TYRONE — Adversity is defined simply as “difficulties.” Entering the 2014 season, the Clearfield Bison football team was already facing a lot of adversity because the squad was one of the youngest in recent memory, many starters needing replaced, and the schedule was not giving them any favors, or reprieves.
Still, the team entered the latter half of their season with only two losses, however still had not put together that signature win to show how much the team has changed since the first kickoff of the season. The latest test, according to many, would be the most difficult mountain to climb. If there were ever adverse times to show what the Bison were all about, it was stepping onto the grass while on the road to face off against the unbeaten Tyrone Golden Eagles, a team in all but two games have scored more than 40 points against their opposition.
It would be the true test of adversity for both sides, and the end result saw many folks shocked, and one team in disbelief.
Tyrone’s high-powered, high-scoring offense was pressured all night long, gaining little momentum, and causing miscues. It led to four turnovers, and that would be more than enough for Clearfield to take advantage. At the end of 48 minutes, the Bison would stun the entire crowd by handing the Golden Eagles their first loss of the season in a 26-14 upset.
“It’s a huge win. We beat a quality football team, well coached. Great atmosphere; high school football at its best,” Head coach Tim Janocko said afterward. “We got some big plays on special teams and on defense. That was huge; if you want to win at a place like this, you have to play great defense and great special teams. We were able to do that.”
The defense for Clearfield was working hard all night long, limiting Tyrone to just 233 yards of total offense, 47 of those yards on the ground, and forcing two interceptions. But along with that, the special teams of Clearfield accounted for two fumbles, both of which led to points.
It all began on the opening drive for the Bison, as the offense slowly but surely chipped away at the Golden Eagle defense, gaining yards, moving the chains and running the clock. That was when Eric Sellers broke the first big play of the night. Following an incomplete pass, he would take the snap and burst through the line, and then shuffle right of his blocks, and break into the open field. He was not touched once he reached the third level, scoring the first touchdown of the game on a 38-yard rumble. Spencer Herrington had his extra point blocked, leaving the score 6-0 with still over eight minutes to play.
Tyrone was ready to do its thing on the next possession, but they had to wait for it.
On the ensuing kickoff, Josh Sorbera booted a short kick to the middle of the field, and one of the up-backs tried to field it, however lost control trying to field the ball. The scramble was on and when the dust cleared, the Bison forced the first turnover of the game, retaking possession of the ball at the Tyrone 35.
“That was a huge play. We’ve been practicing all week getting down field on that little pooch kick,” Sellers said about the kickoff recovery. “Our backup kicker, Josh Sorbera, is doing a heck of a job right now. It was a good, directional kick, and we had a good hustle to get down there.”
The ensuing drive ate up a lot of clock with Sellers and Seth Caldwell doing a lot of the leg work. Sellers would pound the ball into the end zone from one yard out for the second score of the night, and Herrington made the point after to give Clearfield the 13-0 lead late in the quarter.
After having to wait nearly 10 minutes to get the ball, Tyrone made quick work on the next drive. On the first play from scrimmage, Aleic Hunter broke contain for a 38-yard rumble into Clearfield territory. Three plays later, he would put the Golden Eagles on the board for the first time on the night. Ethan Vipond’s kick made it 13-7 heading into the second quarter.
Both teams traded possessions for half that quarter, but it was the Bison special teams that would provide the play that would be remembered on the night. After being held to a three-and-out, Tyrone was forced to punt. As Richard Reader awaited the snap, the ball went a little high for his hands. Still, he recovered and got the ball off, but only to be blocked backwards right past him. The ball would bounce backward past the goal line, and instead of letting it roll out of bounds, an alert Zach Hefferan would hit the grass and cover the loose ball for an unexpected fumble recovery touchdown.
Herrington was true once again, and to the surprise of the Tyrone faithful, they were looking at a 20-7 hole with still half a quarter to play before halftime.
“Their snap was a little high. That kid’s a great punter, so we got fortunate,” Janocko said of the special teams’ touchdown. “That was a game changer.”
Still, Tyrone had time on the clock, and quarterback Garrett Hunter made good use of it right before halftime. With his receivers getting separation from defenders, Garrett would find Aleic, Silas Crawford and Duane Boone for big completions on the drive, with the final pass going to Boone for a 19-yard touchdown. Vipond’s extra point made it 20-14 heading into the break, and with Tyrone getting the second-half kickoff, it seemed momentum was on the Golden Eagles’ side. For Clearfield, there was some concern, but not panic.
