, it was Curwensville who held on late to secure a 28-26 victory.
After the game, Golden Tide head coach Andy Evanko was praising both his team and the effort that the Gators put forth.
“I think we grew up a lot today as a team,” said Evanko. “I have to credit Port Allegany for their ball position, they really had us backing up early in the game.”
Curwensville was in a gut-wrenching battle against the Gators. Port Allegany put up similar numbers both on the ground and in the air. The Gators went for 125 yards on the ground, 52 of which came from Camrin Stuckey. Stuckey also completed one pass for 27 yards.
The bulk of the Gators’ 136 passing yards came from the arm of Matt Bodamer, who completed six of seven passes for 109 yards, two for touchdowns.
For Curwensville, their ground game was what kept them in the game. Quarterback Sam Gardner led the Tide offense in rushing with 101 yards on 15 carries, two for touchdowns. Both Alex Holland and Jed Greslick scored a touchdown, combining for 110 yards. Gardner was just as productive through the air as he completed four passes for 69 yards.
Both teams failed to get the ball down the field early in the game. Curwensville got the ball first at their own 28. The offense was able to move to the 46-yard line, but on the fourth play from scrimmage Greslick fumbled the ball, and the Gators recovered back at the Tide 41. Port Allegany quickly went to the running game, and after a penalty on Curwensville, made it to the Tide 33; but on the ensuing play running back Seth Lowery lost the handle on the ball at the 18, and the Tide recovered the ball.
The Tide were unable to capitalize on the turnover, and were forced to punt. Port Allegany then utilized their ground game to wear out the Tide defense. Making use of four different running backs, the Gators went 47 yards on nine plays, capped off by a 2-yard plunge by Stuckey. The failed two-point conversion left the score 6-0 with just over two minutes left in the first quarter.
The ensuing Tide possession saw a mirror image of what the Gators had just completed. Using an entire series of run plays, Curwensville went 55 yards to score their first touchdown of the game as Jed Greslick ran up the middle for the nine yard score. A Gators penalty on the extra point attempt gave the Tide a better chance for a two point conversion, which Greslick successfully completed, making the score 8-6.
The next Gators possession resulted in a punt, but they quickly recovered once the Tide got the ball back. On a 2nd and 8, Gardner went back to pass, but as he was scrambling out of the pocket, the ball was knocked out. Defensive end Lucas Kline recovered the ball and took it 18 yards back for the touchdown. The two-point conversion made the score 14-8 with only 3:26 left in the half.
Curwensville still fought to regain the lead, and with a combination of passing plays and ground attack, the Tide scored again as Gardner punched the ball in from three yards out. Greslick’s extra point made the score 15-14.
The Tide defense came on the field and were able to force the Gators into a 3rd and 20 on their own 40 yard line. But, just as quickly, Port Allegany responded, and in a big way as Bodamer threw a deep pass over the Tide secondary to Stuckey for the first passing touchdown of the Gators’ season. The 60-yard score put the Gators up 20-15 as the two-point conversion once again failed.
The Gators got the ball to start the second half, and used 13 plays to drive down the field, capped off by a five-yard pass from Bodamer to Stuckey. The missed conversion made the score 26-15 when Curwensville took the field.
Not waiting to build momentum, the Tide made quick work of the Gator defense. On only the second play of the drive, on what was supposed to be a pass play, Gardner broke free into the secondary. A perfect block by Daniel Hess kept Gardner on his feet as he went to the end zone for his second touchdown of the game. Greslick’s extra point brought the Tide to within four, 26-22.
“Hess is a special guy. Our wide receivers know that they don’t just catch the ball, but also block down field,” Evanko said. “Hess can do a lot.”
On the next Gators possession, after only two plays, running back Ryan Bodamer fumbled the ball, with Curwensville recovering at the Gators 29. The Tide again relied on the running game, but two personal foul penalties set them back to the 40-yard line. The offense recovered and moved down to within striking distance of a touchdown and their third lead of the afternoon.
On first and goal, Gardner went for a sneak up the middle, but outside the goal line he lost the handle on the ball, and the Gators recovered in the end zone, giving them the ball back at their own 20.
“Turnovers and penalties really hurt us,” Evanko said of his team.
