HYDE — The second season for Clearfield is just on the horizon, with high expectations and a lot of eagerness. But, one season was yet to be decided, because the Bison had one final game on the regular season to take care of, and that game would mean potentially history. The Central Clarion Wildcats, a Co-op team of a few different schools in the Clarion area, came in on a four game win streak ready to play for an upset.
As the rain came down from the skies, Clearfield focused on the ground, pushing forward all night long. A 48-minute contest saw four rushing scores from one player, more than enough for Clearfield to lock down a 38-7 triumph, locking down an undefeated regular season for the tenth time.
“This one is special. These kids have worked hard and deserve it, very proud of them,” Bison head coach Tim Janocko said afterwards. The win was the 298th for Coach Janocko, the winningest coach in D9 history.
Clearfield spent most of the night pounding the ball on the ground, as the consistent rain that drenched the area all day let up just a bit before kickoff. But, as the teams came to the field and stood for the anthem, the skies began opening up again, meaning that passing would be a bit challenging with a wet ball and wet gloves. Knowing this, Clearfield elected to focus pounding the turf, and both Mark McGonigal and Jose Alban were going to get a healthy dose of the ball.
What many didn’t expect was quarterback Oliver Billotte to actually get the load on the night, as the senior signal-caller rushed for nearly 150 yards, and accounted for four rushing touchdowns.
“We planned on that this week. We have not ran the ball much with Oliver the last several weeks, so we wanted to get him the ball tonight,” Janocko said. “Our line blocked well for him, and it showed.”
Billotte’s night wasn’t all roses, as on his first pass of the game during Clearfield’s opening drive, he was picked off via the Wildcat secondary. The next drive, by comparison, made up for it. Looking at 1st and 10 from his own 27, Billotte took the read option handoff and looked up the middle for a gap. He found it, and suddenly the brute power and speed he possesses was on full display. A 73-yard sprint right up the field put Clearfield on the board in a big way. Despite the missed extra point, the 6-0 lead made the entire sideline roar with approval.
That run was just the beginning, because Billotte capped off Clearfield’s second scoring drive with a four-yard plunge. The drive took 11 plays and almost five minutes off the clock. The 13-0 lead stood until the Wildcats came on the field trying to answer.
Despite the toughness the Bison defense has shown all year long, the weakness exploited by the Wildcats was their vulnerability on a screen pass. That happened when Jase Ferguson managed to connect to Christian J Simko to complete a quick four-play drive and answer Clearfield’s two straight touchdown drives. The extra point cut the lead to 13-7 midway through the second quarter, but that ultimately was as close as the Wildcats would get.
Clearfield answered back on the ensuing drive, a 12-play, 82-yard push down the field that saw Billotte once again use his legs, power, and desire to get his third touchdown on the night. Another missed extra point set the score at 19-7 heading into halftime, with Clearfield set to receive the second-half kickoff.
Key words…set to, because the Wildcat coaches decided if they couldn’t get things going on offense or defense, maybe a little trickery to start the second half would work.
So, taking a play from the Saints playbook in their Super Bowl run, Central Clarion caught the Bison return team not as ready as expected. The onside kick went right into Clearfield territory, and the Wildcats recovered the ball to get the stunning possession and looked ready to cut into the lead. But, that thought ended instantly when Brady Collins stepped in front of Ferguson’s pass on second down, setting up the Bison with strong field position at their own 40.
Billotte’s night running the ball was already standing out, but it was Nate Natoli that made the play of the night.
The first play after the interception saw Billotte take a roll out to his left, and hurl the ball up down the left sideline. Somehow, even with a defender right in his face trying to box out, Natoli leaped up high enough to snag the pass out of the air. Upon landing, he wasted no time resetting his feet, and made the run to the end zone for the score.
“He’s becoming a really key receiver these last several weeks,” Janocko said. “Not just as a receiver. He ran the ball well tonight on a couple jet sweeps too. Just another dynamic we’ve been able to add.”
The 25-7 advantage began to become overwhelming for the visiting Wildcats, and when Billotte added in his fourth rushing touchdown to cap another 11-play drive just before the end of the third quarter, the opposing sideline just was deflated. As the final quarter began, the 31-7 advantage only needed to hang on for another 12 minutes to reach undefeated status.
That advantage got increased by another touchdown, as Billotte found his favorite target, Karson Kline, for a 7-yard pass that saw Kline adjust his position to get the ball. Luke Sidorick managed to get the extra point through the uprights, setting the final score of 38-7, and locking down the tenth undefeated campaign.
As the team celebrated the win, Janocko knew the late addition to the schedule wouldn’t be easy, but also was an important test for his team.
“We talked in the middle of the week at our coaches meeting and we all agreed Clarion was probably one of the top-three teams on the schedule. That team is athletic,” he said. “Their quarterback (Ferguson) is extremely athletic, they have tough wide receivers. We needed a game like this, and it was good for us.”
The regular season finished at 10-0, but now the second season begins as the District IX AAA title game is next week. The opposition will be the Flying Dutch of St. Marys. The game is slated to be played next weekend, most likely at Brockway Friday night,
SCORE BY QUARTER
Central Clarion 0 7 0 0 – 7
Clearfield 6 13 12 7 – 38
BISON: 73-yard run by Billotte (kick failed), 3:24
BISON: 4-yard run by Billotte (Sidorick kick), 8:20
WILDCATS: 2-yard pass from Ferguson to Simko (Franchino kick), 6:16
BISON: 12-yard run by Billotte (kick failed), 0:56
BISON: 60-yard pass from Billotte to Natoli (pass failed), 11:10
BISON: 1-yard run by Billotte (kick failed), 1:46
BISON: 7-yard pass from Billotte to Kline (Sidorick kick), 6:47
- First Downs: 9/20
- Rush Yards: 0/348
- Pass Yards: 169/137
- Total Yards: 169/495
- Penalties-Yards: 3-20/4-45
- Turnovers: 1/1
- Time of Possession: 20:35/27:25
Central Clarion: Rex-9 carries, 7 yards; Ferguson-6 carries, (-8) yards; Naser-2 carries, 7 yards; Hummel-1 carry, (-6) yards.
Clearfield: Billotte-11 carries, 146 yards, 4 TD; McGonigal-10 carries, 75 yards; Alban-10 carries, 33 yards; Chamberlain-8 carries, 41 yards; Collins-3 carries, 27 yards; Natoli-3 carries, 26 yards; Team-2 carries, (-2) yards.
Central Clarion: Ferguson: 15 for 22, 169 yards, TD, INT.
Clearfield: Billotte-5 for 8, 137 yards, 2 TD, INT.
Central Clarion: Simko-4 catches, 64 yards; Smith-4 catches, 31 yards, TD; Hummel-3 catches, 17 yards; Hotchkiss-2 catches, 37 yards; Naser-1 catch, 12 yards; Rex-1 catch, 8 yards.
Clearfield: Natoli-3 catches, 93 yards, TD; Kline-2 catches, 44 yards, TD.