HYDE – A year ago, Clearfield and Tyrone head-butted in a game that came down to a final drive and play. That game was a defining moment for the Bison team, as it went on to its second undefeated season in three years.
Entering this year’s contest, the Bison were once again undefeated, and were going against a one-loss Tyrone team that had a lot of momentum going through the season. The biggest difference this time is that the Bison now were on their home turf, and had their fans ready to rumble against a very tough opponent. What the fans at the Bison Sports Complex got in return was an intense contest that once again went right down to the wire.
The back-and-forth contest between Tyrone and Clearfield would go right down to the final seconds, and the final drive, just like a year ago. In the end, Clearfield made the big plays when needed, and their special teams effort would be the deciding factor as the Bison would pull out the victory in a 27-26 thriller.
“It was a great high school football game. That’s Central-Pennsylvania high school football right there. Special teams came through tonight,” head coach Tim Janocko said right after the game.
He was right. Clearfield got out to a lead early, but lost it going into the break, and late in the game. But, the deciding factor, and truthfully the deciding player, was Bison kicker Spencer Herrington. He would knock through all three extra points, plus two major field goals in the victory, in what was his best game in his young career.
“Clearfield really keys on kicking. Tyrone has a lineman do it, that’s why I like it,” Herrington said afterward. “It’s definitely my defining moment…so far. I hope to have more.”
Even Christian Lezzer was quick to note that the credit wasn’t him making scores, or his teammates, it was the offensive line and Herrington that deserved all the glory on this night.
“That might have been the craziest game I’ve ever played in my career, definitely the funnest. All credit goes to the line, defense, Spencer,” Lezzer said. “We’ve had three games like this in my four years, Spencer won all three for us. My adrenaline is going right now, I think I have more adrenaline going this game than I’ve had my whole career.”
It was a game where statistically going in, both squads were mirror images of each other. When the game was done, Tyrone made big plays to get points, and turnovers. In the first half, quarterback Erik Wagner had two long passing touchdowns, but those were the two biggest plays the Golden Eagles had all night. Those accounted for 139 yards of offense, but the Bison defense made some big stops in the second half to account for Wagner and his receivers.
“We made a couple adjustments defensively. Their quarterback is big, their receivers are big,” Janocko said.
Early on, Tyrone did not get any momentum. The first drive only lasted three plays before a punt. Then, Clearfield answered back, deciding to run the ball, not just once or twice before deciding to pass or use play action. The 10-play drive that ensued would consist of nothing but runs by Lezzer and Tyler Stratton. It would be Stratton that would end the drive with a 7-yard touchdown run. Herrington would boot his first point of the night, making it 7-0, and also erasing nearly six minutes off of the clock.
Unfortunately, Tyrone would answer back in a big way.
After a couple big stops, Wagner rolled back to pass and found a hole in the defense, exploiting it to the fullest. The 74-yard pass went to Drew Hunter for a touchdown, quieting the crowd in an instant. Seth Umholtz kicked the point after, and the score was tied.
Not wanting to give, Clearfield answered back on the next drive, as Eric Sellers, making his second career start at quarterback, would connect with Lezzer on a 42-yard pass, setting up a 1st and 10 in the red zone. Three plays later, Lezzer took the hand off into the end zone for his first touchdown of the night. Herrington’s kick made it 14-7 entering the second quarter.
After a 3-and-out, Clearfield got the ball back, but quickly had to change strategy. On the first play of their next drive, Stratton took the ball for a huge 14-yard gain, but afterward wasn’t getting up. Already battling injuries this season, the entire team and Bison grandstands were on pins and needles, hoping he would get up. He would get up, but not under his own power, and was helped to the sidelines. His night would be over, as he had an ice pack on his foot and ankle. He would account for 49 yards and a touchdown in just over a quarter of play, but at that point the running game would be on the backs of Lezzer and freshman Seth Caldwell.
“Anytime you lose Tyler Stratton, you have to make some adjustments. We have a freshman that’s been coming in all year, and he came through with some big runs,” Janocko said.
