HYDE — The final home game brings out so many emotions. For the players, it’s the final time they don the home colors in front of their classmates for the season. For the class set to graduate, it’s the last time they will compete with their peers in front of friends, family, and instructors.
The Class of 2016 for the Clearfield Bison has experienced some of the most amazing success in their four years of competition. The first three years saw two seasons of going undefeated through nine games. It included three Mountain League championships and three District IX championships. Each year, it was a post-season run that in some cases would mean PIAA-State Playoffs in Class AAA. It is hard to imagine that all that success would lead to one final night, at least for the regular season, for this class. But, that time had arrived. After being honored before the game, the Bison, with the seniors leading the way, would lead them onto the field to face off against the visiting Bald Eagle Area Bald Eagles.
On this night, the senior class would not only contribute, but also the juniors, sophomores and even the freshmen would contribute. It would be seen early, and often, as the Bison would conclude the home portion of their schedule with a convincing 49-12 triumph over Bald Eagle.
The first half belonged to Clearfield, however even in victory, head coach Tim Janocko could see that the visiting squad from Wingate could surprise everyone if they are given the chance. The opening play of the game would see some trickery, and it made the Bison see they had to really dig in to compete.
“We played very well. Bald Eagle played as well as they have played all year in the first half. They had the fake punt, halfback pass; they pulled out all the stops and had some things working for them,” Janocko said. “It’s a credit to our kids and we hit all cylinders in the first half.”
The halfback pass would be the lone highlight on the first drive, as the Bison would hold them back on fourth down.
The ensuing drive would see a dose of some senior superiority, along with some assistance from a couple of juniors. Running back Seth Caldwell would get his night going right away, carrying the ball six of the 10 plays on the drive, culminating with a strong 14-yard run to open the scoring. Josh Serena’s right leg made it 7-0 with 4:49 remaining in the first quarter.
Bald Eagle would go 3-and-out in the next drive, and that is when quarterback Cody Spaid would have his signature play of the night.
After the punt, Clearfield was set up at mid-field. On first down, he would connect with Lezzer on the left side, and the junior wide receiver would do the rest. He would shake defenders and cut across the field to find his way to the end zone. Serena would be true once again, and it was 14-0 in favor of the home team.
Not to be outdone, the Bison defense would put a cap on the opening quarter in a big way.
On a 2nd and 14 for Bald Eagle, quarterback Tanner Kresovich dropped back and looked to his right. He was aiming for his receiver, but senior corner Jacob Wingate would step in front of the pass and force the first turnover of the night. But he wasn’t done, as a train of Bison would be in front of him to create a crease, and he would exploit it. It seemed like he was mirroring the play Lezzer made the previous drive, because after 61 yards, he was in the end zone. The pick-six, coupled with the extra point, made it 21-0 after one quarter.
Janocko was quick to praise both Lezzer and Wingate for each of their plays in the first half.
“He’s very elusive. Jake Wingate had a big pick-six, so he had a great night. A lot of great kids contributed,” he said.
Unfortunately for the Bison, that score would change on the next drive, partially due to the Bison defense committing mistakes. After two consecutive offside calls, Clearfield stepped up to force a fourth down. But, instead of punting, the Eagles would fake it and push into Bison territory.
The drive would be capped when Kresovich found room on the right side to run into the end zone. The extra point would sail right, leaving the score 21-6.
Right away Clearfield would answer back, as Spaid would connect with Travis Ogden on a 39-yard strike to help increase the lead back up to a three-possession margin.
“I was happy to see Travis get that, he’s a really good tight end. He made a great catch and run,” Janocko said of the score.
Yet, just as quickly the gap would be reduced when Kresovich would hit Robinson Cole for a massive 65-yard pass for his first passing touchdown of the game. The two-point conversion failed, leaving the score 28-12. Kresovich would only pass for 66 yards on the night, including the touchdown and the interception.
But, Clearfield answered back in a big way on the next drive, as it began with Caldwell having a big 47-yard kickoff return to set up the Bison with a short field. Lezzer would do the work from there as he would take the snaps in the wildcat formation, taking the second one 18 yards to the end zone. Serena took to another extra point, and heading into halftime it was 35-12.
In the second half, it was all Clearfield, as they would play shut down defense on Bald Eagle for the final 24 minutes. For the entire half, the Bison would not only keep Bald Eagle from scoring, but also never yielded a first down.
“We played better defensively. They caught us in a couple things in the first half with a couple trick plays. It’s a great all-around team effort,” Janocko said of his team’s play in the second half.
Although Bald Eagle wouldn’t score, Clearfield was still making headway, especially on the ground.
On the opening drive of the third quarter, even though Caldwell was getting his carries, it was Cory Shimmel getting the chance to show what he could do. Caldwell would conclude his night with a solid 117-yard performance, but in the second half it was mostly Shimmel.
