HYDE — A chill in the air and a mist in the sky welcomed fans to the Bison Sports Complex on Friday night as Clearfield welcomed Bellefonte for the second showdown between the two schools this season. Clearfield upended the Raiders the first time this season in a shutout, and Bellefonte was looking to even the score.
But, the senior class for Clearfield would put on a clinic, quickly and often. Clearfield ended the night still dominating the visiting Raiders, 47-14, remaining undefeated.
“Our offense struck quickly tonight,” said Bison head coach Tim Janocko. “A great night for our seniors. Everyone contributed to this win. A total team effort.”
The biggest contributions on the night came from the senior duo of quarterback Oliver Billotte and wide receiver Karson Kline. The two would not only exploit the Raider defense, but do so on three consecutive drives.
After forcing a three-and-out on the opening possession, Billotte connected with Kline on the third play from scrimmage, an instant 57-yard bomb to put Clearfield on the board. Senior kicker Luke Sidorick hammered the extra point and Clearfield held the early 7-0 advantage.
As though that wasn’t enough, Billotte’s second pass to Kline was just as impressive.
Facing 4th and 8 at midfield, Billotte looked to his left, and behind the secondary was his primary target. The 50-yard strike put the Bison up 14-0 following the extra point, just under four minutes remaining in the opening quarter.
But then, Bellefonte answered in a big way. Quarterback Trevor Johnson found a hole in the two-deep zone, connecting with Nicholas Way for a 54-yard gain to put the Raiders in the red zone. Two plays later, Tristan Heckman put an end to an 18-quarter streak that dated back to the Tyrone game in mid-September. Clearfield’s defense held the opposition scoreless through four and a half games, with four being shutouts. Heckman put a stop to that streak from 11 yards out, the first Clearfield touchdown given up in over a month. The extra point cut the lead down to a single possession with under a minute remaining in the first quarter.
It only took eight seconds to change that.
Billotte was having himself a night, because after Bellefonte tried the surprise onside kick, which Clearfield covered up very quickly, Billotte went for the home run ball right away. Just as quickly as the Raiders cut the lead, the Bison put it right back where it was. The 51-yard strike to Kline and the ensuing extra point from Sidorick made the score 21-7, igniting the home sidelines and getting the neon-clad student section roaring. The senior quarterback at that moment was perfect on the night, as all three passes were for scores.
Perfection did come to an end in the second quarter on an interception, but Billotte’s night concluded going 10-for-13, tossing for 295 yards, and four touchdowns.
That fourth score did not come till extremely late in the first half when Clearfield quickly worked into opposing territory, and with just under a minute remaining in the half, the two struck again on the left side, with Billotte’s rainbow toss landing in Kline’s hands for the fourth connection between the two. Heading into halftime, Clearfield’s 28-7 advantage was unyielding, and with the Bison receiving the second half kickoff, they were ready to keep the momentum rolling.
“They (Bellefonte) were putting 10 men in the box, daring us to throw. So, we did. We wanted to pass the ball a little more than we had been, and Kline was able to get behind Bellefonte quite a bit. It’s a pitch-and-catch connection at that point,” Janocko said.
Not to be outdone, the pair of senior running backs got their time to shine in the second half, as Clearfield elected to slow the game down and focus on the offensive line making gaps and gaining yardage. Jose Alban did more than that in the second half, because his first touch in the third quarter ultimately was enormous. He took the handoff, found a gap on the left side, and the sprint was on. A 52-yard run put Clearfield up 35-7 just 15 seconds into the second half.
The other senior tailback, Luke McGonigal, scored his lone touchdown in the quarter on an 18-yard rush up the gut. But, there also came a slight miscue right afterwards.
During the scoring drive it began to rain a little bit, but also backup quarterback Will Domico was getting attention on the sidelines. Normally this wouldn’t be a major issue, but he also is Sidorick’s holder on PAT’s and field goals. So, instead, Kline had the duty of catching and setting up the kick. In doing so, because of his wet gloves, the ball slid off the holder just slightly as Sidorick’s right foot connected. The missed point after kept the score 41-7, one point shy of the running clock.
