PHILIPSBURG — The hardest thing for any football team at any level is to go undefeated. There has only been one NFL team in its rich history to complete an undefeated season. It can be done at the college level, but it is very hard to do. Special teams can achieve special moments.
The senior class of the 2013 Clearfield Bison already had the experience of one undefeated season one year ago, with some having the honor of going through two dating back to 2010. This year’s squad now was one game away from putting yet another undefeated season in the record books. To do so, they would have to accomplish it on the road, away from the Bison Sports Complex. This week, the team traveled to Memorial Field in Philipsburg. In order to complete perfection, the Bison would have to get past the Philipsburg-Osceola Mounties.
From the opening kickoff to the final whistle, the Bison were marching down the field, putting points on the board, and showing that they are among the great teams to wear the black and red colors. After 48 minutes of action, the Bison put one more victory in their win column, capping off their regular season with a 56-7 rout of the Mounties, and a 9-0 record.
“It feels great. Really happy for the kids and assistant coaches. It’s just a great thing for them, they’re hard workers, and the kids I’m really happy for, and everyone involved in our program,” Bison Head Coach Tim Janocko said afterward. “I’ve been blessed with a lot of good kids and assistant football coaches. They’re not just great coaches, they’re great people, and I’m really happy for them.”
His staff put up a game plan to combat the Mounties, and the team executed on the field, putting up 450 yards of offense, while holding the entire Mountie offense to just 185 total yards and forcing three turnovers.
Senior quarterback Christian Lezzer again stole the show for Clearfield. His 249 yards rushing were one of his best performances of the year, as he accounted for five of the eight touchdowns on the night. But his rushing yards were just part of the performance. Lezzer also had 23 yards passing, and accounted for numerous tackles on defense. In a sense, the second half of the year, Lezzer has become what Michael Robinson was to Penn State, playing multiple positions and excelling at all. For Lezzer, it was an extra load, but one he seems to enjoy.
“I love it. It’s the funnest thing I could do on the football field. In my high school career, it’s funny because I’ve played every high school position,” Lezzer said afterward. “Obviously quarterback, running back and wide receiver, and on defensive line, linebacker, secondary, and offensive line now. It’s funny, but it’s fun.”
It seemed to work as he was able to assist in letting his teammates have their own time in the spotlight. Eric Sellers only attempted one pass on the night, but it went for a score. Seth Caldwell had 63 yards rushing, while Tyler Stratton added 41 yards on the ground and a score.
P-O would get the opening kickoff, but the Bison defense quickly imposed their will, forcing the early three-and-out. When Clearfield took over, it was a ground-and-pound attack with Stratton. He would handle the ball all but two plays on the drive, capping it off with a 1-yard plunge into the end zone. Spencer Herrington booted the extra point, and it was 7-0 early in the quarter. But, it would also be the only drive for Stratton. Still being plagued with a foot injury suffered two weeks ago against Tyrone, he would go to the sidelines to be looked at by the trainers, but would not return.
“We got shocked with a couple injuries again in the first quarter, and a credit to our kids they adapted well,” Janocko said.
The Mounties tried again to get some momentum on the next drive, getting close to mid-field. But Clearfield was able to stop them again, and force the punt. Mountie punter Nick Boumerhi boomed the fourth down kick from the P-O 40 to the Clearfield 10-yard line, giving Clearfield a long field.
Lezzer would get the call for three of the first five plays, with Caldwell getting the hand off on the other two. After getting the first down at mid-field, Sellers then decided to open up; seeing as the Mountie defense was playing the run for the first 12 plays. He went play action, and launched the ball deep down the right side. Caldwell had the ball land right in his arms, and at that point it became a foot race. The Mountie secondary caught up, but Caldwell shoved off tacklers, and marched into the end zone for his lone touchdown on the night.
In a surprise, the snap on the extra point went past the holder, and the score remained 13-0 with two and a half minutes left in the quarter.
When P-O took over, they decided to try and wear out the Bison defense. They did so very well with a strong combination of runs and passes, mostly intermediate plays that were not always moving the chains, but moving the ball forward. After 12 plays, Jake Anderson got the hand off and pushed to the end zone for a seven-yard score. Boumerhi kicked the extra point, making it 13-7 with just over eight minutes left in the half.
At that point, the Bison really went to work. On the third play of the next drive, Lezzer took the snap and found a hole in the defense. He would reach full stride going down the sideline for 67 yards, beating each defender in the process and getting his first touchdown of the night. Lezzer also added the two-point conversion, pushing the score to 21-7.
The Mounties got another good drive going after the kickoff, but were stopped short of mid-field. That was when momentum clearly shifted in the favor of Clearfield. On the punt, the defensive line got the push, and right when Boumerhi went to boot the ball, it went backwards. The blocked punt was recovered deep in the red zone, giving Clearfield its shortest field position of the night.
Two plays later, Lezzer added on his second rushing touchdown, this one from nine yards out, and Herrington added another extra point.
Just over a minute later, following another P-O three-and-out, Lezzer would find the end zone again, this time from eight yards out. Another extra point, and it was 35-7 heading to the break.
