It was this time a year ago, the Clearfield Bison were riding a lot of momentum into the playoffs, and stood at one side of the field to look at the Somerset Eagles as their challenge to clinch the District 5-6-8-9 championship, and move into the state playoffs. On that night, the Bison would be victorious, and move on for another week.
Flash forward and it was nearly a case of deja vu, because on a frigid night, the Bison and Eagles would get to play an encore for the fans. This time, instead of being played in Hollidaysburg, it was a longer drive as the teams would head to Johnstown to compete at the Richland High School. Plus, instead of donning the all-black uniforms, the Bison would wear their road white jerseys, since they had the lower seed this time, while the Eagles put on their black and orange home uniforms for the occasion.
What Clearfield was hoping for was a repeat of a year ago, but instead found themselves doing something that had not been seen all season.
The Eagles were showing muscle from the opening kickoff to the final whistle, not only stopping momentum for the Bison, but putting them in situations where they had very few options to get out. Clearfield would find itself with difficult field position all night long, and would be unable to overcome that difficult scenario.
In the end, the Eagles would hold the Bison to just 30 yards of total offense and would move on into the PIAA state playoffs with a 27-0 shutout victory.
“We never could get out of that hole. We were in the hole the whole night,” head coach Tim Janocko said afterward. “They (Somerset) have a great team. We didn’t play our best tonight, we had a lot of mental mistakes, but that doesn’t take away from our effort. I’m proud of our kids. They played hard up to the end, and we had a great game. I’m sure they would’ve liked to have played better, but you’ll have those nights.”
It was a tough night from the moment the ball was kicked off. Seth Caldwell watched the ball nearly go out of bounds, but he opted to pick it up, however his momentum was too great and he went out of bounds as well, ball in hand. That put Clearfield’s first possession at their own 1, and despite getting out of the shadow of the end zone, the Eagles forced the punt.
With temperatures hovering barely at freezing, passing the ball was not an option, as players during warmups had issues gripping the ball. Instead, the ground game was the call for the Eagles, and it was seen early and often. Using their key running back, Jake Heiple, to get a couple first downs and key gains, it was Logan Eller who would put the ball in the red zone, and eventually punch in for the 1-yard opening touchdown. Wes Reed booted the extra point, and the 7-0 score was on the board, remaining there till the second quarter.
Clearfield did try to shake things up on their second drive, faking a punt to get a first down into Eagles’ territory, but one play later quarterback Cody Spaid lost the ball on a sack, and would be recovered by Somerset.
The second scoring drive for Somerset came a mere two minutes in the second quarter, taking up seven plays and over 60 yards. The Bison defense was out-sized, but they were putting up a strong fight in the trenches to keep Heiple from getting through. Yet, on 2nd and 11, following a short loss, he would break into the secondary and go untouched for 35 yards to get his first score of the night. Reed’s right foot made it 14-0 with 10:12 left in the half.
Not wanting to yield just yet, the Bison made a strong drive to answer back, but were stopped on fourth down when a sweep to Jake Wingate was picked up quickly from the Somerset defense.
The ensuing drive would not last long, with only three plays and one breakaway.
Heiple took every hand off on the drive, with his third being another 35-yard sprint right into the end zone for his second touchdown of the game. Reed would put the point after through and it was 21-0, which is where it stayed heading into halftime.
Heiple would have a dominant night, gaining 152 yards on the ground to add more stats to his great season for the Eagles.
“He slipped a lot of tackles. He’s good,” Janocko said of Heiple.
After deferring the opening coin toss, Somerset received the second half kickoff, and in doing so would put the final dagger in the season for Clearfield. Beginning at their own 35, it would be Heiple, quarterback Dylan Barnes, and Raven Beeman chipping away at the Bison defense bit by bit, yard by yard, and second by second. The Eagles would take a lot of time off the game by waiting out the play clock to snap the ball, and it would suck the energy out of the Bison faithful with each play.
To cap it off, Eller would get the handoff to score his second touchdown of the game from 11 yards out. Despite Reed’s kick missing wide left, the 27-0 score would stick the remainder of the night, putting an end to the Bison campaign for 2014.
“We just seemed out of sync the whole night,” Janocko said.
Even though the season came to a close in a very unexpected way, Janocko looked back on a year where his team was very young, had to be rebuilt and do a few things different to replace some great players from a season ago and felt strong about what his team accomplished, and what lies ahead for next year.
“We take away a lot. We took part of the MAC championship, we have a District IX championship. I know some people may not think it, but 9-3 is a great year. I’ll take 9-3 a lot of years,” Janocko said.
While the Bison saw their season come to a close, the Eagles (11-1) move into the PIAA playoffs, as they face Selinsgrove, who defeated Jersey Shore in a low scoring 6-2 final.
SCORE BY QUARTER
Clearfield 0 0 0 0 – 0
Somerset 7 14 6 0 – 27
EAGLES: 1-yard run by Eller (Reed kick), 6:31
EAGLES: 35-yard run by Heiple (Reed kick), 10:12
EAGLES: 35-yard run by Heiple (Reed kick), 5:19
EAGLES: 11-yard run by Eller (Reed kick Wide Left), 5:29
First Downs: 4/13
Rush Yards: 14/221
Pass Yards: 16/22
Total Yards: 30/243
Time of Possession: 22:00/26:00
Clearfield: Sellers-13 carries, 20 yards; Caldwell-8 carries, 32 yards; Wingate-3 carries, 0 yards; Shimmel-2 carries, (-1) yards; Spaid-2 carries, (-25) yards; Team-1 carry, (-12) yards.
Somerset: Heiple-19 carries, 152 yards, 2 TD; Barnes-10 carries, 11 yards; Beeman-6 carries, 35 yards; Eller-6 carries, 19 yards, 2 TD; Hemminger-2 carries, 4 yards; Deblase-1 carry, 0 yards.
Clearfield: Spaid-2 for 7, 8 yards; Sellers-2 for 5, 8 yards.
Somerset: Barnes-4 for 10, 22 yards.
Clearfield: Lezzer-2 catches, 14 yards; Shimmel-1 catch, 3 yards; Sellers-1 catch, (-1) yard.
Somerset: Mostoller-2 catches, 20 yards; Coyle-1 catch, 5 yards; Barron-1 catch, (-3) yards.