HYDE — On September 11, the Clearfield Bison took to the field, energized and ready to finally getting to play after an off-season that was anything but familiar. They walked away that night with a shutout victory, and were ready to continue their quest as the year continued.
Then, it came to a halt. A positive test on the squad cancelled any game the following week, and school officials and coaches held off competition for the following week as well. So, it was 21 days since the Bison were on the gridiron, and everyone was anxious to get back at it. Finally, the wait was over, and the Bison were able to host their home opener on the already scheduled Senior Night as they played host to the Philipsburg-Osceola Mounties.
After 48 minutes, it was as if there was no layoff because the Bison scored early, often, and ran away with a 42-6 rout.
“It really feels great to be back. I’m really happy for our kids, they played well,” head coach Tim Janocko said afterwards. “These kids have been through so much to be able to come out and play tonight.”
Clearfield started the night on defense, but after stopping the Mounties on the downhill side of the field, the Bison took over utilizing the ground game of Jason Plubell and Logan Firanski, but it was the arm of Oliver Billotte that got things going on the drive as he completed three passes, including the eight-yard strike to Jake Lezzer for the opening score of the night. Graeson Graves nailed the extra point, and it meant an early 7-0 lead for the home squad, giving the limited crowd in attendance something to cheer about.
The second drive for Clearfield ended quickly, but with a familiar result.
A three-and-out by P-O set up the Bison on the Mounties 42, and it only took one play for Billotte to connect. He looked to the left side of the field for Lezzer, who got behind the corner and hauled in the long touchdown strike. The sidelines and the stands roared their approval, and the extra point made it 14-0 with still four minutes to play in the opening stanza.
Two touchdown passes on the night were not enough, as the next drive for the Bison had a true case of same song, different verse.
Billotte connected with Lezzer again, ironically on first down…just like the prior drive, and from 42 yards out…just like the prior drive. The hat trick and ensuing kick made it 21-0 for the home squad, almost ensuring the rout was on.
The second quarter was more of the same, as the Bison made big plays right away. Defensive lineman Josh Steele made the highlight reel as he picked off a tipped ball from Ryan Whitehead, getting the defensive coaches riled up and jubilant thanks to a short field and momentum. Billotte did the rest as five plays later, he hooked up with Nick Domico for his fourth touchdown pass of the night, ending a 154-yard passing game and helping put the Bison up by four possessions with just under 10 minutes left in the half.
For the Mounties, it was hard trying to get anything to happen for them as the next drive was one that put the dagger in the night as Whitehead was picked off a second time, this time from Nate Natoli. That wasn’t enough, as Natoli found a gap on the right side, and hauled the interception to the end zone for the first defensive score of the Clearfield season. Graves stayed true, and the Bison held the 35-0 lead into halftime, putting the running clock into effect.
“Nick (Domico) had a big catch and score, Natoli with his interception return; our defense played well, and I think we played well also on special teams. I was very happy with the way we executed tonight,” Janocko said.
Clearfield’s final score came in the opening possession of the second half, as with the game well in hand, the Bison coaches elected to ground-and-pound the ball down the field, capping it off as Luke McGonigal pounded the ball into the end zone from just outside the goal line for his lone score of the night. Graves made it 42-0, and it was then that the Bison starters began getting a well-deserved curtain call to let the reserves get some playing time.
The Mounties managed to finally get on the board late in the game when Whitehead connected on 4th-and-Goal to Aaron Depto. The extra point pulled left, setting the 42-6 final as the Bison ran out the remaining clock.
Clearfield’s season started strong with a shut out, and with two weeks off, there was wonder if there would be sloppy play and perhaps things not as locked in as in previous seasons. It was also the first time P-O and Clearfield faced off since the 2018 season, as the game last year was a forfeit victory for the Bison when the Mounties cancelled the remainder of the season due to injury woes and low player numbers. It was a game that was anything but normal, but for one squad had a familiar result.
With the game over, and his players greeting their families, Janocko wasn’t thinking about championships, post-season, or anything else. For him, and his team, when it came to this season, there was only one desire.
“We just hope to keep on playing, that’s all we want,” he said.
Game photos can be found on the Bison football website.
Clearfield (2-0) is on the road next week against the Central Dragons.
SCORE BY QUARTER
Philipsburg-Osceola 0 0 0 6 – 6
Clearfield 21 14 7 0 – 42
BISON: 8-yard pass from Billotte to Lezzer (Graves kick), 6:25
BISON: 42-yard pass from Billotte to Lezzer (Graves kick), 4:06
BISON: 42-yard pass from Billotte to Lezzer (Graves kick), 2:16
BISON: 14-yard pass from Billotte to Domico (Graves kick), 9:41
BISON: 41-yard interception return by Natoli (Graves kick), 8:16
BISON: 1-yard run by McGonigal (Graves kick), 4:17
MOUNTIES: 5-yard pass from Whitehead to Depto (Rishel kick Wide Left), 1:13
First Downs: 11/9
Rush Yards: 112/148
Pass Yards: 75/154
Total Yards: 187/302
Time of Possession: 29:29/18:31
Philipsburg-Osceola: Stamm-11 carries, 73 yards; Gustkey-5 carries, 30 yards; Weitosh-5 carries, 1 yard; Martin-2 carries, 4 yards; Hughes-2 carries, 1 yard; Whitehead-1 carry, 3 yards.
Clearfield: Plubell-8 carries, 61 yards; McGonigal-8 carries, 17 yards, TD; B. Firanski-4 carries, 20 yards; Billotte-3 carries, 35 yards; L. Firanski-2 carries, 11 yards; Crutchfield-1 carry, 4 yards.
Philipsburg-Osceola: Whitehead-7 for 15, 75 yards, TD, 2 INT.
Clearfield: Billotte-7 for 12, 154 yards, 4 TD.
Philipsburg-Osceola: Depto-3 catches, 20 yards, TD; Lego-1 catch, 28 yards; Gustkey-1 catch, 14 yards; Martin-1 catch, 13 yards.
Clearfield: Lezzer-4 catches, 121 yards, 3 TD; Domico-1 catch, 14 yards, TD; L. Firanski-1 catch, 13 yards; Kline-1 catch, 7 yards.