HYDE — With five minutes remaining in the contest, things were not in favor of the Clearfield Bison. After building up a two-score lead, that cushion evaporated in a matter of moments. Fans were stunned, the players were gassed, the coaches were dumbfounded.
But no one panicked.
Instead, the Bison took back to the field at the Bison Sports Complex, and looked across at the Central Dragons, who were riding the momentum of back-to-back scores to get their second lead of the night. But the Bison were looking at the white-clad defense and contemplating what it would take to get down the field and back out front.
At that point, a sophomore quarterback put it on his shoulders, and learned what it took to win a big game on the big stage.
When the final whistle sounded, the Dragons were on their knees at the sidelines, almost in disbelief at what they witnessed. The Bison found a way to pull out a 30-28 shocker over the Dragons to hand Central their first loss of the season.
“That’s a big win there. Our kids really gutted it out and made some big plays. Our sophomore quarterback really came of age tonight,” Bison Head coach Tim Janocko said afterwards, smiling ear to ear in the process. “He stepped forward tonight, and became a quarterback.”
The quarterback he spoke of was sophomore Isaac Rumery, who is in his first year under center for Clearfield. On a night where he took it on himself to lead the way when it mattered most, he would throw for 283 yards, completing 50 percent of his passes, and two touchdowns.
Both of his touchdowns fell into the arms of Micah Heichel, who led the team overall in catches (7) and yards (190), with each score coming at a big moment in the contest.
“Heichel had a major game tonight. We did that all summer with him and it paid off tonight. They were doubling up on Ryan (Lezzer), Micah was the man tonight,” Janocko said.
The game did not start out that well for the Bison. Central received the opening kickoff, and starting at their own 30, the Dragons began eating away the yardage and the defense. Quarterback Preston Karstetter would make a key play on 2nd and 17 thanks to a 34-yard pass over the center to Kyle Dodson, setting up a first down just outside the 10-yard line. Two plays later, the Dragons gave the ball to their lead man, Alex Hoenstine, and he pounded into the end zone from four yards out. The point after gave the Dragons the early 7-0 lead.
Both squads would exchange possessions on the next four drives, but it wasn’t until just over a minute remained in the opening quarter that the Bison would pull even. Seth Caldwell concluded a 50-yard drive with a 14-yard rumble into the end zone, and Josh Serena followed it up by splitting the uprights to knot the game at seven points each.
The Dragons went three-and-out following the score, and following a deep punt that pinned Clearfield inside their own 15, the ensuing 10-play drive saw Rumery rely on his arm and the legs of Caldwell to eat away the yardage. Caldwell then capped the drive with his second score, pushing ahead from two yards out. The point after made the score 14-7 with just under nine minutes to play before the half.
Not wanting to stay down for long, Hoenstine began taking snaps in the Wildcat formation, and the Bison were struggling to contain the fast and powerful senior back. Hoenstine capped off the nine-play drive with a 30-yard rumble up the right side to add on his second touchdown of the night. Another point after by Jacob Muthler tied the game up once again, which ultimately would be the final time the two teams would match on the scoreboard.
Clearfield then made its first big statement on the following drive. Caldwell only gained a couple yards on first down, but the next play was a game-changer.
Rumery took the snap, and Ryan Lezzer was crossing on the sweep. The defense began to go after Lezzer, knowing his speed would be easier to contain on the outside. However, Rumery held onto the ball, simply because of what he saw down the left sideline. He pulled the ball back in, and launched the ball over the defense. What he saw was Heichel, all alone, with no defenders within 15 yards of him. The ball landed right in his palms, and the 58-yard touchdown put Clearfield ahead once again. Serena’s kick made it 21-14, where it remained heading into the locker room.
The third quarter was a battle of establishing position, as neither squad was gaining yardage in big chunks.
It wasn’t until 6:10 remained in the quarter when Clearfield began to show off its skill. The drive began at their own 18, but after one play they would make it to Dragon territory, thanks to a 51-yard sprint by Caldwell, who had to be shoestring-tackled to prevent the touchdown. The Bison drove into the red zone, but the Central defense stood up and kept the home squad out of the end zone. But, Clearfield wasn’t coming away empty handed.
Janocko decided to trust the foot of Serena, and with the ball held on the 15-yard line, he booted the ball through the uprights, putting Central in a spot where it needed to score twice in order to tie or lead.
“(That was) huge. Everybody knows I’m not big on kicking field goals, but it was huge,” Janocko said.
Central was forced to punt on the next drive, but when Clearfield got the ball back, Central then created their swing in momentum.
On third down, Rumery looked to the right to Caldwell, but Hoenstine stepped in front of the pass, and pulled in the first Clearfield turnover of the night, setting the Dragons up for a short field and an opportunity to close the gap.
Hoenstine’s big night continued as he pulled in a 17-yard touchdown pass to convert the turnover into points. Muthler’s extra point made the score 24-21 Clearfield, and with 7:30 left in the game there was still plenty of time for Central to get something done.
A three-and-out by Clearfield on the next drive didn’t help matters, and the following possession by Central turned momentum once again.
Hoenstine was halted on 1st-and-10 at the Dragon 47, but behind the play a Clearfield defender got tagged with a personal foul for unnecessary roughness, ultimately negating the play, and putting Central in Bison territory. On the next play, Hoenstine took the snap, then found a gap to the right, and took it to the house. The extra point put Central up 28-24, and silenced the home crowd in an instant.
