HYDE — All roads eventually lead to the playoffs, and that is a familiar place for the Clearfield Bison. Although this road for 2020 has been up, down, smooth and bumpy, yet they still found themselves in the playoffs ready for a post-season run. With the home crowd ready for some Halloween competition, the Bison took to their field to take on…the Bison.
As in the Bedford Bison, for the first time ever. What was dubbed the “Battle of the Bison” turned into a clinic thanks to the opposition. Thanks to the play of quarterback Mercury Swaim, Bedford exploited the Clearfield defense, capitalizing on miscues and taking advantage of some controversial calls, to hand the Bison a 40-21 loss.
“I thought we played hard the whole game. They are a really good team, but a couple plays swayed the momentum”, Clearfield head coach Tim Janocko said afterwards. “I thought we ran the ball effectively at times, but we had one costly turnover down inside the 20. Just a couple plays swayed the game; it should have been a closer (score). It’s a credit to Bedford for sure.”
Clearfield had the first big play of the game, and it came on one of Swaim’s few mistakes on the night, coming on the first play of the game for Bedford. Looking to his right, he let the ball go deep down the sideline, only to be picked off by Karson Kline to swing momentum immediately to Clearfield. Sadly, the ensuing drive ended in a punt, but as hoped when the game started, taking time off the clock was an advantage for the homestanding Bison. Clearfield held the ball for just over 30 minutes, while Bedford was held to just 18 minutes of offense.
But, it was Bedford getting the first score of the night when Swain found a wide open Steven Ressler behind the Clearfield secondary. A missed extra point kept the score 6-0 near the end of the first quarter.
Clearfield tried to answer back on the ensuing drive, but when they were just outside the red zone, quarterback Oliver Billotte lost the handle on the ball during a sack that gave the ball right back to Bedford. In a strange twist, Bedford in a way repaid the fumble as they would fumble the ball right back to Clearfield, setting them up deep in the red zone. Billotte capitalized utilizing his legs to get a short touchdown run to tie up the game. Graeson Graves booted the extra point, and Clearfield was out front, 7-6.
Unfortunately, that lead was short lived since Bedford answered back in a big way. Facing 2nd and 6 at their own 31, Swaim rolled out and launched a rocket pass again to Ressler, who found a hole once more in the secondary to pull in a massive 69-yard pass for the second Bedford score. The two-point conversion failed, leaving the score 12-7 at the 8:08 mark in the quarter.
Swaim’s night would get better as Bedford closed out the first half with an 11-play drive that started at their own 16 but culminated in the end zone thanks to Swaim’s legs. His third overall touchdown, and the extra point, put the halftime score at 19-7, with Bedford receiving the second half kickoff. Swaim’s night ultimately meant over 300 total yards, to which Janocko had five simple words to describe the Bedford quarterback.
“He’s a really good player,” he said.
The two teams traded turnovers to start the second half, but the second drive for Bedford ultimately would be the drive that put the visiting Bison at a comfortable lead. After a tackle for loss, Bedford had 2nd and 16 at their own 30, and it seemed that after another loss it would be 3rd and long. However, on the tackle, a personal foul on the sidelines gave a fresh set of downs inside the 20. Three plays later, Ethan Weber scored from 10 yards out to help push the score to 26-7 with a quarter and a half to go.
With a three-and-out, Clearfield was already on their heels, but the next drive certainly had one sideline roaring, with the other angry. A second-down tackle near the Bedford sideline suddenly had yellow flags flying in every direction. Janocko and crew thought it was a face mask or something along those lines, but suddenly the referee put his fist to his skull, indicating a targeting foul that some felt was justified, others did not, but it gave a fresh set of downs for Bedford.
The targeting penalty, that changed the game since we had them stopped, and that’s all it took,” Janocko said. “We played hard, but Bedford is a good football team.”
That drive culminated in another touchdown pass from Swaim, again to Ressler, to push the gap to 33-7.
Clearfield finally answered back on the following drive, ironically again with a plunge into the end zone by Billotte, to close the gap to 33-14. Billotte would have the most rushing yards for Clearfield (46) but also had the two fumbles.
Swaim added the final Bedford score on a surprising play, as he seemed to be stuffed at midfield by the Bison defensive line. Somehow, he slipped through the grip of every lineman and linebacker, and sprinted 54 yards to the end zone. A 40-14 score seemed to indicate Clearfield wanted to just end the game.
But, the Bison coaches decided to keep pounding and had a pair of late opportunities to score. The first meant success as Billotte culminated a 200-plus yard passing night with a great spiral to Nate Natoli over the middle for a 12-yard score. Clearfield then surprised the return team with a quick onside squib kick that went off the hands of one of the Bedford up-backs and gave Clearfield under a minute to go half the field. That drive came down to one final play from the Bedford 3, but the pass heading for Jake Lezzer was just off the fingertips, setting the final.
All game photos can be found at the Clearfield Football website.
Clearfield (4-2) has seen its share of adversity this season, but Janocko was optimistic afterwards, even sending out some news for the Bison faithful regarding the beginning of November.
“Our kids will bounce back. We’re trying to find another game for next week, and I’m hoping we can get one,” he said.
Bison coaches and the athletic department will be working over the weekend into the beginning of the week to potentially have Clearfield play one more game. Janocko wanted it known to “put the word out” for another game, however nothing is official. If a game is agreed upon, the opponent, time, and location will be announced at the beginning of the week.
SCORE BY QUARTER
Bedford 6 13 13 7 – 40
Clearfield 0 7 0 14 – 21
BEDFORD: 33-yard pass from Swaim to Ressler (Martz kick wide left), 0:40
CLEARFIELD: 2-yard run by Billotte (Graeson kick), 9:02
BEDFORD: 69-yard pass from Swaim to Ressler (Pass failed), 8:08
BEDFORD: 10-yard run by Swaim (Martz kick), 0:20
BEDFORD: 10-yard run by Weber (Martz kick), 6:09
BEDFORD: 24-yard pass from Swaim to Ressler (Martz kick), 2:02
CLEARFIELD: 1-yard run by Billotte (Graeson kick), 11:57
BEDFORD: 54-yard run by Swaim (Martz kick), 5:39
CLEARFIELD: 12-yard pass from Billotte to Natoli (Graves kick), 0:48
First Downs: 15/17
Rush Yards: 245/87
Pass Yards: 287/225
Total Yards: 532/302
Time of Possession: 17:54/30:06
Bedford: Swaim-22 carries, 147 yards, TD; Weber-5 carries, 59 yards, TD; Ressler-4 carries, 31 yards; Ebersole-2 carries, 9 yards; Cook-1 carry, (-1) yards.
Clearfield: Billotte-21 carries, 46 yards, 2 TD; McGonigal-11 carries, 42 yards; Plubell-6 carries, 13 yards; Kline-1 carry, 7 yards.
Bedford: Swaim-9 for 17, 208 yards, 3 TD, 2 INT; Ressler-0 for 1.
Clearfield: Billotte-14 for 30, 225 yards, TD.
Bedford: Ressler-7 catches, 154 yards, 3 TD; Edwards-1 catch, 33 yards; Weber-1 catch, 11 yards.
Clearfield: Kline-5 catches, 97 yards; Lezzer-4 catches, 52 yards; Firanski-2 catches, 36 yards; Domico-1 carry, 13 yards; Natoli-1 catch, 12 yards, TD; Alban-1 catch, 5 yards.