“It’s not really panic; they have great players. That guy (Boone) is fast, and their front line works well for them,” Janocko said.
Knowing the pass was working, especially after going for 86 yards in the first half, Garrett decided to try again for his top receiver on the opening drive of the second half. What he ended up with was giving momentum to the visitors. His pass to the right side of the field would get picked off by Sellers, who already had two rushing touchdowns and 79 yards rushing in the first half, now had his first big defensive play of the game, setting up Clearfield with strong field position following the turnover.
It almost looked like the ensuing possession would lead to nothing as the Tyrone defense would stand up big and make plays, but quarterback Cody Spaid made a key play when he found Sellers over the middle of the field for a huge 26-yard pass completion to move the chains inside the 10. Two plays later, Sellers capped his incredible night with his third rushing touchdown of the game.
The ensuing two-point conversion failed, but the two-touchdown lead gave a strong cushion for the Bison defense to do their work.
In doing so, despite having many underclassmen playing in starting roles, they would create intense headaches for Tyrone for the remainder of the night. Garrett would only complete three passes over his next two possessions, while being sacked on three different occasions. The front line of Clearfield was creating chaos for Tyrone, and it wasn’t all because of blitzes, but rather breaking protection.
“It’s impressing me. We’re rushing four guys, at least the last quarter, and they’ve got five to protect us; we’re making plays, rushing him, if not sacking him. Our d-line did a great job tonight,” Sellers said afterwards. Along with his interception on defense, he finished the night with 132 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns, two of which came following turnovers from special teams and defense.
Janocko echoed his dual-talent senior, and gave praise to his defensive coach on his calls in the game.
“We had a great scheme going. Our defensive line played really well, and we mixed up our blitzes really well. Coach (Nate) Glunt called a great defensive game,” Janocko said.
Tyrone would still try to make a game of it in the late going, but an interception by Ryan Lezzer and then a turnover on downs sealed the Bison victory, and the first blemish on the Golden Eagles’ record.
Sitting at 5-2, and still within reach of a share of the Mountain League championship, the Bison have overcome a lot of adversity, but know there is still more football to be played. Sellers knew this, and was already looking ahead to another week of preparation for the next challenge.
“Right now, we’re gonna celebrate this one. But it means we have to start getting on a roll now. We’re looking at bigger and better things, keep going one week at a time. We still have two games left, and we have to finish the season out perfect. But, this is a huge step toward what we want to accomplish,” Sellers said.
Janocko kept it simple, knowing that his team had another week of preparation ahead of them, he instead focused on the here-and-now, savoring the moment of what his team accomplished.
“This is a good win for us,” he said.
Clearfield’s final road test for the regular season is next Friday as they travel to Bald Eagle Area (2-5).
SCORE BY QUARTER
Clearfield 13 7 6 0 – 26
Tyrone 7 7 0 0 – 14
BISON: 38-yard run by Sellers (Herrington kick Blocked), 8:43
BISON: 1-yard run by Sellers (Herrington kick), 2:32
G. EAGLES: 6-yard run by A. Hunter (Vipond kick), 1:15
BISON: Blocked punt recovered in end zone by Hefferan (Herrington kick), 6:16
G. EAGLES: 19-yard pass from G. Hunter to Boone (Vipond kick), 0:12
BISON: 7-yard run by Sellers (Pass failed), 7:29
First Downs: 9/14
Rush Yards: 208/47
Pass Yards: 31/186
Total Yards: 239/233
Time of Possession: 29:37/18:23
Clearfield: Sellers-23 carries, 106 yards, 3 TD; Caldwell-18 carries, 87 yards; Lezzer-4 carries, 4 yards; Spaid-2 carries, 13 yards, Team-2 carries, (-2) yards.
Tyrone: A. Hunter-9 carries, 81 yards, TD; G. Hunter-6 carries, (-44) yards; Bakhsheshe-2 carries, 11 yards; Sleeth-1 carry, 0 yards.
Clearfield: Spaid-2 for 7, 33 yards; Sellers-1 for 2, (-2) yards.
Tyrone: G. Hunter-12 for 33, 139 yards, TD, 2 INT.
Clearfield: Sellers-1 catch, 26 yards; Caldwell-1 catch, 7 yards; Wingate-1 catch, (-2) yards.
Tyrone: Crawford-5 catches, 55 yards; A. Hunter-4 catches, 55 yards; Boone-2 catches, 20 yards, TD; Getz-1 catch, 9 yards.