That soon didn’t become a factor as Clearfield’s final scoring drive encompassed the final four minutes of the third quarter, finishing with a two-yard plunge by Nate Natoli on the quick handoff. Sidorick’s final extra point sailed slightly left, but the 47-7 score was enough to put the clock in motion for the rest of the quarter.
Bellefonte managed to get one final score on the night with five seconds remaining, a 3-yard plunge and reach by Grayson Alterio, and the PAT set the final.
As the seniors took pictures alongside the cheerleaders, and the band began playing its way out of the BSC, Janocko had a chance to reflect on the stark differences this year’s senior class got to experience compared to a season ago. Last year, the seniors walked on the field following two weeks of not competing due to exposure protocols, and had barely anyone in the stands cheering minus a select few ticket holders. The cheerleaders were spread out, giving chants to grandstands that had more steel showing than school colors, and the band was sitting on the opposing bleachers, spread out and away from everyone. It did not feel right, as though the seniors did not get a proper sendoff.
This year, a more familiar feeling welcomed Senior Day, and Janocko was ecstatic about the sights.
“We’ve had a packed house here all year long. My hat’s off to the fans, the students, band, the cheerleaders; we are just so grateful for the community we have, and how proud I am of everyone,” Janocko said.
Although playoffs are on the horizon, Clearfield (9-0) has one final regular season contest on the docket, added just this week. The Bison will play host to the Central Clarion Wildcats, a join effort between Clarion, Clarion-Limestone, and North Clarion. The Wildcats are coming off a 21-10 win over DuBois on Friday, evening their record at 4-4.
Kickoff is at 7 p.m.
SCORE BY QUARTER
Bellefonte 7 0 0 7 – 14
Clearfield 21 7 13 6 – 47
BISON: 57-yard pass from Billotte to Kline (Sidorick kick), 9:09
BISON: 50-yard pass from Billotte to Kline (Sidorick kick), 3:49
RAIDERS: 11-yard run by Heckman (Walker kick), 0:58
BISON: 51-yard pas from Billotte to Kline (Sidorick kick), 0:50
BISON: 16-yard pass from Billotte to Kline (Sidorick kick), 0:31
BISON: 52-yard run by Alban (Sidorick kick), 11:45
BISON: 18-yard run by McGonigal (kick failed), 6:40
BISON: 2-yard run by Natoli (kick failed), 11:57
RAIDERS: 3-yard run by Alterio (Walker kick), 0:05
- First Downs: 6/13
- Rush Yards: 63/181
- Pass Yards: 84/295
- Total Yards: 147/476
- Penalties-Yards: 6-45/2-20
- Turnovers: 0/1
- Time of Possession: 26:31/21:29
Bellefonte: Weaver-12 carries, 7 yards; Johnson-7 carries, (-9) yards; Alterio-5 carries, 46 yards, TD; Heckman-5 carries, 10 yards, TD; Garrison-2 carries, 8 yards; Team-1 carry, (-1) yards.
Clearfield: McGonigal-6 carries, 64 yards, TD; Alban-6 carries, 62 yards, TD; Chamberlain-5 carries, 44 yards; Natoli-2 carries, 11 yards, TD; Collins-2 carries, 11 yards; Billotte-2 carries, 6 yards; Team-1 carry, (-16) yards.
Bellefonte: Johnson-6 for 13, 84 yards.
Clearfield: Billotte-12 for 16, 295 yards, 4 TD, INT.
Bellefonte: Way-3 catches, 58 yards; Rice-2 catches, 8 yards; Capparella-1 catch, 18 yards.
Clearfield: Kline-7 catches 245 yards, 4 TD; Natoli-3 catches, 25 yards Alban-2 catches, 25 yards.