HYDE — With the Mountain League title still up for grabs, Friday night was looking to be a deciding game among two of the top teams in the division. After spending the last two weeks on the road, the Clearfield Bison made their return to the Bison Sports Complex. However, their opposition was ready to seek some revenge.
Across the field, dressed in black, orange and white, were the Tyrone Golden Eagles, who last year entered this game undefeated, only to be shut down at home in stunning fashion.
The games the last three years between these two schools have been extremely close, coming down to the final drive, or who makes the bigger mistake.
This time, it was Tyrone who made the most costly mistakes. After going all year without throwing an interception, Tyrone quarterback Drew Hunter found out that the Bison defense would swarm to the ball every chance they got, picking the ball off four times, and turning three of them into points. The Bison would not let up, despite a rocky start, and took down the Golden Eagles in a 34-17 final.
“They have a great football team. They throw the ball well, they ran the ball really well. We overcame some adversity early on, and played really well after that point,” Head Coach Tim Janocko said of the opposition.
It did not look as though the game would go in the favor of the black-clad Bison, as on the opening kickoff, Seth Caldwell had the ball bounce right off his chest protector. Tyrone quickly swarmed and would recover the loose ball on the Bison 28, setting them up for their first drive with a very short field.
The offense would drive down the field but suddenly found the Bison defense playing harder, and tougher, as they were in the shadow of their own end zone. On three straight plays the Tyrone offense would be stopped at the goal line. However on 4th and Goal, Gary Weaver would find a seam on the right side and punch the ball in for the opening score. A 7-0 lead would start the night after Ethan Vipond booted the extra point.
It would be deja vu on the opening drive for Clearfield, as Caldwell was having a strong game to start with, using his feet to get down the field. But then, on 2nd and 10 at the Tyrone 41, Caldwell went up the middle and tried to stretch for the first down. The Golden Eagles were able to strip the ball from his grasp, forcing yet another turnover in the opening frame.
The difference between that turnover and the previous one, the Bison would come up big after it.
Just three plays later on a 2nd and 13, following a sack on Hunter, the Eagles looked to pass down the sidelines. The problem with Hunter’s pass is that the Bison defense were all around his intended target, and Jacob Wingate would snag the ball out of the air, causing the first interception of the night, and the first one thrown all season by the Tyrone offense.
Caldwell would make up for the mistake on the next possession as he would get his first touchdown of the night on a 6-yard sprint. Josh Serena had difficulty getting the extra point over the big line of Tyrone, leaving the score 7-6 after one quarter of play.
“We were really emotional there in the beginning, and I think it worked against us there a little bit,” Janocko said of the early game jitters.
The Bison, unfortunately, found themselves in another deep hole on their next possession. Following a Tyrone punt, which pinned them back at the 1-yard line, along with a Caldwell run, quarterback Cody Spaid mishandled a snap and the ball would bounce out of the end zone. That would result in a safety, making it 9-6, and giving Tyrone the ball back in good field position.
Unfortunately for the visitors, the ensuing drive would not end as they hoped. The Bison defense forced the Golden Eagles to punt, but the snap went over the head of Tristen Zeiders, who then fell on the ball following a 27-yard loss, giving Clearfield its best field position to start a drive on the night.
Caldwell would get the call for most of the drive, capping it with his second touchdown of the night, and then Serena would boot his extra point to give Clearfield its first lead of the night. Caldwell would erase the miscues of the opening drive and have a strong night, carrying the ball 27 times for a total of 126 yards.
“Caldwell runs hard. He’s built, and I was really happy for him because he was down on himself after the first couple plays,” Janocko said of his junior tailback. “He fought through it and he’s a champ.”
Tyrone’s momentum that they once had began to diminish as they would not convert on 4th down following the Clearfield score, and the Bison would make sure they paid for it on the next drive. The methodical 10-play, 68-yard drive took just over two minutes with a combination of the legs of Caldwell, along with Ryan Lezzer, plus the arm of Spaid. It ended with Spaid connecting on a perfectly thrown pass to Lezzer, who dodged white jerseys on the left side of the defense for the receiving touchdown. Another extra point, and heading into halftime the Bison held a two-score lead.
The second half is when the wheels began falling off for Tyrone. The first possession in the third quarter would end with a punt, and Clearfield would then begin playing keep away, as their first drive took a lot of time. All but three snaps of the 13-play drive would be hand offs to Caldwell or Lezzer, the longest run being 14 yards, but it kept the clock rolling. Spaid would get his second touchdown of the night on a pass to Caldwell to conclude the drive, and with only 2:50 left in the frame, Clearfield would hold a 27-9 advantage.