With Clearfield getting the ball to start the second half, Janocko and his team were looking for the knockout blow to put the game officially out of reach. After a touchback, Lezzer would spend most of the first drive in the second half at quarterback, but would be doing some handing off to Caldwell. He would complete one deep ball to Seth Ford right over the center of the defense, a pass that should Ford have not lost his footing may have gone to the end zone. In the end, Lezzer would bounce in and out of the P-O defense, scoring on a 19-yard run. The extra point made it 42-7, and put the running clock into effect.
The Mounties still would put up a big fight, as they would put together a strong drive following the kickoff, pushing the Bison defense backward. On a 3rd and 5, Curtis Matsko took his own handoff and tried to get the yardage. The Bison line had other ideas, as they not only stopped him, they stripped the ball away, recovering the fumble in the process.
The turnover would turn into another long drive, but one that seemed to be falling apart late. After a Bison penalty for motion, and a loss of yardage on third down, it was 4th and 15 at the P-O 37. Rather than attempt a long field goal, Janocko called for his offense to remain on the field.
It paid off, because Lezzer called his own number; and not only got the first down, but he stayed on his feet, shoving aside tacklers, and cutting the opposite direction on the field and after 37 yards, it was Lezzer’s fifth touchdown on the night. Herrington kicked the extra point, and just under four minutes into the fourth quarter, the score was 49-7.
At that point, the first-team offense was done for the night, and the young players got some playing time. Immediately they made an impact, as on the first play of the next drive, Matsko was intercepted, and the return went deep into P-O territory.
Four plays later, Corey Shimmel would score the final touchdown of the game from three yards out. Josh Sorbera would kick the extra point, making the final 56-7.
“It’s a good win for this. P-O was scrappy there in the first half, but it was a good win for us,” Janocko said.
The Bison achieved their third undefeated season in four years with one of the most dominant teams in Bison football history. It’s an accomplishment that Janocko and Lezzer are proud off, but they and everyone involved with this year’s team knows that their ultimate goal is now one game away.
“It’s just focusing on district championship next week, and going from there,” Lezzer said.
Clearfield will not know who they will face in the District IX championship game until the beginning of the week, but Janocko said that it didn’t matter who they were facing, his team would be prepared
“We don’t know, but it does matter to us. We want to get that fourth championship, that’s for sure,” Janocko said.
The District IX Class AAA championship game details will be announced early in the week. It will be played at a neutral site on either Friday night or on Saturday.
See photos of the game here: http://www.clearfieldfootball.org/102513Game.html
D9Sports.com reports that Clearfield will face Bradford in the District IX Class AAA Championship. It also states that the title game is not an automatic bid into the PIAA Playoffs, nor the PIAA Sub-Regional playoff bracket.
Date and location are yet to be determined, but will possibly be held on Friday, Nov. 1.
The District IX Class AAA Championship has been set. The Bison will face the Bradford Owls this Friday night, a rematch of last year’s title game. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. in Brockway.
SCORE BY QUARTER
Clearfield 13 22 7 14 – 56
Philipsburg-Osceola 0 7 0 0 – 7
BISON: 1-yard run by Stratton (Herrington kick), 7:52
BISON: 50-yard pass from Sellers to Caldwell (Conversion Failed), 2:31
MOUNTIES: 7-yard run by Anderson (Boumerhi kick), 8:39
BISON: 67-yard run by Lezzer (Lezzer run), 7:20
BISON: 9-yard run by Lezzer (Herrington kick), 3:44
BISON: 8-yard run by Lezzer (Herrington kick), 1:22
BISON: 19-yard run by Lezzer (Herrington kick), 7:53
BISON: 37-yard run by Lezzer (Herrington kick), 8:46
BISON: 3-yard run by Shimmel (Sorbera kick), 5:58
First Downs: 15/13
Rush Yards: 377/107
Pass Yards: 73/78
Total Yards: 450/185
Time of Possession: 23:47/24:13
Clearfield: Lezzer-16 carries, 249 yards, 5 TD; Caldwell-16 carries, 63 yards; Stratton-5 carries, 41 yards, TD; C. Shimmel-3 carries, 17 yards, TD; D. Shimmel-3 carries, 7 yards; TEAM-1 carry, (-1) yards.
Philipsburg-Osceola: Pryde-8 carries, 41 yards; Matsko-6 carries, 47 yards; Shuey-5 carries, 19 yards; Anderson-5 carries, 15 yards, TD; Hawkins-3 carries, 5 yards; TEAM-2 carries, (-17) yards.
Clearfield: Sellers-1 for 1, 50 yards, TD; Lezzer-1 for 1, 23 yards.
Philipsburg-Osceola: Matsko-11 for 22, 78 yards, INT.
Clearfield: Caldwell-1 catch, 50 yards, TD; Ford-1 catch, 23 yards.
Philipsburg-Osceola: Shuey-3 catch, 18 yards; Hummel-3 catches, 17 yards; Mason-2 catches, 28 yards; Lamb-2 catches, 13 yards; Hawkins-1 catch, 2 yards.