He would cap off the opening drive with his lone score of the night to help push the gap to a 42-12 margin.
Janocko was extremely pleased with his senior tailback, especially considering he’s not been 100% for most of the season.
“He’s finally getting healthy. Remember he’s coming off that injury from last year’s basketball season. He’s finally getting healthy and you can see it,” Janocko said. “His quickness is coming back, so with him and Caldwell it’s a 1-2 punch. Then mix it up a bit with Lezzer there a bit, plus Spaid throwing the ball, it makes for a good offense.”
The final score of the game would come on the final full drive for the first-team offense, and it had highlights all over it. Spaid would find Lezzer again on the left side, but when he turned the corner, the Eagle defense was on him. But he made one miss a tackle, then another, and finally found room to run. The defense swarmed, but he simply would not be denied. The final stretch to the line put the ball across the pylon, and gave him his third overall touchdown on the night, and ensuring a running clock for the rest of the game.
“I caught the ball and suddenly I had all the defenders in my face. I made a couple guys miss, and then I just lowered my head and said ‘I’m not stopping until I get in there.’ So it was a lot of determination, and some great blocks downfield,” Lezzer said of his highlight touchdown.
The underclassmen would take to the field for most of the final quarter of play, and despite not scoring, although coming within a yard of doing so, Janocko was extremely pleased with the production.
“Those younger kids, they are waiting for a chance to get out there too in front of their parents. They did a nice job, and it bodes well for the future,” he said.
With their record pushed to 8-1, the senior class knows they have accomplished a lot in their careers at Clearfield. The victory locked up the overall Mountain League championship once again, something that the 2016 class can say they did for each season they were part of the team. For Janocko and others, this class has a lot of great meaning to the program, and even though the regular season is nearing a conclusion, they want to accomplish a lot more.
“This is a very special class. Tonight wrapped up the Mountain Athletic Conference championship, and obviously we want to finish out the season strong. But tonight, it was a good night for them,” Janocko said.
Lezzer would echo his coach, saying “It feels great. I remember winning my freshman year and saying ‘I wanna do this the next three years.’ I’m three-fourths of the way there.”
Even Spaid was not looking back on what was accomplished, but instead looking at what was yet to come, saying “It feels great. My sophomore and junior year, being able to contribute to the team, and winning the titles. It just feels amazing, and cannot wait to bring home another one (championship).”
Clearfield will finish out its regular season next Friday night when they travel to face Philipsburg-Osceola.
SCORE BY QUARTER
Bald Eagle 0 12 0 0 – 12
Clearfield 21 14 14 0 – 49
BISON: 14-yard run by Caldwell (Serena kick), 4:49
BISON: 50-yard pass from Spaid to Lezzer (Serena kick), 3:01
BISON: 61-yard interception return by Wingate (Serena kick), 0:33
EAGLES: 13-yard run by Kresovich (Kick failed), 8:38
BISON: 39-yard pass from Spaid to Ogden (Serena kick), 5:58
EAGLES: 65-yard pass from Kresovich to Cole (Pass failed), 5:42
BISON: 18-yard run by Lezzer (Serena kick), 4:55
BISON: 2-yard run by Shimmel (Serena kick), 9:41
BISON: 13-yard pass from Spaid to Lezzer (Serena kick), 6:43
Bald Eagle Area/Clearfield
First Downs: 8/16
Rush Yards: 10/264
Pass Yards: 133/166
Total Yards: 143/430
Time of Possession: 25:58/22:02
Bald Eagle Area: Kresovich-14 carries, (-25) yards, TD; Peters-12 carries, 25 yards; Henry-3 carries, 14 yards; Dubbs-2 carries, 4 yards; Guenot-2 carries, (-8) yards.
Clearfield: Caldwell-14 carries, 117 yards, TD; Shimmel-11 carries, 49 yards, TD; Bender-8 carries, 47 yards; Lezzer-5 carries, 72 yards, TD; Rumery-1 carry, (-2) yards; Spaid-1 carry, (-8) yards.
Bald Eagle Area: Kresovich-3 for 8, 66 yards, TD, INT; Guenot-2 for 2, 67 yards; Jones-0 for 1, INT.
Clearfield: Spaid-7 for 11, 166 yards, 3 TD, INT.
Bald Eagle Area: Hockenbury-2 catches, 37 yards; Cole-1 catch, 65 yards, TD; Bainey-1 catch, 28 yards; Guenot-1 catch, 3 yards.
Clearfield: Lezzer-4 catches, 96 yards, 2 TD; Ogden-1 catch, 39 yards, TD; Wood-1 catch, 23 yards; Wingate-1 catch, 7 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|
|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||49 – 12||7 – 1|