The defense stepped up their game and forced the Gators into a three-and-out, giving them the ball back with just over one minute in the third quarter.
At that point, Curwensville started what would be their signature drive of the game. Starting at their own 30, Curwensville went to work on the ground, putting the ball in the hands of Holland, Gardner and Greslick. The team drove down the field, converting on both third and fourth down to keep the drive alive. After 11 consecutive runs, Gardner went play action and found Hess down the sidelines on 2nd and 9, putting the Tide on the five yard line.
Two plays later, Holland scampered in from three yards out. The extra point attempt went wide right, leaving Curwensville with only a two-point lead.
“During halftime, we made some adjustments I didn’t think we had to make,” Evanko said. “They worked, and it got us the lead right there.”
The Gators got the ball back starting at their own 36, and were able to work their way down to the Tide 40, but the offense stalled as they failed to convert on fourth down. However, they didn’t have to wait for long to get a second chance as on the first play following the turnover on downs, Curwensville fumbled again.
Port Allegany’s final drive began with 3:07 left in the game, starting at the Tide 40. The defense held strong, forcing the Gators to go for it on fourth down. Matt Bodamer took the snap, and after being flushed out of the pocket, found Stuckey over two defenders for a 21-yard gain, yielding a 1st and 10 on the Tide 11. Three consecutive run plays set the Gators three yards back.
Stuckey then lined up to kick a field goal. The crowd on both sides were getting loud, with the Tide stands going insane. The kick by Stuckey went low of the cross bar, bouncing at the goal line. A kneel down by Gardner sealed the victory.
“You’d rather be two points ahead than two points back, but its a win,” Evanko said outside the locker room.
Curwensville (1-0) travels to Otto-Eldred (0-1) on Friday night to take on the Terrors, while Port Allegany (0-1) faces the Elk County Catholic Crusaders next Saturday.
Score by Quarter
CURWENSVILLE 0 15 7 6 28
PORT ALLEGANY 6 14 6 0 26
RUSHING YARDS: Curwensville-232 Port Allegany-125
PASSING YARDS: Curwensville-69 Port Allegany-136
PENALTIES/YARDS: Curwensville-6/60 Port Allegany-5/22
TOTAL YARDS: Curwensville-361 Port Allegany-283
COMP/ATT/TD/INT: Curwensville-4/9/0/0 Port Allegany-7/10/2/0
3RD DOWN CONVERSIONS: Curwensville-5/8 Port Allegany-6/14
4TH DOWN CONVERSIONS: Curwensville-3/3 Port Allegany-3/5
TIME OF POSSESSION: Curwensville-23:15 Port Allegany-24:45
RUSHING: CURWENSVILLE: Gardner-15 carries, 101 yards, 2 TD; Holland-11 carries, 66 yards, TD; Greslick-13 carries, 34 yards, TD. PORT ALLEGANY: Lowery-15 carries, 52 yards; R. Bodamer-12 carries, 32 yards; Stuckey-11 carries, 27 yards, TD.
PASSING: CURWENSVILLE: Gardner-4 for 9, 79 yards. PORT ALLEGANY: M. Bodamer- 6 of 7, 109 yards, 2 TD. Stuckey-1 of 3, 27 yards.
RECEIVING: CURWENSVILLE: Greslick-2 catches, 53 yards; Hess-2 catches, 26 yards. PORT ALLEGANY: Stuckey-3 catches, 86 yards, 2 TD; Kline-3 catches, 48 yards; Lowery-1 catch, 2 yards.
GATORS: Stuckey 2-yard run, 2-point conversion missed (6:39), 0-6
TIDE: Greslick 9-yard run, 2-point conversion good (8:25), 8-6
GATORS: Kline 20-yard fumble return, 2-point conversion good (3:26), 8-14
TIDE: Gardner 3-yard run, extra point good (1:49), 15-14
GATORS: 60-yard pass from Bodamer to Stuckey, 2-point conversion missed (0:29), 15-20
GATORS: 5-yard pass from Bodamer to Stuckey, 2-point conversion missed (7:20), 15-26
TIDE: Gardner 58-yard run, extra point good (6:24), 22-26
TIDE: Holland 3-yard run, extra point missed (6:28), 28-26