BROCKWAY — The spring workouts long before the season started, the hot days during the summer, every moment in the weight room, and every Friday night under the lights lead up to nights like this. The Clearfield Bison began their quest for a strong year long before they suited up the school colors on game day, and long before the bison stickers would be placed on their helmets.
After nine weeks of action, only one weekend saw them at the losing end of the scoreboard. The regular season ended with yet another MAC championship, but one title was still awaiting.
The District IX championship was on the line for Class AAA, as the Bison put on their home black jerseys to take to the turf. The Punxsutawney Chucks laced up their cleats and wore their road white colors, hoping to end their year on a positive note. Both teams would take to the field that normally would host the Brockway Rovers, a stadium where last month the Bison were on the other sideline as they would defeat Brockway on their home turf.
This time, however, even though they were on a different sidelines, the result had a similar effect.
The Bison defense would go on lock down, playing with emotion, force, and intensity that has been seen week-in and week-out. The offense would go full-tilt from the opening kickoff, and never look back. In one of their most dominating performances of the entire year, Clearfield would cruise to a convincing 56-8 victory over Punxsutawney, clinching an unprecedented sixth-consecutive District IX championship, and 13th overall in school history.
“We won hands-down, and it was a convincing victory. We were hitting on all cylinders. I think we played a very complete game,” head coach Tim Janocko said afterwards.
Every bit of the Bison game was performing at a top level. Clearfield would hold the Chucks to only 87 yards of total offense on the night, including yielding just eight first-downs in the 48 minutes of play. On the opposite side, the Bison would gain over 500 yards of offense, with over 400 of those being gained via the ground attack.
It all started on their second possession of the game, as the first drive ended on an interception. Clearfield relied on Seth Caldwell to set the tone, and do so he did, as he would gain 33 yards on three plays, then Ryan Lezzer took the pressure off and took the ball 35 yards to the end zone for the first score of the game. Josh Serena nailed the extra point and it was 7-0 with seven minutes left in the first quarter.
The Bison would do the same thing again on the next possession, sticking with the running game, and this time allowing Caldwell to finish the drive with a monster 26-yard score down the right sideline. Serena was true again, making the score 14-0 entering the second quarter.
In that quarter, things heated up quickly, but not exactly how it was intended.
Punxsutawney had the ball and was pushed backward. Quarterback Brandon Matthews seemed to be pressured enough to where he threw a bad pass that was picked off by Nate Lash. However, officials called Clearfield with a roughing the passer penalty that took away the turnover, and gave the Chucks a first down at their own 41. Janocko was not happy with the call, arguing with the officials. Shortly after the referee made the call, he looked at Clearfield’s head coach and tried to keep him calm. Still upset with the decision, the referee threw his flag in the air, adding an additional unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
The second foul pushed the ball into Bison territory, but at that moment suddenly something happened to the Bison.
On the next play after the penalties, Clearfield lit up their opposition. The fans were at their loudest, and the black-clad squad made them roar even more with two massive tackles, with the second one knocking the football loose from the grip of Joey Dipietro, and being recovered by the Bison.
It only took two plays for Clearfield to take the turnover and gain more points, as Caldwell would rumble 22 yards for his second score of the game. Serena’s right foot made it 21-0.
Janocko didn’t speak much about the issue with the penalties, but was quick to talk about his junior tailback, who ended the night with 183 yards on the ground on just 14 carries, all coming in the first half.
“That was good to see how they responded with a little adversity right there,” Janocko said of his team’s play following the two personal fouls. He would follow that by talking about Caldwell, saying, “He’s in another league, and he’s only getting better. It just seems like the more carries he gets, the better he gets.”
Things continued to roll in the second quarter as the next possession saw the passing game get involved as Cody Spaid shook off his opening-drive interception and would connect with Lezzer, who made his own opening by dodging tacklers, and throwing a massive stiff-arm to get into the end zone for the second time on the night.
Lezzer’s scoring play of the night saw him get involved a third different way. On a 1st and Goal from the Chucks 8, Lezzer would line up in the wildcat formation as the quarterback, with Spaid setup as his wideout to the left. Normally this formation means a read option to Caldwell or a straight carry for Lezzer. Instead, the shifty receiver rolled right, and tossed the ball to Caldwell, who pulled down the pass for his third touchdown on the night.
Add on Serena’s extra point, the 35-0 score would ensure a running second-half clock, and some time to rest for the first-team offense.
