ROARING SPRING — After splitting the first two games of the year at the friendly surroundings of the home turf at the Bison Sports Complex, the Clearfield Bison had to dig in their cleats and try to show that they could put on the same kind of performance when the jerseys are the road white design.
The problem with the first road game of the year is not only was it a long trip for their first road contest, but it was against one of the toughest teams in the Mountain League. The Bison traveled all the way out to Roaring Spring to take on the team that handed them their first loss at the BSC since the turf was installed in 2012, the Central Dragons. The home squad entered the contest undefeated, hoping to break out into an early season lead in the conference. According to the PA Football News, Central was the ninth-ranked in the state in AA after week two.
In a game that saw a lot of strong defense, the difference would be who could keep a handle on the ball.
The team that couldn’t do that was the home team. The Bison defense forced three turnovers on defense, plus one on special teams, and would hold on for a very difficult, and hard-fought, 19-8 victory.
“Number one, our defensive line played an outstanding game. Ryan Lezzer came up big against one of the best receivers in the league. He had two big picks, and Matt Collins had a big pick,” Head coach Tim Janocko said afterwards. “Our defense just came up big tonight. To hold Central to just eight points, in Central, you made a statement game.”
It didn’t start off like that for the Bison as Central would strike early, and in a big way, just 20 seconds into the game when Noah Benton launched a pass downfield to Alex Hoenstine for a 50-yard touchdown strike. Benton then followed it up with the two-point conversion pass to John Michael Knepp to make it an early 8-0 advantage.
Clearfield would have to answer back, but would stall out on their first drive, as both Seth Caldwell and Ryan Lezzer both had great effect running the ball, but quarterback Cody Spaid had trouble completing passes.
It wouldn’t be until the 4:57 mark in the first quarter where things clicked for the Bison.
After a key 51-yard bomb to Travis Ogden put the Bison in the red zone, Caldwell would cap off the drive with a 4-yard touchdown plunge, as he would drag defenders into the end zone. Josh Serena would add the extra point to make the score 8-7, a score that would remain through the rest of the first half.
Caldwell would have another strong night, eclipsing 100 yards rushing for the second straight week, but Janocko was quick to point out that Ogden was becoming a new weapon that future opponents will have to account for.
“Travis Ogden is a weapon and a heck of an athlete. He’s a great tight end, and an aggressive defensive lineman,” Janocko said.
Despite having the lead entering the break, the Dragons were kept on their heels for the entire first half, especially when, despite having high passing yardage, Benton was picked off twice. Both interceptions, one from Ogden and another from Lezzer, stopped any momentum the Dragons had in trying to extend their lead.
When the second half began, neither team seemed to be gaining a lot of momentum. That is until the second possession for Clearfield.
It was methodical, intelligent, and focused. With Spaid struggling to throw the ball, the Bison went into an old-school mentality, as it was run after run to wear out the Dragon defense. The Bison would use Caldwell and Lezzer to get short bursts and keep the clock running, but in a surprise to the Central defense, it would be senior running back Christian Rumery that would give the Bison the ultimate jolt. With Central focused on Caldwell and Lezzer, Rumery took some of that pressure off on the drive.
“He’s been an added weapon. We used him in the scrimmages, and we couldn’t get him going in the first game. But in the scrimmages he ran the ball really well,” Janocko said of his brute of a running back. “If everyone suddenly wants to gang up on Caldwell, it gives him a chance to get eight or nine yards. He’s a big strong kid.”
That 14-play drive would culminate in an 8-yard sweeping touchdown run by Lezzer to give Clearfield its first lead of the game.
The two-point try would fail, leaving Clearfield a 13-8 lead with just over a minute left in the third quarter.
For Janocko, getting the lead was big for his team, but even if the score had remained the way it was before the touchdown, the kids were still sticking with the game plan that was discussed all week by the coaching staff.
“We told the kids we just gotta stay close till we get to the fourth quarter. If they could keep it close entering the fourth quarter, they’re giving us a chance,” Janocko said.
Central would try to gain some momentum back on the ensuing drive, but Benton once again took a risk when passing the ball. The pressure was coming, and his pass would be intercepted by Lezzer, setting up Clearfield with great field position early in the fourth quarter.
The ensuing drive would stall out at the Central 43-yard line, forcing a punt…or so it seemed.
On 4th and 5, the Bison lined up to punt, but when the snap went off, it went directly to Spaid, who calls the signals for the Bison on the punt formation. He would then get the pass off to Ogden, who would gain 13 yards, converting the first down on the biggest play of the game.
“I didn’t want to give them the ball back,” Janocko said of the fake punt call. “I’ve been haunted for a year about last year’s game. I was haunted because we didn’t convert that last year, cause we would’ve won the game had we converted that first down.
“If they’re gonna beat us, they’re gonna beat us. But we’re not gonna give them the ball back.”
Lezzer would take the next play 29 yards deep into the Dragons’ red zone, and the next play Spaid would bull rush into the end zone for the score. Serena’s extra point would go wide left, making it 19-8 with half a quarter to play.
The Bison would then play a trick that hadn’t been seen a lot already, as Serena’s kickoff would hit one of the up-backs, making it a live ball and Clearfield recovered. The Bison would turn the ball over on downs, but the play ran more time off the clock, and ultimately put Central in a bad spot.
Central’s final drive would stall out on fourth down after a sack by Nate Lash, the turnover on downs would put the final dagger in the game.
Janocko was extremely happy for his group, especially considering how many of the kids were on the team from a year ago and experienced the tough home loss. For him, it was all about putting in the effort, and showing what all that hard work would lead to.
“It’s a tough place to play. Just really happy for our kids. We work so hard. You always worry when you work that hard that it doesn’t pay off,” Janocko said. “Then the kids get down and start asking, ‘What more do I have to do?’ It paid off tonight.”
Clearfield (2-1) returns home next Friday night to host the Bearcats of Huntingdon, who are coming off a 42-27 loss to the Tyrone Golden Eagles.
SCORE BY QUARTER
Clearfield 7 0 6 6 – 19
Central 8 0 0 0 – 8
DRAGONS: 50-yard pass from Benton to Hoenstine (Benton to Knepp for 2-point conversion), 11:40
BISON: 4-yard run by Caldwell (Serena kick), 4:57
BISON: 8-yard run by Lezzer (Caldwell run failed), 1:25
BISON: 1-yard run by Spaid (Serena kick wide left), 6:50
First Downs: 14/10
Rush Yards: 192/56
Pass Yards: 88/137
Total Yards: 280/193
Clearfield: Caldwell-28 carries, 106 yards, TD; Lezzer-8 carries, 58 yards, TD; Rumery-6 carries, 35 yards, Spaid-2 carries, (-4) yards, TD; Team-2 carries, (-2) yards.
Central: Benton-16 carries, 50 yards; Hoenstine-3 carries, 6 yards; Langer-2 carries, 16 yards; Deterline-1 carry, 3 yards.
Clearfield: Spaid-4 for 20, 88 yards.
Central: Benton-8 for 17, 137 yards, TD, 3 INT.
Clearfield: Ogden-3 catches, 77 yards; Lezzer-1 catch, 11 yards.
Central: Hoenstine-3 catches, 77 yards, TD; Helsel-2 catches, 39 yards; Corle-1 catch, 13 yards; Muthler-1 catch, 11 yards.
|09/04||FORT HILL, MD||14 – 49||0 – 1|
|09/11||PENNS VALLEY||42 – 18||1 – 1|
|09/18||@ Central||19 – 8||2 – 1|
|10/23||BALD EAGLE AREA|