HYDE — A pregame band performance of the alma mater, cheerleaders and mascots on the sidelines, and fans clad in either white or black on both sides of the stadium. That experience inside the Bison Sports Complex did not exist in 2020, when the Covid-19 pandemic meant visiting fans could not attend, the Bison band performed pregame from the opposing stands sitting spread apart, and a home grandstand that had more metal showing than fans. That season is in the past, and on a warm Friday night, the Clearfield Bison stormed onto the field with the crowd roaring to start the 2021 campaign against the visiting DuBois Beavers.
First-game jitters and miscues were expected, but the home squad proved they were up for the task as big plays led to timely scoring, giving the Bison a 27-7 triumph to start the new season.
“We knew DuBois would be a tough team to start the season with, but I think overall we played well,” Bison head coach Tim Janocko said afterwards. “There are things we do need to work on, but you expect that in the first game. It is a good win for us.”
It was the Bison that found their groove on the turf on the opening drive of the game. Methodical, precise, ground and pound summed up the opening 10-play drive for Clearfield, as Mark McGonigal and Jose Alban began chipping away at the Beaver defense. Add in the power in the legs of quarterback Oliver Billotte, and the Beavers saw half the quarter evaporate before the drive concluded. Unfortunately for them, the drive concluded with Billotte powering into the end zone for the first touchdown of the season. Luke Sidorick’s right foot added the extra point to give Clearfield the 7-0 advantage.
Defensively, just as a season ago, the Bison were just as dominant as the Beavers could not get any momentum going on either of their first two drives of the game. In fact, Clearfield would shut down DuBois the entire game, holding them to less than 100 total yards of offense.
Clearfield’s second drive of the game ended on fourth down, but early in the second quarter it did not take them long to march down the field. Billotte connected with Karson Kline for a deep 36-yard gain that put the Bison on the door step of the goal line. One play later, it was McGonigal pounding the ball into the end zone. Another extra point and the Beavers found themselves in a two-score gap.
The Bison added in another score late in the first half, this time capping another 10-play drive, but how it ended was not what the crowd expected. One play earlier, Billotte had trouble getting hold of a shotgun snap, and had to fall on the ball to save the drive. One play later, he rolled to his right and looked deep for Kline once again. The gap was small, but Kline went for it and despite having a defender right in his face, trying to make his own play, Kline ripped the ball away and held on to cap off a 46-yard bomb to achieve both the first passing and receiving touchdown of the season.
Sidorick added the extra point and the Bison went into the locker room with a 21-0 advantage.
“I really thought the line protected Oliver extremely well tonight. He’s getting better at working his progressions but he made some key throws in tough situations,” Janocko said. Billotte finished the night with three total touchdowns and 263 all-purpose yards.
DuBois would finally get on the board, as Clearfield’s second half on defense proved to be a tough go as the Beavers took advantage of a pass interference call along with a roughing the passer call to march into the red zone. Then, on fourth down, a hard count by quarterback Austin Mitchell gave the Beavers free yardage and a first down. One play later, Mitchell pushed his way into the end zone for the score, halting the shutout. The extra point cut the lead to a pair of scores for Dubois 21-7, and the visiting sideline was feeling energized.
That energy was gone on the next drive.
Following a run by McGonigal, Billotte launched the ball down the field, finding Justin Crutchfield for a huge 49-yard gain to put the Bison at the Beaver 10-yard line. Billotte called his own number on the next play, scoring his third touchdown of the night. The Bison lined up for the extra point, but a bad snap suddenly had the team scrambling. A quick pass to the end zone ended up being a benefit since a pass interference call meant a second opportunity, so Janocko opted for a two-point attempt. The ensuing run would fall short, leaving the 27-7 score, which remained through the remainder of the game as the two squads powered the ball on the ground for a majority of the remaining 17 minutes.
As the game ended, the cheerleaders and the students came onto the field to celebrate with the team, something that was stolen away last year with limited tickets given to players. The smile on Janocko’s face said it all when he saw the happiness the win provided.
“Just…wow. It’s amazing to see the fans in the stands once again,” he said. “We’re truly blessed with an entire community that stands behind us, and to see the crowd back is just incredible. We had a fantastic student section tonight, the band sounded excellent. It just feels like a Friday night.”
With one win to their credit, the work has just begun. Knowing this, Janocko already had his team getting prepared for their next game. When asked if he wanted to be back on the field next week, he simply smiled and said, “That does sound like a good idea.”
Clearfield will be at home again next Friday as they welcome the Penns Valley Rams for a 7 p.m. kickoff.
SCORE BY QUARTER
Dubois 0 0 7 0 – 7
Clearfield 7 14 6 0 – 27
BISON: 1-yard run by Billotte (Sidorick kick), 6:32
BISON: 1-yard run by McGonigal (Sidorick kick), 11:21
BISON: 46-yard pass from Billotte to Kline (Sidorick kick), 1:13
BEAVERS: 3-yard run by Mitchell (Graeca kick), 7:02
BISON: 10-yard run by Billotte (Run failed for conversion), 5:35
- First Downs: 7/15
- Rush Yards: 32/135
- Pass Yards: 66/210
- Total Yards: 98/345
- Penalties-Yards: 3-21/5-49
- Turnovers 0/0
- Time of Possession: 21:53/22:07
Dubois: Mitchell-11 carries, (-3) yards, TD; Henery-9 carries, 19 yards; Adams-2 carries, 8 yards; Nissel-2 carries, 5 yards; Yale-1 carry, 3 yards.
Clearfield: McGonigal-12 carries, 37 yards; Billotte-11 carries, 53 yards, 2 TD; Alban-7 carries, 38 yards; Coudriet-1 carry, 4 yards; Natoli-1 carry, 3 yards.
Dubois: Mitchell-11 for 25, 98 yards.
Clearfield: Billotte-9 for 20, 220 yards, TD.
Dubois: Burkett-4 catches, 9 yards; Dinkfelt-2 catches, 19 yards; Adams-2 catches, (-6) yards; Benjamin-1 catch, 22 yards; Dombroski-1 catch, 13 yards; Henery-1 catch, 9 yards
Clearfield: Kline-8 catches, 161 yards, TD; Crutchfield-1 catch, 49 yards.