But, they weren’t done just yet. Clearfield would pick off Matthews again on the following possession, and it only took three plays for the Bison to get back into the end zone, this time with Corey Shimmel hitting the goal line. The 42-0 score at halftime was the biggest lead the Bison had all year, tying the mark from a week ago in their victory over P-O.
In the second half, many of the starters would get their needed rest, and the second-team offense got their chance to take some reps on the field.
That would pay dividends as Clearfield’s next two scores came on successive possessions. The first came as Ty Bender plunged in from one yard out, and on the next possession it would be Issac Rumery taking in the score.
On the opposite side, the Bison defense would yield only 87 yards of total offense for the entire game.
“Our whole defense; our line, linebackers in Christian Rumery and Matt Collins and Steven Sawyer. Those guys are doing a great job back there,” Janocko said of the defensive effort.
The majority of the starters were out by the time the fourth quarter was under way, but the Chucks were still battling with their first-team offense, and it culminated with Matthews getting the lone score for Punxsutawney on a two-yard dive with 5:51 remaining in the game. He would connect on his two-point conversion pass to make the final 56-8.
For Janocko, and his team, winning the sixth consecutive championship has a lot of meaning. The program that has been built for the town has seen so much success, and the head coach, who also is the principal of the junior-senior high school, knows that he isn’t the only one responsible for the success. It is his assistant coaches, his players, the alumni, and the community.
He summed it up best by saying “It’s a testament to a lot of hard work by a lot of good people.”
With a record of 9-1, the Bison are not done yet. Now the second season begins, where one loss means the end of the road. Clearfield enters the playoffs next week as the top seed in the District 5-6-8-9 sub regional bracket. However, being the top seed in the bracket has one benefit, one that Janocko is happy for, along with feeling happy for a group of players on his team.
“We go back home next week. This game is important in a lot of different ways with the championship, obviously, but we want that home playoff game. I know our seniors want to play at home one more time, so that’s going to be good for them,” Janocko said.
That game is slated currently for next Friday night at 7 p.m. at the Bison Sports Complex against Johnstown, the number four seed in the region.
SCORE BY QUARTER
Punxsutawney 0 0 0 8 – 8
Clearfield 14 28 7 7 – 56
BISON: 35-yard run by Lezzer (Serena kick), 7:04
BISON: 26-yard run by Caldwell (Serena kick), 1:29
BISON: 22-yard run by Caldwell (Serena kick), 10:41
BISON: 28-yard pass from Spaid to Lezzer (Serena kick), 5:51
BISON: 8-yard pass from Lezzer to Caldwell (Serena kick), 3:48
BISON: 7-yard run by Shimmel (Serena kick), 1:46
BISON: 1-yard run by Bender (Serena kick), 6:13
BISON: 4-yard run by I. Rumery (Sorbera kick), 10:00
CHUCKS: 2-yard run by Matthews (Pass from Matthews to Lingenfelter), 5:10
First Downs: 8/23
Rush Yards: 82/411
Pass Yards: 5/125
Total Yards: 87/536
Time of Possession: 19:06/28:54
Punxsutawney: Dipietro-9 carries, 26 yards; Jones-7 carries, 16 yards; Matthews-6 carries, 34 yards, TD; Riley-2 carries, 6 yards.
Clearfield: Caldwell-14 carries, 183 yards, 2 TD; Bender-10 carries, 84 yards, TD; Shimmel-7 carries, 53 yards, TD; Lezzer-4 carries, 45 yards, TD; I. Rumery-4 carries, 19 yards, TD; C. Rumery-3 carries, 20 yards; Maines-3 carries, 1 yard; Sawyer-2 carries, 10 yards; Graham-1 carry, (-4) yards.
Punxsutawney: Matthews-5 for 13, 5 yards, INT.
Clearfield: Spaid-5 for 10, 117 yards, TD, INT; Lezzer-1 for 1, 8 yards, TD.
Punxsutawney: Riley-2 catches, 10 yards; Jones-2 catches, (-5) yards.
Clearfield: Lezzer-2 catches, 60 yards, TD; Caldwell-2 catches, 20 yards, TD; Ogden-1 catch, 27 yards; Wingate-1 catch, 18 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|
|10/30||@ Philipsburg-Osceola||56 – 17||8 – 1|
|11/6||D9 AAA Finals|
|vs. Punxsutawney||56 – 8||9 – 1|
|11/13||Region 5/6/8/9 Semis|