WINGATE — One number mattered to the Clearfield Bison on Friday night. It wasn’t the number of passing yards, nor the rushing yards. It wasn’t the amount of turnovers nor sacks. In fact, the numbers on the scoreboard did not matter. The entire team only wanted to hit one number…300. It wasn’t about the team, although they were hoping to be the team to do so, but it was about head coach Tim Janocko, who was still hunting his 300th career victory. One week ago, it didn’t happen as the Bison fell to Juniata. This week, Mountain League foe Bald Eagle welcomed in the Bison, looking to make the visitors start 0-2.
For a majority of the night, the Bison and the Eagles were not gaining much ground on each other, nor on the field. At one point, penalty yards were higher than actual yardage. At the same time, when it mattered the most, Clearfield found the heart, the desire, and the grit, to take home a 7-3 win in an old-school kind of game that came down to the wire.
“What a gutty game. We had to fight for everything,” Janocko said afterwards. “They (Bald Eagle) did a nice job. We just kept fighting; two great teams going at it. It’s one of those games to be remembered, that’s for sure.”
Janocko was right, it was a game to be remembered. But, for a majority of the game, it was a game being remembered for all the wrong reasons. Neither team was showing what they could do. Combined, the two schools put up less than 250 yards of offense, and had 14 first downs between them. In a game that had little yardage and little opportunities, it became about capitalizing on opportunities.
Bald Eagle capitalized on their second drive of the game, moving from mid-field to just outside the Bison 10. The defense stood their ground, forcing a pair of incompletions, and having the Eagles settle for a field goal courtesy of Kaden Burns.
That 3-0 lead would hold not just through the final five minutes of the first quarter, but would be the only score for the next 30 minutes of play.
For the entire second quarter, neither team established itself. Only two first downs were to be had between the two squads, with only an interception by Clearfield’s Caden Bell providing a spark. If there was one struggle for either squad, at least when it came to miscues, it was from the Eagles’ center. On four separate occasions, all in critical moments, the center would snap the ball over quarterback Carson Nagle’s head. Four miscued snaps resulted in negative 56 yards.
But, no snap would change the game more than a 3rd and 1 at the Clearfield 41 with just over a minute remaining in the third.
The snap would sail over Nagle’s head, but this time it resulted in negative yardage, and a turnover. The fumbled snap was a 17-yard loss and a major momentum shift in favor of the Bison. Up to that point, the Bison were averaging under three yards per play on offense. Quarterback Will Domico was not finding success throwing the ball, finishing just 2-for-12 on the night. Still, the downhill start on field position changed the outlook on the sidelines and in the visiting grandstands.
On the first play following the turnover, Carter Chamberlain would take the handoff and suddenly break out into the open field, and put on a 26-yard gain that changed the course of the game.
Clearfield then put their trust in their lead back, Brady Collins, to get them into position. He, along with Chamberlain, got the ball inside the 10 right as the third quarter came to a close. Once the sides swapped, it was clear the Bison were feeling it. The hype had returned, and when they took to the field, desire took over.
Collins took the handoff, one of his 20 on the night, and pounded up the middle, bouncing off a pair of Eagle defenders, pushing into the end zone for the Clearfield score. The entire sidelines ignited, as Clearfield took the lead. Evan Davis booted the extra point, and now it was about playing keep away, and defending the territory.
Bald Eagle had an entire quarter to try and bring the lead back to the home team, but as the minutes ticked away, the issue became stopping the clock, as by the time the final quarter was half done, all their time outs were used. By the same token, Clearfield was struggling to gain the yardage to keep the clock running.
It was at the 2:05 mark when Bald Eagle got the ball one last time, and put the trust in Nagle to get them down the field. After a run for seven yards, then a pass for 13, the Eagles found themselves halfway there. After getting into Bison territory, they began running out of downs. An incomplete pass, and a pair of receptions by Elliott Splain left the Eagles looking at a 4th and 1 with less than a minute to go. The Bison elected to go with their goal line heavy defense, combatting the heavy offense the Eagles brought in. This was the game, something was going to give.
The snap to Nagle came, and he called his own number, but the Bison defense stood him up, and the sideline clad in black and red stood waiting. Officials called for the chains to see if the line to gain was had.
The pin went in the ground, the line judge pulled the chain tight, and when it was placed on the ground, the slimmest of margins was enough to send the visiting sidelines into chaos, as Clearfield took over on downs.
Janocko was sweating heavy artillery as he was watching the officials, for a couple reasons.
After Domico took the final snap in the victory formation, the entire Bison sideline had the expected reaction, and after so many years of success, hitting the tricentennial mark became a monumental occasion. For Janocko, to have a game that was close, defined by field position and defense, he wouldn’t want it any other way.
“I thought they didn’t get set to begin with,” he said. “That wasn’t called, but then I began thinking that they maybe didn’t get it. It’s like the length of a chain that they were short; you just can’t write it any better.”
“It honestly means more. Would I like to see something like 45-0, maybe, but honestly this means a lot more,” Janocko said. “I cannot say enough about our kids, and how they just gutted it out.”
“We made key plays when we needed to. The run by Carter to get us into position, and also the end-around by Jacob (Samsel) to get that first down on a late drive. We still have things to work on, but this is huge tonight.
After soaking in the moment, literally as his team gave him an ice water shower on the field, and taking a moment to thank his team, Janocko saw a lot of familiar faces walking in from the sidelines. It has been long known that Janocko’s 300th win was coming, but circumstances were happening to keep the moment from happening with certain people in attendance. Finally, everything came together on Friday night to make it a night to remember.
“It’s great because my whole family is here tonight. Andrew (Janocko’s son, quarterbacks coach for the Chicago Bears) flew in since they have a week before their season starts, my daughter, wife and son-in-law, grand daughter,” he said with a smile. “It’s special.”
Clearfield (1-1) will look to give Janocko win number 301 next week as they will play in front of their home crowd for the first time this season at the Bison Sports Complex when they host the DuBois Beavers. Clearfield took down the Beavers last season, 27-7. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
SCORE BY QUARTER
Clearfield 0 0 0 7 – 7
Bald Eagle 3 0 0 0 – 3
- EAGLES: 28-yard field goal by Burns, 5:38
- No Scoring
- No Scoring
- BISON: 6-yard run by Collins (Davis kick), 11:36
- First Downs: 8/6
- Rush Yards: 106/45
- Pass Yards: 8/83
- Total Yards: 114/128
- Penalties-Yards: 6-54/4-35
- Turnovers: 0/2
- Time of Possession: 26:36/21:24
- Clearfield: Collins-20 carries, 87 yards, TD; Domico-9 carries, (-23) yards; Chamberlain-5 carries, 29 yards; Samsel-4 carries, 14 yards; Team-2 carries, 1 yard.
- Bald Eagle: Dubbs-9 carries, 48 yards; Greene-8 carries, 36 yards; Team-4 carries, (-56) yards; Nagle-5 carries, 17 yards; Eckley-2 carries, 0 yards.
- Clearfield: Domico-2 for 12, 8 yards.
- Bald Eagle: Nagle-13 for 28, 83 yards, INT.
- Clearfield: Freeland-2 catches, 8 yards.
- Bald Eagle: Eckley-6 catches, 37 yards; Splain-6 catches, 30 yards; Greene-1 catch, 7 yards.