The play of Hoenstine showed why he is looked at as a top player in the state, as he finished the night with 166 yards rushing, another 28 yards receiving, and all four Dragon touchdowns.
“He’s a great player, one of the better ones in the state,” Janocko said of Hoenstine.
With five minutes remaining, and only one timeout to their credit, Clearfield had work to do.
That is when Rumery took it on himself to show he could lead the team down the field when it mattered most. After throwing behind Lezzer, he connected with Heichel for a six-yard gain, then moved the chains with his legs. He passed to Luke McGonigal and then let Caldwell eat up more yards, and clock, on second down. On 3rd-and-3, he looked for McGonigal again, but the pass fell incomplete. However, officials caught a grab in the back by the Dragons, and would walk off 15 yards to give Clearfield a fresh set of downs in Dragon territory.
Clearfield suddenly was running out of downs, as they were faced with 4th-and-9 at the Dragon 35.
In that moment, Rumery came through. Rumery looked over the center, and took a chance. Heichel was running his out pattern from the slot, and had a break when the Central defender slipped a bit, giving him one extra step. Heichel found the ball, and saw it land right in his hands, just like the first score he hauled in earlier in the night. The junior receiver made it to the end zone, and Janocko held his hands up along with the officials to signal the touchdown. Serena saw his point after go left, leaving a little window for Central to march down the field to win.
Janocko gave credit to Rumery for seeing something in the defense, and gave the final call to make the decision to go deep on the touchdown pass.
“I wanted to call it real quick, that’s why we went no huddle. I wanted to go real quick, catch them on their heels, and we had Micah back there,” Janocko said.
The clock read 1:10, and the Dragons had all three timeouts to use, and were ready to go to work.
Defensively, the Bison were tired, but knew they had to put together one final drive to ensure the win. Karstetter took the first down play seven yards to near mid-field, then after an incomplete pass would find Hoenstine to put Central in Bison territory. That is when the Bison defense locked down. Karstetter was stuffed at the line on first down. The second down pass to Chase Smith was knocked away, while the front seven forced Karstetter to rush his throw.
On third down the pass was aimed at Jared Smith, but Matt Collins batted the ball down just as it was arriving at its destination.
It came down to one final play, and one last gasp to keep the drive, and the hopes alive.
Karstetter took the snap and looked to his left. Chase found a gap in the coverage past the first down marker, and the pass went right to him, exactly where it needed to be. The play was right in front of the side judge, who also had the front view of the receiver. The official crossed his arms, but not overhead to showcase a fresh set of downs. Karstetter’s pass despite all the accuracy he aimed for, hit the ground before being trapped by his tight end. That meant the pass was incomplete, and the Bison had the ultimate reason to celebrate.
“We knew we had to get to the quarterback. We rotated a lot of guys in there, and just a great overall effort by everybody defensively,” Janocko said of the final drive.
Clearfield is now 2-1 overall on the season, but with their win, plus the loss by Bald Eagle on Friday to Penns Valley, the Bison now are tied for the lead in Mountain League at 2-0.
“I guess we shocked the state a little bit tonight. I don’t think anyone in the state except for those in the field house believed we could win,” Janocko said. “I give credit to our kids and my assistant coaches on a great job.”
The Bison are back on the road next week for their third road trip in four games as they will travel to face Huntingdon.
SCORE BY QUARTER
Central 7 7 0 14 – 28
Clearfield 7 14 3 6 – 30
DRAGONS: 4-yard run by Hoenstine (Muthler kick), 8:43
BISON: 14-yard run by Caldwell (Serena kick), 1:22
BISON: 2-yard run by Caldwell (Serena kick), 8:47
DRAGONS: 30-yard run by Hoenstine (Muthler kick), 4:40
BISON: 58-yard pass from Rumery to Heichel (Serena kick), 3:53
BISON: 25-yard field goal by Serena, 1:51
DRAGONS: 17-yard pass from Karstetter to Hoenstine (Muthler kick), 7:30
DRAGONS: 39-yard run by Hoenstine (Muthler kick), 5:00
BISON: 35-yard pass from Rumery to Heichel (Serena kick WIDE LEFT), 1:10
First Downs: 15/19
Rushing Yards: 215/205
Passing Yards: 122/283
Total Yards: 337/488
Time of Possession: 19:53/28:07
Central: Hoenstine-22 carries, 166 yards, 3 TD; J. Smith-4 carries, 23 yards; Deterline-3 carries, 12 yards; Karstetter-3 carries, 11 yards; Team-1 carry, 0 yards.
Clearfield: Caldwell-26 carries, 164 yards, 2 TD; Rumery-11 carries, 35 yards; McGonigal-2 carries, 14 yards; Team-3 carries, (-3) yards; Lezzer-1 carry, (-5) yards.
Central: Karstetter-8 for 22, 122 yards, TD; Hoenstine-0 for 2.
Clearfield: Rumery-15 for 30, 283 yards; 2 TD, INT.
Central: J. Smith-3 catches, 34 yards; Hoenstine-2 catches, 28 yards, TD; Dodson-1 catch, 34 yards; Garner-1 catch, 15 yards; C. Smith-1 catch, 11 yards.
Clearfield: Heichel-7 catches, 190 yards, 2 TD; Lezzer-4 catches, 86 yards; McGonigal-4 catches, 35 yards.
|08/26||@ DuBois||20 – 30||0 – 1|
|09/02||@ Penns Valley||21 – 7||1 – 1|
|09/09||CENTRAL||30 – 28||2 – 1|
|10/14||@ Bald Eagle Area|