BROCKWAY-Earlier in the week, multiple playoff games on the docket were being maneuvered due to the potential of weather interruption. Some got moved to Thursday, while others got pushed back until Saturday. But, for the Flying Dutch of St. Mary’s and the Bison of Clearfield, the weather was just another factor both teams had to deal with. Heavy rain would encompass Varischetti Field in Brockway as the District 9 title game approached. The turf took on a shine from all the rain coming down, coaches tried to cover up, and all the players got soaked as if they were on a water ride.
Both schools adjusted to the conditions, and had to bring everything they could to win. A late rally brought excitement, and anxiety, but it was not enough. Clearfield held off a last-second push to achieve an unprecedented 18th district championship, taking down the Dutch, 13-7.
“This was one for the ages. These kids will remember this game for the rest of their lives,” said a rain-soaked Tim Janocko afterwards. “I’m just so happy for them. They fought through so much. They won a Mountain League championship. And they won a district championship.”
The heavy rain that came courtesy of the remnants of Hurricane Nicole and a cold front left everything in question regarding the game, whether it would be played Friday or moved to Saturday. With the game being kept on Friday, both teams had to deal with monsoon-like conditions, but for Clearfield that seemed to be appropriate because their strength of the offense was the ground game. Having Brady Collins back on the sideline, who had to leave the game two weeks prior against Karns City due to a leg injury, was a huge boost.
That paid off right away as Clearfield would take the opening drive and show the rain was not going to be a factor.
After a solid return on the kickoff, starting near mid-field, the Bison worked their way down the field with Collins taking a majority of the handoffs. The young running back finished the drive with a 14-yard touchdown run to put the Bison up. Unfortunately, St. Mary’s did manage to block the extra point, giving the designated home team a 6-0 advantage.
The Flying Dutch were ready to answer, but instead of doing so on the ground, did so in the air. Their first drive of the game started at their own 30, and got capped by a three-yard touchdown grab as Charlie Coudriet connected with Carter Chadsey to tie the game. The extra point went through, and the Dutch would hold the 7-6 lead as the quarter drew to a close.
The soggy turf made it extremely difficult to throw the ball, so for Clearfield they kept it old school, giving the ball to their backs and letting their offensive line do the work.
“The line had a great game,” Janocko said. “Isaac (Samsel) and Joe Knee and Eric Myers and Nolyn (Rockmore) and Zach (Billotte). All those guys played a great game again, and our three backs ran hard. Obviously we didn’t throw the ball…why would we?”
That offensive line did the work as the Bison regained the lead in the second quarter on a 70-yard drive that encompassed 12 plays, capped off with Carter Chamberlain powering his way across the goal line to give Clearfield the advantage once again. Evan Davis put the extra point through, giving the Bison the lead heading into the locker room.
One of the more critical plays that nearly cost Clearfield was when Jacob Samsel, starting in place of the injured Will Domico, saw a 3rd-and-3 snap sail over his head at the Dutch 38. Both teams tried to corral the ball but the combination of the wet turf and the wet pigskin saw it slide backwards. St. Mary’s appeared to have not only recovered the ball and taken it to the end zone courtesy of Alex Lukaschunis, but officials had blown the play dead at the Bison 29. Samsel had recovered the ball long enough to have his knee on the ground, and what would have been a go-ahead score instead turned into fourth down and half the field.
As the game wore on, the rain got heavier, and both squads were trying to gain the upper hand. It would not be until late in the game when it was the Dutch with the opportunity to put the game in their favor.
A monster punt by Isaac Samsel put the Dutch at their own four to start the late drive, but they worked their way down the field to get into the red zone. Still, the Bison defense was bending, however could not break, forcing a fourth down that appeared to be an incomplete pass and turnover on downs.
Officials said otherwise, calling pass interference and giving St. Mary’s a fresh set of downs inside the 10.
After calling a timeout to settle his defense, Janocko sent his squad back out in an attempt to close out the night. On first down, the Dutch ran a similar pass play to the right corner of the end zone, but the ball fell incomplete. On second down, they tried a little trickery, going with the halfback pass to catch the Bison defense off guard.
The ball sailed a bit, hanging just long enough that Isaac Putt would reach up, snatch the ball away in the end zone for the interception. The turnover, and the fact St. Mary’s was out of timeouts, allowed the Bison to set up in the victory formation. One kneel down, and the Bison would celebrate in the rain, sliding down the turf on a night where nothing came easy, and everything fell into place.
“Isaac Putt came up with a huge play,” Janocko said. “God bless him. He’s a great kid. He does everything. He plays several different positions for us. He’s our long snapper. I’m happy for him to make a play like that.”
With the win, the Bison improve to 8-3 on the season, and will continue their post-season activity next week.
They will take on the winner of today’s District 6 title game between Central and Penn Cambria, which was originally to be played on Friday night.
For now, the Bison will savor this victory, if for no other reason, just to let their uniforms dry.
- Both teams combined for less than 400 yards of total offense, with St. Mary’s holding the slight advantage.
- Brady Collins ran for 118 yards in his return to the field.
- Clearfield holds the advantage over St. Mary’s in championship games, as they have beaten the Dutch the last four times they have played.
SCORE BY QUARTER
St. Mary’s 7 0 0 0 – 7
Clearfield 6 7 0 0 – 13
- BISON: 14-yard run by Collins (kick blocked), 8:21
- FLYING DUTCH: 3-yard pass from Coudriet to Chadsey (Surra kick), 4:00
- BISON: 1-yard run by Chamberlain (Davis kick), 8:54
- No Scoring
- No Scoring