DUBOIS — The goal of any high school football team that makes it into the post season is to make the state playoffs. The road to the post season is difficult enough, but once there, the ascent to the top is even steeper.
All season, the Clearfield Bisons have worked to get to that point, and did so by not losing one game on that journey. But, their hardest task laid in front of them Friday night. A spot in the state playoffs was on the line as they would take on the very powerful, and very talented, Johnstown Trojans inside E.J. Mansell Stadium in DuBois.
The game was built up as a game where two very tough offenses would be on a collision course. But, it turned out to be the defense that was the star of the game.
Clearfield’s defense forced four first-half turnovers, converting two of them into scores, and then held back the tough Trojan offense when their backs were against the wall. It would be enough as the Bisons continued their undefeated streak as they eliminated Johnstown from the playoff hunt by a final count of 28-12.
“I give a lot of credit to Johnstown. That’s a heck of a football team; they’re well coached and athletic,” said head coach Tim Janocko after the game. “This is really huge for the kids, I’m just so proud.”
Janocko couldn’t credit one individual person for the victory because he felt there were so many he could name. Players like Derek Morgan, Curtis Frye and David Hoover had strong nights, but it was two unsung heroes on this night that got the most credit.
Defensively, it was linebacker Shane Harper who had the tough task all night of trying to contain Johnstown quarterback, Gervon Simon. Last week, Simon accounted for five touchdowns in Johnstown’s runaway victory over Bellefonte; so going in Harper knew it would be tough to face off against such a talented player. But, Harper managed to account for a sack, a few tackles for loss, and also recovered a fumble.
After the game, Harper made it clear that the goal was to keep Simon in check.
“Our goal was to just keep him [Simon] in the pocket. If we could keep him contained, we felt it would benefit us,” Harper said.
Simon did break through, however, as he gained 139 rushing yards and threw for another 132, with one touchdown each on the ground and through the air. However, Harper and the rest of the Bison defense forced Simon to throw three interceptions, which was more than he had thrown all season.
Harper was quick to give credit to the opposing quarterback, and also give insight into how hard he and the defense worked.
“I really had to work tonight, I’m just tired,” Harper said. “He’s one heck of an athlete.”
Coach Janocko echoed his player’s statement saying, “He is the best kid we’ve played to date. He’s very athletic and very quick. He broke a lot of tackles, and that’s credit to his ability.”
Clearfield had a very good night themselves on offense. Frye went 7 for 11, passing for 96 yards and two touchdowns. Morgan was excellent on the ground as he rushed for 124 yards on 24 carries including two touchdowns. But, the player who had the big night on the offense this week was receiver Brandon Hogue.
The senior wide receiver caught two passed for 41 yards, but both were for touchdowns.
Hogue after the game was happy just to have the opportunity to show off his skills.
“I took advantage of my opportunity tonight. I had two great passes come my way and I made the most of them,” Hogue said.
Johnstown decided to receive the opening kickoff, hoping to get it’s offense going early. Simon’s first drive saw him involved in four of the seven plays, culminating in a 28-yard pass to Calvin Anderson to start the scoring. However, the ensuing extra point by Michael Brooks was blocked, leaving the score 6-0 after only three minutes of play.
Not wanting to back down, the Bisons decided to show that they can score just as quickly. Using both the arms and legs of Frye plus the speed of Morgan, Clearfield drove from their own 37 to the Johnstown one-yard line. That short yardage was enough for Morgan to punch the ball into the end zone.
Zach Fannin added the extra point, giving Clearfield an early 7-6 lead. But, the second drive for Johnstown would set the tone for the remainder of the first half.
On the first play from scrimmage, Simon handed of to Javon Vuckovich, but right on the hand off the ball popped loose. Harper was right there to grab the ball, handing Johnstown it’s first turnover of the game, and also a short field for Clearfield to work with.
Morgan ran the ball on the first play following the pick, while Frye ran on the second to gain a first down. But, on the third play from scrimmage, Clearfield went play action, and Frye managed to find Hogue all by himself in the corner of the end zone. No Johnstown defenders were within four yards of him, and the quick score gave Clearfield a 14-6 lead after Fannin’s extra point.
The Trojans looked to get the passing game going on the next drive, but lost yards on the first play and then went incomplete. On 3rd and 14, Simon went for the deep ball, but the pass went to the wrong person as Frye leaped up to grab the pass, returning the ball to the Johnstown 31.
Clearfield was denied scoring on their ensuing drive, but came right back and held Johnstown to a three-and-out. But, the Bisons got on the scoreboard once again thanks to Morgan on the next Clearfield possession, this time getting into the end zone from four yards out. With 11:13 remaining in the half, Clearfield had a 21-6 advantage.
The following two drives for Johnstown would end quickly, as Simon threw two back-to-back interceptions, one to Christian Lezzer and the other to Jack Mellgard. The turnovers kept the score 21-6 heading into halftime.