The loss of their senior running back didn’t slow the Bison down, as they would rush each play on the next drive. But, just as they were looking to punch the ball in on the 1-yard line, the snap to Lezzer went over his head, and into the backfield. It would be 4th and goal at the 20, and Janocko decided to let Herrington get some points on the board. His 38-yard field goal split the uprights, giving Clearfield a 17-7 lead with 5:10 left in the half.
But, Clearfield would be humbled immediately on the next drive, as Tyrone had two strong runs from Drew Hunter, including a 21-yard touchdown run. The extra point cut the lead down to three, with lots of time left on the clock.
That’s when things seemed to go wrong for the Bison. On the next drive, Sellers was sacked on second down, and an additional penalty made it near impossible to get momentum. So, the punt went to Tyrone, and just one play later Wagner connected with Nicholas Getz on a 65-yard deep pass for another touchdown. Umholtz had his extra point blocked, making the score 20-17.
However the biggest momentum stop came on the next drive. The Bison took over at their own 30 from the kickoff, and the combination of running and passing made Tyrone get on their heels. But, when it mattered most, the defense made a statement. Caldwell got the hand off, and went for the score, but he was stopped, and the ball got knocked right from his grasp. Clearfield would turn the ball over, rather than possibly tie the game or take the lead. Instead, Tyrone knelt on the ball, going into halftime with the lead.
Clearfield would get the ball to start the second half, and it would be a case of deja vu, as Janocko decided to go back to the ground game despite the heartache at the end of the first half.
Lezzer, Caldwell, and Sellers would each carry on the drive, but yet again would be stopped short of the end zone.
But, once again Herrington was brought out for another field goal attempt. The 26-yard kick split the uprights, tying the game at 20 with 6:12 left in the third quarter.
That drive seemed to spark something in Clearfield, as they were able to make a strong stop on the next drive, and quickly take the ball back. Even though the next drive did not last long, it kept the ball away from Tyrone. In the third quarter, Tyrone only held the ball for just over two minutes.
Problem was, the final 1:28 of the third belonged to Tyrone, and that led to their longest drive of the night. The drive would last 13 plays, but Clearfield still would not go away, and forced a punt.
Sadly, the next drive would spell doom for Clearfield.
The Bison faced a 3rd and 7 at their own 14, and Sellers went back to pass. He tried to avoid the rush, but the Golden Eagle defense made the big play, knocking the ball from his grasp and recovering the fumble just outside the goal line. One play later, Wagner would punch the ball in for the touchdown. Umholtz again had his extra point blocked, leaving the score 26-20 with 5:43 left in the game.
At that point, the crowd started to get both concerned, but energized. As loud as the Tyrone sideline was getting, the Bison faithful were just as loud. The kickoff would not go as planned, as Umholtz kicked it out of bounds. But, rather than take a 1st and 10 at the 35, Janocko selected to make them kick again. On the second attempt, it would go even shorter, being picked up by Seth Ford and returned to midfield. That was when Sellers put his faith in the offensive line, and his running backs.
A first down run by Caldwell got the crowd into the game right away. He and Lezzer then picked away at the defense, eating away the clock and yards. The crowd suddenly hushed on a 2nd and 4 as Lezzer grabbed the ball for a handoff, but just past the marker lost the handle. In what can only be considered a miracle, Jake Verchick was there to pounce on the ball, saving the drive.
It was then 1st and 10, with the crowd really getting energized, and excited. A 4-yard gain by Caldwell, then six more yards from Lezzer made it 1st and goal at the four. Finally, in what seemed like an eternity, Lezzer punched the ball in for a 4-yard touchdown. But still, the extra point needed to be made to get the lead.
Herrington lined up, and Sellers was there for the hold. The snap was correct, the hold was right on, and the kick went right down the middle. With 41 seconds left, Herrington gave the Bison the lead, and the home crowd began getting in a frenzy.
“We kinda shot ourselves in the foot a couple times there in the first half. End of the game, we needed a big drive. Our offensive line and our full backs came through, Christian Lezzer and Seth Caldwell did a great job running the football,” Janocko said of the fourth quarter drive.
