The last week of August often means one thing, at least when it comes to parents. It means that their children who have enjoyed three months of summer away from classrooms, textbooks and homework must now return to get another year of education. From kindergarten to grade 12, those students are both happy to return, but loathe having to be up early to get there, and yet are excited to see so many familiar faces.
The other thing the last week of August also means is some of those students get to put on the pads, helmets, cleats and jerseys to represent their school on a Friday night. High school football returns this week, with all schools looking for a successful season.
Tim Janocko is also preparing for another year of coaching one of those high schools, as his Clearfield Bison are ready to follow up what was a very successful 2011 season. Clearfield finished the regular season 9-1, repeating as District 9 champions by defeating St. Marys for the second year in a row.
One week later, another repeat as Clearfield won the District 6/9 Title in defeating Johnstown. Their season ended against Shamokin in a 27-26 OT loss that saw a lot of controversy with the referee crew.
Janocko took some time to reflect on the season that was, along with the graduating class and what those players meant to the program, especially quarterback Curtis Frye and running back Beau Swales.
“Well obviously we were extremely happy with how last year went. Each week we faced tough opponents and to still come out with the season we did was quite an accomplishment,” Janocko said. “The kids played so well and I was so proud of the seniors that achieved so much over their career.
“Curtis was a three year starter for us, and went 31-7 as our starting quarterback. It’s obviously going to be hard to replace someone like that,” Janocko said. “Beau had strong leadership, and he’ll be just as difficult to replace, however we’ve had some kids waiting in the wings ready for their opportunity.”
Trying to replace either player will be a daunting task. Frye had an off-year in 2011 statistically when it came to passing the ball, ending the year with 870 yards in the air, 11 touchdowns and seven interceptions. But, coming off a season where the team won 13 games for the first time in the school’s history, it was going to be difficult to equal the previous year’s performance.
Swales, meanwhile, had one of the most spectacular seasons on the ground in recent memory. He was just short of 2000 yards rushing on the year, but was consistently hard to bring to the ground, tearing apart defenses like a hot knife through butter. Swales averaged 150 yards a game, just under seven yards a carry, and finished out his senior season with 24 rushing touchdowns.
Still, Janocko feels that his new team is very capable of having a strong season, especially as some key players from last year return in 2012.
Returning to the squad this year is Christian Lezzer, Clearfield’s top runner behind Swales last season, with 730 yards on 18 carries and 12 touchdowns. He was also the team’s leading receiver, grabbing 19 passes for 358 yards including four scores. Also, Dylan Graham comes back as another experienced receiver, but he will be a key player to watch on defense as he led the team with six interceptions.
“We’re counting on Christian to have a great season. We also have great leadership at wide out with Dylan Graham, Trey Jordan and Shawn Lord,” Janocko said. “We also have that nucleus of our starting line that started as sophomores. There’s a lot of depth on this year’s squad, which I’m happy for.”
The 2012 season for Clearfield is one of change for the team with some underclassmen coming up to get their chance to shine under the bright lights, but the season also saw big changes to the football stadium itself. Beginning in May, the Clearfield Area School District saw the football field go under the loaders as the Bison Sports Complex got a complete overhaul.
What was a field of grass has been torn up, and in its place is an entirely new field-turf surface, a new draining system for water, and a new track on the outside of the football and soccer field.
“I think it’s fantastic. It’s a huge asset to the community, the kids are excited about it,” Janocko said. “A lot of hard work went into this project and the entire Clearfield community should be proud of the effort.
“A lot went into making this possible, and the results could not have been better.”
Clearfield faces many familiar foes in the upcoming season, the majority of which they have faced numerous times in years past. A couple of the key games that are already circled for some on the schedule are the October 12 match-up at Tyrone, as well as the regular season finale against Philipsburg-Osceola, the same team that last year upset Clearfield in a see-saw game with P-O pulling out the 40-33 victory.
“Honestly, I feel our schedule is one of the strong points. We have a tough schedule top to bottom. We play Central Mountain, go to Huntington, Tyrone, and host P-O.”
Janocko feels his team is ready to take the field in 2012 and have just as strong a season as they did one year ago, and this year the squad starts the season against a rather unique opponent. Opening night for Clearfield is against the St. Joan of Arc Catholic Angels, who are based out of Mississauga, Ontario. This is the same school who played against McKeesport last season, so the school is familiar with playing in Pennsylvania.
“We are kind of flattered, actually. They called us this year, and we accepted them to come play us,” Janocko said. “It will be a tough order, they remind me of the Johnstown team we’ve played the last two years in the playoffs.
“It will make for a tough game to start the season, as it will test our speed and agility. But we are looking forward to it.”
A different opponent for Clearfield, indeed, but Janocko and his team are ready to get this season kicked off, as the boys of fall will take the field for the first time this Friday night at the newly resurfaced Bison Sports Complex. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
2012 Clearfield Bison Roster by Class [Name (Number, Position(s)]
Seth Beardsley (8, WR/DB), Dylan Graham (10, WR/DB), Trey Jordan (28, WR/DB), Rico Longoria (14, RB/DB), Shawn Lord (15, TE/LB), Vince Owens (64, OL/DL), Ben Penebianco (51, OL/DL), Corey Stiver (40, RB/LB), Michael Trude (23, RB/LB), Tyler Woomer (3, WR/DB)
Michael Beck (24, RB/LB), Wyatt Flanagan (58, OL/LB), Seth Ford (16, RB/LB), Jonathan Janocko (77, OL/DL), Hunter Keith (74, OL/DL), Brian Knepp (75, OL/DL), Jonas Kochen (71, OL/DL), Christian Lezzer (4, QB/LB), Ryan Lingle (70, OL/DL), Matt Price (85, WR/DB), Tyler Stratton (22, RB/DB), Jacob Verchick (61, OL/LB)
Grant Climie (81, TE/DB), Curtis Daub (57, OL/LB), Zach Hefferan (73, OL/DL), Spencer Herrington (21, K), Nick Kovalick (35, RB/LB), Jake Lansberry (25, WR/DB), Dustin Maines (53, OL/LB), Curtis Mignot (66, OL/DL), Jesus Rosa (33, RB/DB), Dennis Rougeux (54, OL/DL), Sawyer Rowles (12, WR/DB), Erik Sellers (19, QB/LB), Josh Sorbera (29, WR/DB), Brian Thorpe (62, OL/DL), Mike Williams (44, RB/LB), Casey Wilsoncroft (11, WR/DB)
Bryce Craft (46, RB/LB), Jake Wingate (32, WR/DB)
2012 SCHEDULE (All Games are Friday Evening at 7 p.m.)
8/31: ST. JOAN OF ARC CATHOLIC SECONDARY (Mississauga, ON)
9/7: at Penns Valley
9/21: at Huntingdon
9/28: CENTRAL MOUNTAIN
10/12: at Tyrone
10/19: at Bald Eagle Area
11/2: Open Date, District IX Playoffs