However, Tyrone wasn’t going away quietly. Even being down by 18, they weren’t quitting. Weaver had been bottled up all night by the Bison defense, but on the second play of the ensuing drive, he broke free. His 62-yard scramble down the Golden Eagle sideline would cut the lead to just 12 points. It would be cut to 10 as Hunter would connect on the two-point conversion. The 27-17 score held as the final quarter began.
At that moment, Hunter’s night went from average, to disastrous.
Tyrone’s next possession would come to a conclusion on third down as Hunter would make an ill-advised pass to the left side that was covered by three Bison defenders. Micah Heichel would be the beneficiary of the mistake, intercepting the pass and cutting the momentum down even more on the visitors’ sideline.
It would be the next Tyrone drive that put the dagger in the game. With 5:54 remaining, Hunter again looked to his left for his receiver, but Wingate was there again to take away the ball. However this time, he had a seam, and with the Eagles trying their hardest to stop him, it would be a pick-six for Clearfield. The Bison would nail the extra point, making the score 34-17, where it remained for the rest of the quarter. The Bison would score 21 of their 34 points on the night after turnovers, showing how much of a cohesive unit they have become this season.
Tyrone’s last drive of the game would end the same way, this time with Steven Sawyer intercepting Hunter in the middle of the field, ensuring the win for Clearfield.
“Four interceptions and I don’t know how many times we sacked their quarterback. Defense came up really huge again. We have a swarming defense, and they get after it,” Janocko said. “I also thought our secondary played extremely well tonight.”
“You hope that turnovers turn into points. That’s a credit to our offense to be able to capitalize.”
The Bison now sit at 6-1, but this game had a special meaning for the school, and for Janocko himself, who has been the head coach of the Bison for many years now. He talked about it with his team before the game, but didn’t want it to become a main factor in them getting the victory. Afterwards, with a solid lead atop the Mountain League standings, Janocko revealed why this win was a special one.
“With six wins, it makes 20 straight years of winning seasons. That’s a feather in the cap. To go 20 straight years of winning seasons, that’s a milestone for us,” Janocko said.
There’s one remaining home game for Clearfield, and it is next Friday. The Senior Night festivities will conclude as the Bison will welcome the Bald Eagle Area Eagles, with kickoff slated for 7 p.m.
SCORE BY QUARTER
Tyrone 7 2 8 0 – 17
Clearfield 6 14 7 7 – 34
GOLDEN EAGLES: 3-yard run by Weaver (Vipond kick), 7:55
BISON: 6-yard run by Caldwell (Serena kick blocked), 3:13
GOLDEN EAGLES: Safety, 11:01
BISON: 3-yard run by Caldwell (Serena kick)
BISON: 12-yard pass from Spaid to Lezzer (Serena kick), 1:01
BISON: 12-yard pass from Spaid to Caldwell (Serena kick), 2:50
GOLDEN EAGLES: 62-yard run by Weaver (Hunter pass to Lewis for conversion), 1:54
BISON: 31-yard interception return by Wingate (Serena kick), 5:44
First Downs: 9/16
Rush Yards: 103/212
Pass Yards: 120/103
Total Yards: 223/315
Time of Possession: 25:38/22:22
Tyrone: Weaver-22 carries, 127 yards, TD; Hunter-5 carries, 0 yards; Soellner-1 carry, 3 yards; Mitchell-1 carry, 0 yards; Team-1 carry, (-27) yards.
Clearfield: Caldwell-27 carries, 126 yards, 2 TD; Lezzer-11 carries, 70 yards; Shimmel-5 carries, 12 yards; Spaid-4 carries, 4 yards; Team-2 carries, (-6) yards.
Tyrone: Hunter-8 for 22, 120 yards, 4 INT.
Clearfield: Spaid-7 for 10, 103 yards, 2 TD.
Tyrone: Raftery-3 catches, 34 yards; Lewis-2 catches, 43 yards; Mitchell-2 catches, 41 yards; Weaver-1 catch, 3 yards.
Clearfield: Lezzer-4 catches, 75 yards, TD; Caldwell-3 catches, 28 yards, TD.
|09/04||FORT HILL, MD||14 – 49||0 – 1|
|09/11||PENNS VALLEY||42 – 18||1 – 1|
|09/18||@ Central||19 – 8||2 – 1|
|09/25||HUNTINGDON||50 – 23||3 – 1|
|10/02||@ Brockway||28 – 7||4 – 1|
|10/09||@ Bellefonte||42 – 7||5 – 1|
|10/16||TYRONE||34 – 17||6 – 1|
|10/23||BALD EAGLE AREA|