The kickoff by Clearfield was downed quickly to save some time, and Tyrone began at their own 43. The home crowd started roaring as loud as it had ever been, and the cheerleaders got into it, pumping up the crowd. On first down, the pass to Getz was denied by the secondary. The second down pass to Oliver went off the Bison defense, and just barely made it out of the grasp of Caldwell for the interception. Facing a 3rd and 10, the defense began getting the crowd into it, roaring at full song before the teams got to the line. The pass then to Silas Crawford was wide, and it was down to one last play.
With the crowd roaring louder than the announcers, the Golden Eagles went to the line. Wagner dropped back, and connected with Crawford, who then lateraled to Oliver. But, the Bison defense was having none of it. After just four yards, the tackle was made, and the win was sealed.
“We work on that stuff at practice all the time. We just had to stop them on four downs, and we did. Then we just went out and pulled out the win,” Lezzer said.
Janocko was extremely proud of his team, but did not make any bones about it, as he gave the biggest call to his sophomore kicker for being able to make the big kicks when needed.
“Just so happy for him, I gave him the game ball. He had some big kicks, the two field goals, the extra point. He just did a great job for us,” Janocko said.
Now at 7-0, Clearfield has one more home game next week, one that is going to be hard for the seniors, especially for players like Lezzer who had such a big part in the game against Tyrone. Even after walking off the field, his adrenaline was still going, and he knew it would be staying all through the week leading up to his final home game as a Bison.
“My adrenaline is going to be double next week. It’s the final time I’ll get to play on this field, so it’s going to be emotional. It’s going to be a fun night,” Lezzer said.
But for this week, Clearfield is going to savor a win that was hard-fought, and earned with every snap. When asked if this could be the defining win on the season for the Bison, Janocko would answer with a smile.
“I’d say so, I’d agree with that.”
Clearfield will host Bald Eagle Area, who are coming off their own close game against Huntingdon, a 49-47 victory.
See photos of the game here: http://www.clearfieldfootball.org/101113Game.html
SCORE BY QUARTER
Tyrone 7 13 0 6 – 26
Clearfield 14 3 3 7 – 27
BISON: 7-yard run by Stratton (Herrington kick), 5:22
GOLDEN EAGLES: 74-yard pass from Wagner to Hunter (Umholtz kick), 3:45
BISON: 1-yard run by Lezzer (Herrington kick), 1:28
BISON: 37-yard Field Goal by Herrington, 5:10
GOLDEN EAGLES: 21-yard run by Oliver (Umholtz kick), 3:42
GOLDEN EAGLES: 65-yard pass from Wagner to Getz (Umholtz kick BLOCKED), 2:10
BISON: 26-yard Field Goal by Herrington, 6:12
GOLDEN EAGLES: 1-yard run by Wagner (Umholtz kick BLOCKED), 5:43
BISON: 4-yard run by Lezzer (Herrington kick), 0:41
First Downs: 3/23
Rush Yards: 81/251
Pass Yards: 187/96
Total Yards: 268/347
Time of Possession: 15:28/32:32
Tyrone: Oliver-12 carries, 39 yards, TD; Wagner-7 carries, 36 yards, TD; Hunter-1 carry, 5 yards.
Clearfield: Lezzer-33 carries, 115 yards, 2 TD; Caldwell-17 carries, 89 yards; Stratton-7 carries, 49 yards, TD (Left in 2nd Quarter-foot/ankle), Sellers-6 carries, (-2) yards; TEAM-1 carry, 0 yards.
Tyrone: Wagner-8 for 15, 187 yards, 2 TD.
Clearfield: Sellers-5 for 6, 96 yards.
Tyrone: Hunter-4 catches, 19 yards; Crawford-2 catches, 29 yards; Hunter-1 catch, 74 yards, TD; Getz-1 catch, 65 yards, TD.
Clearfield: Lezzer-4 catches, 75 yards; Ford-1 catch, 21 yards.