BRADFORD, Pa. (EYT/D9) — In the fourth quarter, the Port Allegany football team found itself trailing Brockway, 14-7.
The Gators, though, have been gritty all season, finding ways to pull out victories.
They did it again and in the most important game of the year on Friday night at Bradford in the District 9 Class A championship game.
Noah Archer scored on two touchdown runs in the fourth quarter to lead Port Allegany to a 21-14 win and its first district title since 2012.
“First and foremost, Brockway football — they’re just classy people,” said Port Allegany coach Justin Bienkowski. “I mean after getting beat like that, at the end of the game kids and coaches were as respectful as they possibly could be, wishing us well. That’s the most important thing. I like that.”
It was a slugfest against two rising teams.
Port Allegany took a 7-0 lead on a winding 35-yard touchdown run by Blaine Moses.
Kicking PATs hasn’t been a thing for the Gators this season, but they converted this one.
Brockway (8-5) knotted the score just before the half when Brayden Fox found Alex Carlson for a 12-yard TD.
The Rovers, who upset Redbank Valley last week to reach the title game, moved ahead 14-7 with 3:15 remaining in the third quarter when the hero against the Bulldogs, Jendy Cuello, raced 44 yards for a touchdown.
Archer scored on a 6-yard run with 10:30 left in the fourth quarter and then Archer faked a run and threw a jump pass to Peyton Stiles to put Port up 15-14.
Archer rumbled 57 yards for a touchdown with 6:20 remaining in the game, but the extra point was blocked.
Brockway had one last chance, but a sack by Braylon Button on third-and-9 set up a fourth-and-15 for the Rovers. Fox had his passes knocked away by — who else? — Archer and Port ran out the clock.
“We’ve just found a way to win, especially later in the year,” Bienkowski said. “Our backs were against the wall.”
Port Allegany (11-1) was able to move the ball, but Brockway forced those drives to stall out.
“I knew that they were going to try to bottle us up from B gap to B gap — they sent a lot of linebacker pressure,” Bienkowski said. “We just thought we needed to get to the edge and when you have No. 16 Blaine Moses in front of Noah on the edge, I like our chances.
“I thought we were able to establish time of possession and we tried to grind that clock and we moved the ball really well from 30 to 30 and 20 to 20, and then stalled out.”
Cuello again ran hard for Brockway and Fox, who completed just two passes last week, had more success through the air against Port.
“They are phenomenally better than they were in Week 5 (when Port Allegany won, 40-7),” Bienkowski said. “Cuello is a legit running back and Fox is Fox, enough said. We were just fortunate to make a couple more plays. That’s what it came down to.”
Port Allegany will play the District 10 champion, either Eisenhower or Reynolds. That game is being played at 1 p.m. Saturday at Edinboro.
It’s been a long climb for the Gators, who went through a few two-win seasons — and even a winless one — in recent years before rebounding to 6-5 last season. This year, they took a quantum leap forward.
“Every step was earned,” Bienkowski said. “Every level or brick or whatever you want to call it was built by these seniors and even a couple of senior classes over the last year or two. It was built in the weight room and on the field in practices from kids who play multiple sports. They literally built it the right way. That’s why I’m glad these kids got to enjoy tonight. Our goal was to practice on Thanksgiving and the only way we were going to be able to do it was to win a title. That’s what we did.”