DUBOIS — Playoff football is a very simple concept: win and move on, lose and you are done. The intensity is turned up considering the first game in the post season is also for a championship.
At the E.J. Mansell Stadium in Dubois, the District IX Class AAA championship would be decided among the two teams that competed against each other last year. The difference between the 2009 championship game and the 2010 edition is that both opponents entered the title contest not having a loss between them.
A chilly night met the crowd, the players and coaches as the Punxsutawney Chucks took to the field hoping to repeat from last year as they took on the Clearfield Bisons.
On this night, one name stood out among every young athlete on the field. That player was Clearfield running back Derek Morgan.
The senior back was all over the entire field as he accounted for all four Bison touchdowns and helped lift Clearfield to a 26-14 victory over Punxsutawney, keeping their undefeated record intact and winning the Class AAA title for District IX.
Morgan would end the night rushing for nearly 150 yards on the ground and two touchdowns, but also caught a touchdown pass from quarterback Curtis Frye and also scored on an interception. Head coach Tim Janocko was proud of his young player for his all-around play, and spoke of him after the game.
“He was playing downhill all night. He had that feeling that he was gonna break it at any time, and he was just running hard and making things happen,” Janocko said.
At the same time, the Bison defense played havoc on a team that had been on the better side of the turnover margin. Entering the game, Punxsutawney quarterback Logan Weaver only had two interceptions to go alongside his 19 touchdowns. But, he never faced a defense that was as fast as Clearfield, and that led to Weaver throwing three interceptions in the game. The result of those miscues allowed Clearfield to score 19 of it’s 26 points.
“To intercept three passes was very big, and we scored off all three of them,” Janocko said. “He [Weaver] is the best quarterback we’ve faced all season, so to intercept three passes from him is big for us.”
In many other aspects, these two teams were even when looking at the statistics. The two had nearly even rushing yards, time off possession, and first downs. But, four turnovers would be the deciding factor on this night for Clearfield to gain the victory.
Punxsutawney opened the game by receiving the kickoff, but the opening drive set the tone for the game. After getting to their own 42, Weaver dropped back and went for a pass over the center of the field, but his throw went awry and landed right in the hands of Shane Harper, who then returned the ball 45 yards to the Chucks 10 yard line, setting up a short field for the Bisons’ first drive of the game.
After only three plays, Morgan landed his first touchdown of the game as he received the pass from Frye on a 12-yard dump off on the left side. Zach Fannin’s extra point was blocked, so the score remained 6-0.
The second Punxsutawney drive ended abruptly, and in the same fashion. On second down, Weaver made a deep pass down the left sideline, but the ball was picked off by Frye at the Clearfield 46, setting up yet another short field.
Morgan would be the workhorse on this drive from the get-go. The drive lasted nine plays, with Morgan carrying the ball on five of them. But, as the drive progressed, the Punxsutawney defense began to stand tall as the Bisons began to get stopped on the the line, that is until Clearfield broke into the red zone.
On 4th and 3, Frye decided to hand the ball off to Morgan despite the risky call. But, Morgan did not waiver as he ran 17 yards up the middle into the end zone, his second score of the game.
Janocko decided to go for the two-point conversion, but Frye’s pass was deflected, keeping the score 12-0.
The Chucks finally got on the scoreboard just before the first quarter ended thanks to their ground game. With the combination of Ben Blazavich and Jason Fallara running the ball, they were able to march down the field in just under four minutes to get their first touchdown of the game. Fallara would be the main rusher on the drive as he had gains of 11 and 17 yards to put them in scoring position, and he would end the drive with a five-yard touchdown.
Fallara would end the night with over 100 yards on the ground as he was the only offense the Chucks would have all night, which Janocko knew would be a problem entering the game.
“Their backs ran real hard all night. They have a big fullback and a tough running back,” Janocko said. “They have a great offensive attack.”
That touchdown would be the final score of the first half, as both teams would sustain long drives in the second quarter, 11 plays for Clearfield and 15 plays for Punxsutawney, but both ended on fourth down.
The third quarter would see much of the same for Punxsutawney as on their opening drive the ball was knocked out of the hands of Weaver and was recovered by Beau Swales. That was after Clearfield took the opening second-half kickoff into Chucks’ territory but were stopped on fourth down.
