HYDE — Senior night is special for every member of a high school community. It brings out the biggest crowd of the season, but is a sad moment for the players on the field. It’s their last night to suit up in front of the home crowd and feel the experience of playing in front of so many family and friends.
That was what the Clearfield Bison were faced with on Friday night. The senior class that has been part of a historic run of victories for the school would take the field at the Bison Sports Complex one last time, hoping to gain one more victory in their careers on their home turf. At the same time, the entire squad was looking to put a final mark on a season that has seen dominant wins, and close escapes. Clearfield entered the regular season finale sitting at 8-0, and was prepared to make sure that the final memory at the BSC would be one that is never forgotten.
Across the field was the winless Philipsburg-Osceola Mounties, who were hoping to give the ultimate upset to a team that has already secured its post-season bid.
At the end of 48 minutes, a streak was left intact. Just like a week ago, the Bison pitched a first half shutout, and had victory sealed up early. On the last night the lights of the BSC would be lit up for the year, Clearfield cruised past its long-time rival, completing a 9-0 season with a 42-7 victory over P-O.
After the game, head coach Tim Janocko took in what his squad had earned this year.
“It’s fantastic. I’m just so happy for the kids,” Janocko said. “We had to win some tight ball games to get it. I’m just so happy for them, and so proud of our entire program.
“It means a lot to these seniors. They’re the winningest class in the history of the school, and I’m just so proud.
But, it was junior quarterback Christian Lezzer who had the biggest night of any player. With 140 yards rushing, 95 passing, and four total touchdowns, it was easy to see who the star was. However, Lezzer was quick to point out that the senior leadership on the team was a big factor in getting to the undefeated mark.
“This is what we worked for. This is why we got up at 6:30 every morning during the spring and summer. I’m not surprised, this group of guys knew they could do it. It doesn’t surprise me at all,” Lezzer said afterward.
His senior receiver, Trey Jordan, was his go-to target, as he caught both touchdown passes on the night for the Bison, and noted that all year, he and Jordan were just in sync with each other.
“We work each practice throwing and receiving. We do spread the ball out to our other receivers, but we just have a great connection,” Jordan said of his quarterback.
The Bison were focused from the opening whistle to shut down the P-O offense, which has struggled this year after losing a lot of players to graduation. The red and black faithful were just as excited seeing their team on defense, and what they saw was a shut-down game where the Mounties were only able to gain 153 yards of total offense on the night.
“We were once again clicking on all cylinders tonight. Offense made big plays, defense played hard, and even special teams had some big punt returns,” Janocko said.
The night began with P-O opting to take the opening kickoff instead of deferring, but things did not work out so well. The visiting squad went three plays and out, were forced to punt, and even that did not go as planned. The punt sailed just nine yards before going out of bounds, and the Bison would start their first possession in P-O territory. Thanks to Lezzer and Tyler Stratton, who finished the night with 54 yards rushing, the Bison made it to the Mountie nine, but a sack and a short gain made it 3rd and Goal at the 13.
On the ensuing play, Lezzer dropped back, and Jordan found a hole in the secondary. The pass was right on the money as Jordan stepped down on the black turf for the first score of the night. Spencer Herrington was true for the point after, and the score was 7-0 with a half a quarter to play.
P-O gained some footing in their next drive, making to near mid-field, but the Bison stood tall and forced another punt. This one sailed deep and was downed inside the 10, leaving a long field for the offense to deal with.
On first down, Stratton gained six yards. On second down, Lezzer broke free on the left side, rumbling for another 41. But it was the next play that was the play of the night. On 1st and 10 from the P-O 41, Lezzer dropped back to pass, but his protection weakened, and he was forced out of the pocket. Moving right, he found Jordan, who then broke a couple tackles and was in full stride down the right sideline.
The Mounties closed in, but Jordan wanted in the end zone badly. So he took to the air and stretched his arm out just as the defense gave the push. Before going out of bounds, the ball had crossed the line, and in spectacular fashion Jordan had his second touchdown on the night. Herrington put on the point after, and the 14-0 gap remained into the second quarter.
Another three-and-out by P-O gave Clearfield another short field, and it took only three plays for Stratton to break tackles, and use the left sideline as his cushion en route to the end zone. Another extra point, and a 21-0 lead was in order.
Following the kickoff, it would be the play that ultimately spelled the end for P-O.
Quarterback Curtis Matsko took the snap, and went for the handoff. Unfortunately, it never went into the gut of his running back, and the ball hit the turf. Quickly, Seth Ford grabbed the loose ball, and just 14 seconds after the offense found the end zone, it was the defense doing the same thing as Ford took the fumble the entire way for a 20-yard return. Another extra point, and the rout was on.
