Usually the middle portion of the football schedule contains games that are expected to be smash-mouth, hard-hitting from the opening kickoff to the final whistle. In Pennsylvania, that game usually is the Ravens vs. Steelers.
But on the local front, Friday night’s game for the Clearfield Bison could likely be that kind of contest. The Bison are undefeated through the first six games, but the seventh game could be the ultimate test for the offense, defense, special teams and the coaches. It is hard enough to travel and put an unblemished record on the line, but head coach Tim Janocko and his Bison squad are entering a very hostile and rowdy environment this week as they will travel to take on the 4-2 Tyrone Golden Eagles, and by every stretch imaginable, this game is even on all accounts.
The Bison have endured a tough schedule so far, having faced top competition each week, and putting up big numbers with each contest. This week, it could be a different story.
Clearfield is coming off another strong performance from last week, a 49-14 rout of Bellefonte. The stars of the night were again Christian Lezzer, Tyler Stratton and Trey Jordan.
Lezzer had a night where if it could go right, it certainly did. Lezzer threw five touchdown passes, ran for another two, and had nearly 300 all-purpose yards by the time he was pulled out of the game in the third quarter. Stratton, not to be outdone, added another 139 yards on the ground, including one touchdown, and Jordan was on the receiving end of two of Lezzer’s touchdown passes, with the third going to Shawn Lord.
Much like last season, the Bison have relied on the run game more than the pass to get the job done, but in recent weeks they have also shown off more of the “Wildcat” offense that has been widely popular in college and NFL. This could be a big factor as wide receiver Tyler Woomer has seen some snaps in this style offense, either handing off to Lezzer or Stratton, or electing to take the rush himself.
It proved to be big last week as one of Lezzer’s touchdown runs came from that package.
Clearfield has averaged nearly 270 yards on the ground, and added just over 130 through the air, per game. It is a very balanced 2:1 ratio in yardage and plays, and the Bison will need every bit of that on Friday night. Tyrone certainly is aware of the capability of these three young men, and it is assured that the defense will look to shut all three of them down right from the get-go.
Meanwhile, the opposing side of the field has one of the best offenses in the Mountain League. Tyrone started the season out slow, losing the first two games of the season. Since that point, the Golden Eagles have gone on a four-game winning streak, outscoring their opponents 233-23. In those four victories, Tyrone has scored no less than 48 points, which means Clearfield needs to put up points early and often. If Tyrone gets on the board first, the Bison may need to stay step-for-step and not get behind, which is something they have not seen much of this year.
The reason for all the success, especially in the last four weeks, can be attributed to one critical player, junior running back James Oliver. In six games, Oliver has 1205 rushing yards, just over 200 rushing yards per game, and has accounted for 18 of the team’s 26 rushing touchdowns.
Tyrone averages nearly 300 yards per game on the ground, so the game plan for Clearfield will likely be simple; stop the run, force long downs, and make Tyrone pass the ball.
If that’s the case, things could get interesting as Tyrone has not seen many stats on the passing side of their offense.
Junior quarterback Erik Wagner has seen the most action under center, but has only completed 52 percent of his passes. He has thrown five touchdowns thus far in the season, however he has the same amount of interceptions to go along with it. If Tyrone is forced to rely on the passing attack rather than the run game, that will play directly in the favor of Clearfield.
In all likelihood, this game between Clearfield and Tyrone could come down to who has the ball last. If it’s a close game, whomever is able to close the deal or make a big play late in the going will win it. For fans that enjoy a shootout among top talent, there is no question that this game will live up to the hype.
Bring a blanket, heavy jacket, and the gloves as the weather is calling for temperatures meant more for January than mid-October. Kickoff in Tyrone is set for 7 p.m.
For directions to the stadium, visit ClearfieldFootball.org.
|ST. JOAN OF ARC
|35 – 20
|1 – 0
|@ Penns Valley
|47 – 0
|2 – 0
|34 – 33
|3 – 0
|41 – 24
|4 – 0
|35 – 14
|5 – 0
|49 – 14
|6 – 0
|@ Bald Eagle Area