BEDFORD — Playoff football means each week is a difficult, more challenging, opponent. Every team has earned their right to continue their season one week at a time, trying to find their way to a class championship in Hershey. This year, the Clearfield Bison put forth a season that meant their playoffs were alive, well, and deserving. A 10-0 regular season, and a district championship, made it that much sweeter. But, now the season had a new meaning as the Bison had to make a road trip to start their regional playoffs, facing the same team that ended their season a year ago, the Bedford Bisons.
With head coach Tim Janocko on the cusp of a monumental milestone, the Bison took to the field ready for battle. That battle ended up being one-sided for the opposition. Janocko was looking to earn career victory number 300, but saw the scoreboard read 54-12 at games’s end, with his Bison squad on the losing end, seeing their 2021 campaign come to a close.
Clearfield’s high-powered offense sputtered all night, and the defense got on its heels early in the contest as Bedford took the opening possession down the field and capped it off with an end-around rushing touchdown by Maxwell Washington from five yards out. The point after made it 7-0 with just over nine minutes remaining in the quarter.
But, the Bison made it interesting without the offense ever stepping on the field.
The kickoff from Bedford went left to Karson Kline, coming off a massive game a week ago against St. Mary’s, who took the ball from his own 12. Right away, he found a gap created by his return team on the right sideline, and there was zero turning back at that point. An 88-yard return suddenly put Clearfield on the scoreboard and put the entire crowd into a stunned silence. Unfortunately, the extra point from Luke Sidorick went slightly wide right, leaving the score 7-6.
That was as close as the Bison would get to leading.
The following possession, despite being pushed back for an illegal block in the back on the kickoff, Bedford marched right back down the field for another score, this time coming from quarterback Mercury Swaim from just outside the goal line. The extra point made it 14-6 with just over two minutes remaining in the quarter, and the Bison offense still had not seen the field.
When they did make it on the field, it was a quick three-and-out, and a punt. Bedford’s response was marching right down the field again, and catching the defense with the read-option as Swaim pulled the ball from the stomach of his fullback and instead tossed to the corner of the end zone, finding Ethan Weber for another score.
After one quater, the Bison were looking at a 21-6 gap, and had to find something to get things going on both sides of the ball. The next possession looked promising as they made it into Bedford territory, but Oliver Billotte was stopped on fourth down and gave Bedford the ball right back.
Three plays later, Swaim made a backwards pass to Washington, and he would outrun the entire Bison secondary for another score.
Clearfield looked at the scoreboard, seeing a 27-6 gap as Lizzy Martz missed the point after, and were realizing win number 300 was slipping away rapidly. Just 5:23 remained in the first half, as the entire Clearfield sideline was looking for answers.
Apparently, the Bison coaches got the offense fired up because they would take the kickoff and march their way down the field into Bedford territory, and Carter Chamberlain would cap off the drive from five yards out, putting Clearfield back on the scoreboard. Sidorick tried to cut the lead down to 14, but his struggles continued as his extra point was blocked, keeping the score at 27-12 with just over a minute remaining in the half.
At some point the Bison defense needed to make a play, and they made an enormous one on the first play after the score, knocking the ball right out of the hands of Washington, and falling on the forced fumble. The grandstands clad in black and red were rocking as the turnover gave Clearfield the ball at midfield, and a golden opportunity to get a score right before halftime.
Billotte pushed the ball down the field, taking a couple deep shots to the end zone, but could not put the ball in the hands of his playmakers, and Clearfield would head into the locker room looking at a two-possession gap.
Clearfield would start the third quarter marching down just outside the red zone, but would be stopped on fourth down, giving Bedford their first opportunity in the half to put some points on the board.
Neither team ultimately put points up in the third, and headed to the fourth quarter where all of a sudden, Bedford would put the game away in a hurry.
It began with Swaim getting in the end zone from about 13 yards out shortly into the quarter, pushing the gap to 33-12 as the two-point conversion was mishandled.
Following the possession, Clearfield’s offense sputtered as Billotte took a hard shot from the defense on an incomplete pass, having to come out for one play. Will Domico came in for relief, and just like his counterpart looked for Kline deep on the sidelines. But, the deep pass was ripped away by Washington, who then returned the ball 60 yards to the end zone for the pick-six. The point after made it 40-12, and the Bison offense could not muster anything on the ensuing drive.
Bedford, following the punt, took just one play to put the running clock into effect as Swaim connected again to Washington over the middle, and he would outrun even the officials on a 77-yard sprint to the end zone. The extra point made it 47-12, and Bedford would get in one more score before the end of the game at that point. A 27-point explosion in the final 12 minutes.
Despite the loss, the Bison accomplished a lot on the 2021 season just by taking the field. A year ago, the team had to wait until early September to play because of Covid restrictions, and did so either with limited attendance or no attendance from their fans on the road. One week into the season, they had to put practice and games on pause due to a positive case, only managing to play six games on the year.
Fast forward nearly a full calendar year, the Bison put forth a full 10-game season, going undefeated for the tenth time in school history, and brought home another District IX championship. The seniors leave the program as one of the top teams to ever be coached under Janocko and staff. Ending the season at 11-1, there was a lot of Bison pride on the sidelines, although tears came to see it end, but also tears of happiness for the experiences.
The Bison end the 2021 season with a final record of 11-1, while Bedford moves on into the second round of the PIAA-state playoffs.
SCORE BY QUARTER
Clearfield 6 6 0 0 – 12
Bedford 21 6 0 27 – 54
BEDFORD: 5-yard run by Washington (Martz kick)
CLEARFIELD: 88-yard kickoff return by Kline (Kick failed)
BEDFORD: 1-yard run by Swaim (Martz kick)
BEDFORD: 6-yard pass from Swaim to Weber (Martz kick)
BEDFORD: 54-yard run by Washington (kick failed)
CLEARFIELD: 5-yard run by Chamberlain (kick blocked)
BEDFORD: 13-yard run by Swaim (pass failed)
BEDFORD: 60-yard interception return by Washington (Martz kick)
BEDFORD: 77-yard pass from Swaim to Washington (Martz kick)
BEDFORD: 23-yard run by Swaim (Martz kick)