ROARING SPRING — In order to be the top team in the Mountain League for 2017, the key for any of the schools is to not only protect the home turf, but also to be victorious away from it. That is often harder to do when it is a hostile environment, and the game is circled on each team’s calendar.
For Clearfield, their first test away from the Bison Sports Complex came Friday night when they made the long, and grueling, drive into Roaring Spring. There they were ready to tighten down the chin straps and don the white jerseys to face off with their rival, the Dragons of Central.
It was appearing to be a battle of youth and strength going against size and power. In this case, the power was ultimately the deciding factor.
Central’s size of the offensive line, combined with both the power and speed of the ground game, was insurmountable once the Dragon offense found its groove. Central pummeled the Bison defense to the tune of over 300 yards rushing in order to hand Clearfield its first loss on the 2017 season in a critical early-season matchup, the Bison falling in a 42-14 final.
“We have a young team, I’ve said that from the beginning (of the season). We came in here, and Central is a great team,” Head coach Tim Janocko said afterwards. “I thought watching film they were as good as they were last year. (Austin Garner) No. 44 gave us fits all night. This is something we will build on.
“This is one game, and a big game, and it happens in big games sometimes.”
The Mountain League matchup lived up to what everyone anticipated as both teams had each side of the field loaded with fans, and even all around the perimeter fencing to witness the matchup. Early on, Central was putting it to Clearfield and driving down the field after the Bison deferred the coin toss. But, a fumble on the opening possession quickly put the Bison in the driver’s seat.
Quarterback Isaac Rumery closed out the Bison opening drive by connecting with Taye Lynch to start the scoring off with almost three minutes off the clock. Jake Sorbera booted the extra point and Clearfield had the 7-0 lead.
But, the Dragons knew there still was life in their team, and decided to go old-school on the ensuing drive.
Five consecutive runs were capped off when Noah Muthler found a seam in the center of the Clearfield defense, and cut both left and right across the field to elude tackles to post the first Central touchdown of the night. Tarald Masdol split the uprights to tie the game.
Clearfield wasn’t going quietly as their next drive also saw Rumery make some big plays, this time with his arm.
A pair of completions to Micah Heichel for a combined 67 yards put Clearfield inside the Dragon 5-yard line, which was more than enough for Rumery to call his own number to score the second Bison touchdown of the night. Another Sorbera kick and the Bison were up again.
Sadly for Clearfield, things began to change following the next Central possession.
The Dragons again kept the ball on the ground for the duration of the drive, capping off the 63-yard rumble when Muthler once again found the goal line, this time from six yards away. Another P.A.T. and the game was tied. However, it was not staying tied for very long.
On the first play following the ensuing kickoff, Rumery made the lone mistake that put momentum in favor of Central. While looking over the center of the field, he looked for Heichel on a crossing route. Instead, Benjamin Kurtz stepped in front of the pass, causing the first Bison turnover of the night, and putting things back in favor of the home squad.
Four plays later, it was the same result as Muthler punched in his third touchdown, from a yard out, and Masdol again split the uprights to give Central its first lead of the night, a lead they ultimately kept.
“We lost some momentum there (on the first touchdown), got it back, and lost it (on the turnover),” Janocko said.
Clearfield was stopped thanks to a three-and-out to start the second quarter, and Central again made the visiting team pay as they took off nearly five minutes from the clock with the ground game, something Clearfield had no answer for all night. At the end of the game, the Bison defense gave up nearly 350 yards on the ground.
Muthler again punched the ball into the end zone with 6:58 left in the half for his fourth consecutive touchdown. WIth still half a quarter before the break, the 28-14 deficit seemed to be insurmountable.
But, Clearfield was not giving up, as they continued to rely on the passing game as the offensive line could not create holes for Ty Bender and company. Thanks to four sacks, the Bison only mustered 31 yards rushing. But, Rumery managed to throw the ball sufficiently, ending with 166 yards through the air.
Janocko felt the passing game was working, but it was a few mistakes on both sides of the ball that ultimately cost them the game.
“They really didn’t do anything different (defensively). I think we shocked them in the first quarter there. There were a couple key plays, and turnovers plus penalties hurt us,” Janocko said. I told the kids, ‘Hey, we’ll get back to work on Monday.'”