P-O punted on the following series, and once more, Lezzer made the defense pay as he would score from 23 yards out to put his third overall touchdown on the board. Herrington’s extra point made it 35-0, and would put the Mercy Rule into effect for the second half.
Clearfield’s final score of the first half, and ultimately the game, would come on their final first half possession. But, it came with some luck, and also a lot of awareness.
Lezzer called his own number and made his way to the left side of the line. He was suddenly faced with five white jerseys, and it appeared the Mounties had him cornered for a loss. But, he reversed field and the line, receivers and backs quickly made their way the other direction. Lezzer found gaps and followed blockers, suddenly finding himself in open field. His second touchdown on the ground officially was 56 yards, but he ran a football field to get there. Another extra point, and heading into halftime the Bison had a 42-0 lead, which meant the second half would go by quickly.
Unfortunately for the Bison, their first possession of the second half would not go as planned. Ford, who already had the fumble recovery in the first half, lost the handle on the ball on the third play from scrimmage, and P-O quickly recovered the ball.
The next possession would see the final score of the night, as Nick Gray would score the only Mountie touchdown, getting in from eight yards out. The extra point made it 42-7.
Both teams exchanged possessions during the running clock, focusing mainly on the run game. On the game’s final play, Matsko took his own snap and went left. Meanwhile, the students feeling the play was over, rushed the field. But, unlike the infamous college football play involving the marching band, they quickly moved realizing they could lead to a penalty. The moment the student body stepped off the field, Matsko was tackled, and the celebration of being undefeated would commence.
Janocko was handed a shirt in honor of the 9-0 season to show the team, with the back saying “Lock the Door.” This season, the Bison can lock the door on their house knowing they owned it. Now, the focus turns to post-season action as next week, Clearfield will attempt to make a three-peat of winning the District IX championship.
“We just talked about it, and that’s what we’re going after,” Janocko said. “We’re going for three.”
Lezzer echoed his coach, saying, “It’s going to take another great week of practice. That’s what got us the wins each time is great weeks of practice and preparation. We’ll get set for next week, and take it one game at a time from there.”
The District IX championship game and playoff seeding will be released at the beginning of the week. P-O (0-9) has one game remaining on it’s schedule as it travels to Forest Hills next Friday night.
See photos of the game here: http://www.clearfieldfootball.org/102612Game.html
The District IX Playoffs for Class AAA have been set. Clearfield is the #1 seed and will face #2 Bradford (4-5). Kickoff is 7 p.m. at Varischetti Field in Brockway.
SCORE BY QUARTER
Philipsburg-Osceola 0 0 7 0 – 7
Clearfield 14 28 0 0 – 42
BISON: 13-yard pass from Lezzer to Jordan (Herrington kick), 6:30
BISON: 41-yard pass from Lezzer to Jordan (Herrington kick), 1:22
BISON: 30-yard run by Stratton (Herrington kick), 9:56
BISON: 20-yard fumble return by Ford (Herrington kick), 9:42
BISON: 23-yard run by Lezzer (Herrington kick), 6:07
BISON: 56-yard run by Lezzer (Herrington kick), 1:09
MOUNTIES: 8-yard run by Gray (Boumerhi kick), 7:19
GAME STATISTICS (P-O/Clearfield)
First Downs: 10/10
Rush Yards: 81/279
Pass Yards: 72/95
Total Yards: 153/374
Penalty Yards: 10/0
Fumbles Lost: 1/2
Time of Possession: 29:28/18:32
P-O: Gray-14 carries, 54 yards, TD; Shuey 7 carries, 27 yards; Matsko-6 carries, (-9) yards; Smith-2 carries, 16 yards; TEAM-1 carry (-7) yards.
CLEARFIELD: Stratton-7 carries, 54 yards, TD; Lezzer-6 carries, 140 yards, 2 TD; Ford-5 carries, 49 yards; Woomer-4 carries, 24 yards; Beck-2 carries, 0 yards; Sellers-1 carry, 6 yards; Graham-1 carry, 1 yard.
P-O: Matsko-7 completions, 17 attempts, 72 yards.
CLEARFIELD: Lezzer-5 completions, 6 attempts, 95 yards, 2 TD.
P-O: Shuey-6 receptions, 60 yards; Lamb-1 reception, 12 yards.
CLEARFIELD: Jordan-2 receptions, 54 yards, 2 TD; Lord-1 reception, 26 yards; Stratton-1 reception, 11 yards; Graham-1 reception, 4 yards.