Much like the Big Ten in college football, the early games for the Clearfield Bisons were non-division games. Sure, a few of the games were major tests for both them and their opponents, but in the aspect of the division, they were simply preparation for the Mountain Athletic Conference part of the schedule.
Last week, conference play began and Clearfield was up to the task as they dominated the Indian Valley Warriors in a 28-7 victory. But now, the Bisons return home to their turf to host one of the toughest opponents in the MAC, the Central Mountain Wildcats.
Even after the victory last week, head coach Tim Janocko knew that the work was just beginning. When asked who they had next on the schedule, Janocko replied, “Central Mountain. It doesn’t get any easier in this conference.”
That certainly is the case this week, as the Central Mountain Wildcats have shown to be one of the strongest teams in the MAC thus far this season. Despite their 2-2 record, the Wildcats’ two victories have come over two of the toughest teams in Pennsylvania. Last week, Central Mountain hosted the Lewistown Panthers, and went on to a 54-14 victory. The week before, the Wildcats squeaked out a victory over the Central Dragons, 10-7.
Both those victories were extremely beneficial, but they both were won on Central Mountain’s home turf. Their two losses, which came in the first two weeks of the season, came on the road. Combined, the Wildcats only scored 33 points in their two losses, while giving up 75 to their opponents.
That is a big deal to the Bisons as in the confines of the Bison Sports Complex, Clearfield has only given up 28 points. The home-field advantage will certainly be in the favor of Clearfield for this one.
For the Wildcats, they have to get momentum early and often in order to make this game extremely close. In the run game, Central Mountain has three running backs that have dominated the ground attack. Von Walker, Keylye Moiser, and Rocco Vuocolo have combined for 590 yards and seven of the team’s 12 rushing touchdowns. Expect all three backs to get some time carrying the ball against the Bison defense.
The passing game is a bit of a different story, as the Wildcats really have not used the air attack much. Quarterback Cole Renninger has only attempted 37 passes thus far in the season, and only has completed 14 of them.
Do not expect the Wildcats to use the passing game unless it is absolutely necessary.
However, don’t expect Clearfield to use that style. Last week against Indian Valley, the Bisons went ground and pound to get the victory, which is usually not their game plan. Most of the time, it is an equal balance of passing and running for Clearfield, but when the game became all about control, the rushing attack was the way to go.
This week could be a different story, though. Quarterback Curtis Frye has not hesitated in airing the ball out as he averages nearly 165 yards passing per game, and has completed 70 percent of his passes.
His favorite target, Derek Danver. He has caught nearly half the completions of Frye, and has accounted for all six of the team’s receiving touchdowns. But, there are many other weapons for him to get the ball too. Expect Jack Mellgard, Derek Morgan, and others to get a chance at catching the ball at some point during the game. This should get the Wildcat defense on edge because with so many options to cover in the passing game, it could open the run game for the Bisons.
When it comes to the ground game, the Bisons also have a trio that will be hard to stop. Along with Frye and Morgan, Beau Swales has been incredible when the ball is put in his hands. Last week, Swales had 89 yards on 11 carries including one score, which was his fifth of the season.
Meanwhile, Morgan has shown through the first four games that his quickness has been hard to keep in check all year long. Morgan has 457 yards thus far this season, an average of 114 per game, and six touchdowns.
If Central Mountain can somehow stop the run game and force Clearfield into being just one-dimensional on Friday night, this game could be a lot closer than statistics would show.
For both teams, this is another major conference match-up that will be critical to both teams. Who is going to be the ones holding up their helmets in victory?
We all will find out at 7 p.m. Friday night at the Bison Sports Complex in Hyde.