With under a minute to go before halftime, Central had the ball in Bison territory and appeared content to go into the half with the lead in hand. But, Trystan Detwiler made sure the momentum stayed in Central’s favor. On the first play of what ultimately was the final Central snap of the half, Detwiler found a seam up the center, then bounced right to avoid tackles. One play, 35 yards, and a touchdown. It was five rushing touchdowns in one half of play, and heading into the break, the Bison had to figure out how to overcome the three-touchdown gap.
Clearfield received the second half kickoff, but again stumbled and turned the ball over on downs. Their second possession of the half did not go any better.
In fact, it went extremely bad, but that played in the favor of Central.
Ty Bender took the handoff from Rumery, but saw the ball punched out from his grasp, and the Dragons pounced in order to recover the loose ball. The second turnover of the night gave the Dragons positive field position, and wound up giving the Dragons one more reason to celebrate.
It took just two plays before Jared Smith ripped off an 18-yard scamper that finished beyond the goal line for the sixth rushing touchdown of the night for the Dragons, and the final nail in the coffin for the Bison. The 42-14 score remained for the duration of the fourth quarter, as many of the second-team offense and defense saw playing time.
Janocko knows that one loss won’t define the season for Clearfield, but will instead make the team work harder to achieve their goals. It doesn’t get any easier, and the head coach and his staff know it.
“We’re still 2-1, with a big game coming up this week. There’s still some things we have to fix. What we have is youth, and I’ve said that from the beginning,” he said. “I did see some improvement in the second half. We were handling the ball better, but had the costly turnover.
“I said last week that these next two games are against two very tough teams, so we really have to work hard.”
The second of the two tough games for Clearfield comes next Friday. The Bison return home for their third game at the Bison Sports Complex in a span of four weeks as they celebrate Homecoming Night against the Bearcats of Huntingdon, who will enter next week’s contest undefeated after their 26-14 victory Friday over Tyrone.
In addition to the halftime festivities, the Alumni Bison Band will be joining the current band on the field prior to the game to play both the Alma Mater and the National Anthem.
Kickoff for the game is set for 7 p.m.
SCORE BY QUARTER
Clearfield 14 0 0 0 – 14
Central 21 14 7 0 – 42
BISON: 9-yard pass from Rumery to Lynch (Sorbera kick), 9:03
DRAGONS: 47-yard run by Muthler (Masdol kick), 6:43
BISON: 3-yard run by Rumery (Sorbera kick), 5:04
DRAGONS: 6-yard run by Muthler (Masdol kick), 2:48
DRAGONS: 1-yard run by Muthler (Masdol kick), 0:46
DRAGONS: 2-yard run by Muthler (Masdol kick), 6:58
DRAGONS: 35-yard run by Detwiler (Masdol kick), 0:40
DRAGONS: 18-yard run by Smith (Masdol kick), 5:21
First Downs: 9/14
Rush Yards: 31/338
Pass Yards: 135/8
Total Yards: 166/346
Time of Possession: 20:52/27:08
Clearfield: Rumery-14 carries, (-24) yards, TD; Zattoni-9 carries, 58 yards; Bender-4 carries, 1 yard; Freeland-1 carry (-4) yards.
Central: Detwiler-17 carries, 161 yards, TD; Muthler-7 carries, 81 yards, 4 TD; McConahy-7 carries, 23 yards; Smith-6 carries, 50 yards, TD; Karstetter-3 carries, 21 yards; Marko-1 carry, 1 yard; Hoover-1 carry, 1 yard.
Clearfield: Rumery-10 for 17, 135 yards, TD, INT.
Central: Muthler-2 for 2, 8 yards; Kitt-0 for 2.
Clearfield: Heichel-6 catches, 109 yards; Lezzer-2 catches, 11 yards; Lynch-1 catch, 9 yards, TD; McGonigal-1 catch, 6 yards.
Central: Karstetter-1 catch, 8 yards; Detwiler-1 catch, 0 yards.
|08/25||DUBOIS||21 – 0||1 – 0|
|09/01||PENNS VALLEY||42 – 12||2 – 0|
|09/08||@ Central||14 – 42||2 – 1|
|09/22||@ Central Mountain|
|10/13||BALD EAGLE AREA|
|10/27||@ Karns City|