Clearfield managed to get points on their opening drive of the second half as for the second time on the night, Frye connected with Hogue. This time, Hogue ran the same route as he did on his first touchdown, but the defender was right there with him. That is, until the ball was in the air.
As the ball approached Hogue, the defender fell down, allowing him to adjust and grab the pass, then scamper the final yards for the 30-yard score. Another extra point and it was 28-6 with 9:35 left in the third.
Johnstown finally managed to get back on the scoreboard thanks to Simon, who ran into the end zone following a 12 play, 67 yard drive. The two-point conversion was averted, leaving it a two-score game with 4:38 remaining.
Unfortunately for Clearfield, their next possession ended with a turnover on downs deep in Johnstown territory. For Johnstown, it set off the signature drive of the game, for both sides of the ball.
It began with 1:04 remaining in the third quarter, beginning at the Johnstown 27. It was a drive where Simon showed off his elusiveness and improvising ability. When it looked like Clearfield had the star quarterback boxed in, he would scramble and somehow gain positive yardage, most of the time getting a first down. After five plays they made it to their own 38, and another five saw them make it into Clearfield territory. The drive continues to go, and Johnstown pushed into the red zone. It would take 16 plays before Johnstown would get a 1st and goal.
By that time, nearly half the fourth quarter was used up, but Clearfield did not give up. The defense wanted to make a stand.
On first down, Tyler Arsenault was stopped at the line. On second down, Simon connected with Tim Odum, but only for two yards. The third down pass fell incomplete, and now faced with a 4th and goal, Clearfield looked to make the ultimate statement.
Simon took the snap from the shotgun and began looking down field. But, at the same moment, Harper and his teammates converged from both sides of the ball. Simon got the ball off just before getting sacked, but it bounced off the ground, and Clearfield would take over on downs after a 19 play, 78 yard drive by Johnstown that came up empty handed.
“We weren’t giving up a big play on that drive. We figured if they scored or not, they are taking a lot of time off the clock,” Janocko said.
Johnstown had one final opportunity to get a score following a Clearfield punt with 2:33 remaining in the game. Simon connected with his first pass to Daquan Minter, good for 14 yards. But, the Bison defense simply didn’t go away. The next four plays were all passes, and all four hit the turf.
With no timeouts, Johnstown turned the ball over to see Frye kneel three straight times and end the game.
Now sitting at 12-0, Clearfield heads to the PIAA state playoffs. It was a goal that Janocko said they wanted to achieve starting in the spring, and now have earned the opportunity.
Clearfield will face Shikellamy next Friday night in the first round of inter-district play. Shikellamy defeated Selinsgrove to become the District 4 champion.
See photos of the game at: http://www.clearfieldfootball.org/111910game.html
The game will be played at the Shamokin Area High School. For directions and information regarding how to get to the school, visit maxpreps.com.
JOHNSTOWN 6 0 6 0 12
CLEARFIELD 14 7 7 0 28
SCORE BY QUARTERS
TROJANS: 28-yard pass from Simon to Anderson (Brooks Kick BLOCKED), 9:03
BISONS: 1-yard run by Morgan (Fannin Kick), 6:12
BISONS: 11-yard pass from Frye to Hogue (Fannin Kick), 4:50
BISONS: 4-yard run by Morgan (Fannin Kick), 11:13
BISONS: 30-yard pass from Frye to Hogue (Fannin Kick), 9:35
TROJANS: 6-yard run by Simon (Conversion FAILED), 4:38
FIRST DOWNS: JT-16 CF-11
RUSH YARDS: JT-187 CF-167
PASS YARDS: JT-142 CF-96
PENALTIES: JT-8 CF-6
PENALTY YARDS: JT-47 CF-32
TOTAL YARDS: JT-329 CF-263
TURNOVERS: JT-4 CF-0
FUMBLES: JT-3 CF-0
FUMBLES LOST: JT-1 CF-0
TIME OF POSSESSION: JT-27:17 CF-20:43
Johnstown: Simon-21 carries, 139 yards, TD; Vuckovich-6 carries, 8 yards; Anderson-1 carry, 22 yards.
Clearfield: Morgan-24 carries, 134 yards, 2 TD; Frye-15 carries, 43 yards.
Johnstown: Simon-11 for 28, 132 yards, TD, 3 INT; Watson-1 for 2, 9 yards.
Clearfield: Frye-7 for 11, 96 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT.
Johnstown: Anderson-2 catches, 45 yards, TD; Minter-3 catches, 43 yards; Watson-3 catches, 7 yards.
Clearfield: Hogue-2 catches, 41 yards, 2 TD; Danver-3 catches, 36 yards; Morgan-1 catch, 17 yards; Redden-1 catch, 12 yards.