HYDE – Clearfield’s smaller, but quicker linemen dominated in the trenches on both sides of the ball and Derek Morgan and Beau Swales gashed the Bald Eagle Area defense for 204 yards and five touchdowns as the Bisons kicked off the inaugural Mountain Football League season by stampeding past the Eagles 49-14 in front of a large crowd at the Bison Sports Complex Friday night.
Morgan enjoyed a breakout game, knifing through the heart of the BEA forward wall behind crisp blocking for 151 yards and a trio of second-quarter scores on just 11 carries.
The 5-11, 178-pound senior back brought the hometown fans to their feet with a scintillating 94-yard dash, one of the longest touchdowns in school history, moments after Clearfield thwarted BEA’s first threat early in the period.
He reached paydirt twice from close range as the Bisons opened a commanding 35-6 halftime lead and then chewed up almost half of the third quarter with a 63-yard drive that ended with Swales bulling eight yards for his second TD to invoke the Mercy Rule.
Swales, a junior, responded with 53 yards on the six plays his number was called.
“Beau gives us a one-two punch,” coach Tim Janocko proclaimed after his team’s second one-sided win. “We have two kids that run downhill. They’re punishing runners, both of them.”
“We racked up some yards running the football. When you can do that against that kind of size… Our offensive line did a great job.”
He added he was equally happy with the defensive front that constantly harassed quarterback Justin Taylor, who did manage to pass for 150 yards, and effectively bottled up the BEA ground game.
The Eagles averaged barely over two yards for 37 rushing attempts, 12 of which ended with Bisons making tackles behind the line of scrimmage.
One of those resulted in Clearfield’s final TD two plays after Swales scored in the third period.
The Bisons stacked up Cody Hicks at the BEA-34 and stripped away the ball, which senior nose guard David Hoover scooped up at the 28 took off for the end zone.
“We played great defense last week, but we wanted some turnovers,” Janocko said. “We got the turnovers tonight.”
Junior Rob Myers recovered an Eagle fumble and freshman linebacker Jacob Verchick accounted a third takeaway, snaring a tipped pass late in the third quarter.
Janocko emptied the bench in the fourth quarter, and BEA’s reserves were able to beat the continuously running clock on Ben Verbitskey’s 19-yard TD run around right end with 19 seconds remaining. Matthew Dillon ran for the two extra points.
The Bisons had a little extra incentive considering the Eagles, winless in five games, swooped into the Bison Sports Complex and flew away with a 34-21 upset last October, but the Clearfield staff didn’t dwell on the revenge factor much.
“Obviously we reminded the kids,” Janocko said. “That was a tough loss for us. I’m sure it was in the back of some of their minds.”
That seemed to be the case at the outset.
Jacob Taylor bobbled the kickoff and was cut down by Shane Harper at the 10.
Clearfield quickly forced a punt that was partially blocked and sailed out of bounds at the 20.
On Clearfield’s third play, senior wideout Derek Danver outjumped a defender at the left pylon for spectacular 17-yard touchdown, and Zach Fannin booted the first of his seven extra points.
The scoring aerial was one of seven completions in just 10 attempts by Curtis Frye. The junior quarterback, who went over the 2,000-yard mark for passing against Central last week, tacked 116 more on to his career total, most coming late in the half.
The Bisons were unable to cash in Myers’ fumble recovery near midfield on BEA’s next possession, but late in the first quarter, Danver gave the Bisons great field position with a 26-yard punt return, and they covered 35 yards on six runs. A five-yard scamper by Swales gave them a 14-0 lead.
The contributions by the special teams units in the first eight minutes were key.
“Field position was big in the first half,” Janocko said.
Extra attention was paid to shoring up the special teams in practice this week after a somewhat disappointing effort in the opener.
“We did a lot better,” Janocko said. “Coleman Kubala kicked off and did a real nice job. We covered kicks a lot better. Our punt game was good. And Fannin had a sprained ankle but managed to kick all the extra points.”
Another short BEA punt gave Clearfield a short field, and fullback Jack Mellgard turned Frye’s pass in the right flat into a 31-yard gain to the 11 on the final play of the first quarter.
Morgan grabbed the spotlight in the second period.
He scored from the two with 48 seconds gone, broke off the highlight reel scamper that had the Bisons in cruise control at 28-0 with 8:37 left in the half and then added a four-yarder 31 seconds before intermission.
Three consecutive Frye-to-Danver aerials for 46 yards set up the latter TD after Swales returned a kickoff 33 yards to the BEA 47.
BEA got on the board with 1:54 before halftime on a Justin Taylor pass to Kyle Womer, who bounced off Danver as he made the catch and had clear sailing to finishing off the 47-yard play.
The Class AAA Bisons went into the game on the Pennsylvania Football News “Others to Watch” list as well as the Harrisburg Patriot-News “Teams to Watch” and being honorable mention in RodFrisco.com’s state rankings.
Clearfield goes on the road for the first time next Friday to play Penns Valley (0-2) at Spring Mills.