On the ensuing drive, the Chucks marched down the field on the ground, but soon found themselves in a predicament where they needed to pass. Staying true to playing tough defense as they have all year, Clearfield forced a punt. Unfortunately, receiver Derek Danver decided to attempt a return from near the goal line, and did not find much luck. The short return gave Clearfield a 1st and 10 beginning at its own 9 with one minute remaining in the third quarter.
At that point, Clearfield began the defining drive of the game. Swales and Frye started off the long drive with a few runs, but Frye then decided to go play action, connecting with Danver for a seven yard gain.
Frye employed that tactic on the next six plays, going with two runs and then a pass, both getting the team a first down. Then, Morgan was given the chance to carry the team the rest of the way. The senior back ran the ball seven of the last nine plays, including the final five, as he finished the drive with a four-yard touchdown plunge. Fannin’s extra point gave Clearfield a 19-7 advantage with five and a half minutes left in the game.
The next drive for Punxsutawney would abruptly end once again thanks to Morgan. On the first play from scrimmage, Weaver went for the pass to Zak Dickey, but Jack Mellgard deflected the ball, and Morgan was right there to grab it out of the air. After missing out on an easy interception earlier in the game, he made the most of this one as he returned the ball 34 yards to the end zone for the touchdown.
One more extra point made the score 26-7, but there was still time on the clock. The Chucks wanted to make the most of it, and following a strong kickoff return, Weaver connected with Blazavich from 10 yards out for his lone touchdown pass of the night. Another extra point made the score 26-14, but Punxsutawney was setting up for the onside kick.
Kody Young set the ball up to go left. The ball traveled 10 yards, but the problem was it landed in the hands of Danver, who returned the ball to the 35 yard line, ending the Chucks’ opportunity at a comeback.
Now sitting at 11-0, this win gives Clearfield a title Janocko says is what they work all year for.
“That’s the goal when we start out the year is to get to this game and to win it,” Janocko said.
But, as great as the victory was, the work is not yet done. Next week, the playoffs continue. For Janocko, the work doesn’t get any easier because the competition is much tougher when it comes to the playoffs.
“Everybody’s good this time of year. They don’t get here because they’re not good,” Janocko said. “That’s why we’re here, and we wanna see what we can do.”
The next opposition for Clearfield will be the District VI Class AAA champions, the Johnstown Trojans, who defeated the Bellefonte Red Raiders 49-8 to gain the title. T
The game will be played either next Friday or Saturday night. Time and location will be announced early next week.
See photos of the game at: http://www.clearfieldfootball.org/111210game.html
PUNXSUTAWNEY 7 0 0 7 14
CLEARFIELD 12 0 0 14 26
SCORE BY QUARTERS
BISONS: 12-yard pass from Frye to Morgan (Fannin kick BLOCKED), 9:15
BISONS: 17-yard run by Morgan (Conversion FAILED), 4:08
CHUCKS: 5-yard run by Fallara (Young Kick), 0:32
BISONS: 4-yard run by Morgan (Fannin Kick), 5:36
BISONS: 34-yard interception return by Morgan (Fannin Kick), 5:21
CHUCKS: 10-yard pass from Logan Weaver to Blazavich (Young Kick), 2:54
1st Downs: PY-17 CF-13
Rush Yards: PY-175 CF-185
Pass Yards: PY-47 CF-79
Penalties: PY-3 CF-7
Penalty Yards: PY-35 CF-45
Total Yards: PY-222 CF-264
Turnovers: PY-4 CF-0
Fumbles: PY-1 CF-0
Fumbles Lost: PY-1 CF-0
Time of Possession: PY-24:06 CF-23:54
Punxsutawney: Fallara-20 carries, 108 yards, TD; L. Weaver-5 carries, 29 yards; Blazavich-9 carries, 23 yards; Thompson-2 carries, 11 yards; Perry-1 carry, 4 yards.
Clearfield: Morgan-30 carries, 147 yards, 2 TD, 34-yard INT-return TD; Swales-4 carries, 26 yards; Frye-6 carries, 8 yards; Lezzer-2 carries, 4 yards.
Punxsutawney: L. Weaver-6 completions, 13 attempts, 47 yards, 1 TD, 3 INT
Clearfield: Frye-6 completions, 9 attempts, 79 yards, TD
Punxsutawney: Blazavich-5 catches, 43 yards, TD; I. Weaver-1 catch, 4 yards
Clearfield: Redden-3 catches-41 yards; Danver-2 catches, 26 yards; Morgan-1 catch, 12 yards, TD