PORT ALLEGANY - Sheffield's bid to finish the season above .500 for the first time since 1999 came to an end with Saturday's 19-6 loss at Port Allegany. However, the Wolverines again demonstrated that they are a team to be reckoned with in the Allegheny Mountain League (AML).
The Gators came into the game averaging just over 38 points and over 380 yards of total offense per game. The Wolverines held the Gators to just 19 points and only 149 total yards on Saturday.
The most impressive part of the Wolverines defensive performance was the job they did on Gator quarterback Matt Bodamer. Through six games, Bodamer had completed 70 percent of his passes for a per game average of 289 yards and four touchdowns. Sheffield limited Bodamer's numbers through the air to 5 of 12 for just 60 yards and a touchdown.
"We knew coming in that they were a passing team," said Sheffield coach Bryan Gould. "We wanted to make some adjustments to confuse their audibles at the line. We knew we were athletic enough to matchup with their receivers man-to-man."
Sheffield showed that athleticism on the game's opening drive. The Gators tried to establish their passing game early, but the Wolverines were able to knock down Bodamer's first two pass attempts with Nick Bonavita nearly coming up with an interception on the sideline.
The Wolverines used the opposite philosophy offensively as they were relying heavily on the ground game. A steady rain and wind gusts up to 20 mph influenced that game plan as Sheffield did not attempt a pass in the first half.
Sheffield-Port Allegany Stats
S-Nick Bonavita 3-yard run, run failed; 11:54.
P-Tyce Miller 9-yard pass from Matt Bodamer, pass failed; 9:17.
P-Trent Neal 3-yard run, pass failed; 1:40.
P-Bodamer 1-yard run, Scott Brokens kick; 6:19.
RUSHING-S-Kalil Slaughter 10-70; Nick Bonavita 17-51, TD; George Fitch 7-16; Ike Nearing 6-5; Shequan Wright 7-1. P-Trent Neal 14-61, TD; Trey Miller 7-18; Matt Bodamer 11-7; Garrett Drabert 2-3.
PASSING-S-Wright 3-11 for 36 yards; Nearing 0-1 for 0 yards. P-Bodamer 5-15 for 60 yards, TD.
RECEIVING-S-Kwante Johnson 1-20; Bonavita 1-15; Slaughter 1-1. P-Charlie Buchanan 2-21; Trey Miller 1-16; Rickie Bova 1-14; Tyce Miller 1-9, TD.
On its second possession, Sheffield turned to the combination of Bonavita and Kalil Slaughter to move the ball. Bonavita capped the eight play, 69-yard drive with a three-yard touchdown run to put the Wolverines up 6-0 early in the second quarter. The drive chewed up 6:48, keeping the potent Gators offense on the sidelines in the rainy conditions.
"That drive was exactly the way I wanted it to happen," Gould said. "They started to focus on stopping Nick and it opened things up for Kalil."
The Gators were able to answer on the ensuing possession. Bodamer overthrew Trevor Neal on the sideline, but Sheffield was called for pass interference, giving Port a first down on the Sheffield 25. Bodamer then connected with Trey Miller for 16 yards to set up a first and goal on the nine. Bodamer hit Tyce Miller on an inside slant on the next play for the Gator touchdown to tie the game at 6-6. With the touchdown pass, Bodamer went over 5,000 career passing yards.
Port was able to take advantage of another Sheffield mistake late in the first half. After a fumbled snap moved the Wolverines down to their own one yard line, the Gators forced a punt. Ike Nearing's punt hit off the side of his foot and only went to the 22 before going out of bounds, giving Port excellent field position with just over two minutes to play in the first half.
Trent Neal's three yard touchdown run gave the Gators a 12-6 lead heading into the half.
As the conditions worsened, neither team was able to get much going in the second half. The Gators drastically changed offensive strategy by attempting only one pass in the half. The change paid off midway through the fourth quarter.
After taking over on the Sheffield 38, Port rode the legs of Trent Neal down to the one yard line. Bodamer capped the drive with a sneak to put the Gators up 19-6 with just over six minutes left in the game.
Needing to score quickly, Sheffield brought in Shequan Wright to try to get a passing game going. Wright connected with Kwante Johnson and Bonavita for gains of 20 and 15 yards, respectively, on his first two attempts. From that point, the Gators would only allow a one yard completion to Slaughter for the remainder of the game as they forced Sheffield to turn the ball over on downs on the Wolverines' final two possessions.
"We have three games left and this is just a speed bump," Gould said. "We just need to continue our defensive performance and try to win out to get to .500."
Sheffield will look to start that win streak Saturday when it hosts Smethport.