Late touchdown foils Redbank Valley
Two lengthy touchdown drives by Port Allegany proved to be Redbank Valley’s undoing Saturday in a PIAA District 9 Class A semifinal.
Drives of 90 yards and 89 yards in the second half, with the latter culminating in a 1-yard scoring plunge with 45 seconds left in the game, lifted the Gators to a 24-17 victory over the Bulldogs at Brockway’s Frank Varischetti Stadium.
Port Allegany (7-4) will play for the district title next weekend. Redbank Valley (6-6) ended its season short of gaining a title game berth for the first time in six seasons.
In the game’s biggest momentum-changer, the Bulldogs were set to go up by two touchdowns with four minutes left in the third quarter.
Leading 17-9 with the ball on the Port Allegany 1, Bulldogs quarterback Brandon Bain pitched to leading ground gainer Kyle Lee, but a pair of Gators broke through and tackled Lee at the 10 and took over possession.
Port Allegheny rolled 90 yards in eight plays for the tying touchdown.
“We had a signalled-in play, and it was miscommunicated,” Redbank coach Frank Fabian said. “The play got on the wrong side. They took the momentum, and we never got it back.”
“We told our safeties if they saw a man in motion, come across hard,” Gators coach Mike Bodamer said.
A 33-yard run four plays later by Zach Ramadhan set up a 4-yard TD run by Seth Lowery. Even though there were still 34 seconds left in the third period, Port Allegany went for the 2-point conversion, and Matt Bodamer fired a strike to Tyce Miller to tie the score at 17-all.
After a big sack by Benn Baxter on Bain resulted in an 11-yard loss, Redbank was forced to punt. Bain boomed the ball 60 yards to the Gators’ 11 with 8:57 to go.
Port Allegany then staged a 16-play drive that ate up 8:12. The Gators converted only two third-down plays in the methodical drive. Ramadhan’s burst gave Port Allegany its first lead of the game.
Although Redbank played well in the first half, there was a nagging feeling that the lead could have been greater.
A 13-yard Gators punt that gave the Bulldogs possession at the Port Allegany 46 didn’t result in any points. Plus, an interception by Clay Kennemuth gave Redbank the ball at the Gators’ 19. But an interception by Lowery in the end zone prevented Redbank from building its lead.
“We left too many points on the field,” Fabian said. “That’s on me. I call the offense. We had three cracks at it and it didn’t happen.”
The Bulldogs’ defense held Bodamer to 2 yards passing in the first half and picked off passes twice. Bodamer had come into the game with 1,770 passing yards.
“We decided at halftime we were going to run it,’ coach Bodamer said. “We went from a passing team to a running team, and Matt really stepped up for us. They blitzed up the middle, so we ran sweeps.”
Bain finished with 170 passing yards, and Lee rushed for 88 yards and caught three passes for 134 yards, including a 68-yarder.
“This one is a tough way to go into the offseason,” Fabian said. “We started out with only 17 kids coming to conditioning. We went to a 7-on-7 camp with only nine kids and we got laughed at. But the credit for our success goes out to the kids.”
Redbank Valley was hoping for its first District 9 title since 1996, when the Bulldogs were a Class AA school.