Clearfield Bison (7-0) at Bald Eagle Area Eagles (5-2)
It’s not often that some of the best games are in the latter portion of the football season, but Friday night has the feel of a playoff atmosphere. Being strong at the end of the year is critical for any team, and the two that take the gridiron on this night will be looking to put another signature win on their season.
On the home side of the field, it will be the two-loss Eagles of Bald Eagle Area, who are coming off a strong victory over Huntingdon. On the opposing side of the field, hoping to keep an undefeated season intact, will be the Clearfield Bison, who pulled off a huge win one week ago over Tyrone.
Much like last week, both squads are evenly matched, making this contest a toss-up that either team could win.
The Eagles started the season going undefeated through the first four weeks, outscoring their opponents 118-70. However, the two weeks after that saw them score just six points combined, while giving up 88 to the opposition. So, it is unclear which team is going to show up for the game, but if it is the squad that won last week against the Bearcats, it could be a tough night for the visiting Bison.
Statistically, BEA doesn’t have the big numbers as some of the other squads in the Mountain League, but that doesn’t mean they are not potent. A strong 3:1 ratio in rush yards to pass yards means that the Eagles will have a big presence on the ground and pound offense. That could be tough for the Bison to get their hands around because it’s not just one back that the defense will have to stop. It’s not even two. The Eagles have three backs that could be tough to bring down once the ball is snapped.
Leading the way is senior Dion Barnard, who averages just over four yards a carry, and thus far has 335 rushing yards, leading the team. Second to him is a pair of juniors, Dakota Bartley and Bryan Greene. The two underclassmen have combined for 390 yards on the ground. However, Greene has just six carries thus far on the year, but averages nearly 20 yards a carry.
When the Eagles aren’t running the ball, Cole Long has seen limited success in the passing game. He is only averaging 55 yards a game, with just two touchdowns.
These four players will be seeing a lot of action, and will need to put up stellar numbers to keep the Bison in check.
However, the Eagles know what they are facing when they are on the defensive side of the ball. Clearfield is at the top of the board in the Mountain League, with a one-game lead over second place. The Bison may not be at the top of the board in some statistics, but there is no question this team is absolutely potent on offense.
The duo of Christian Lezzer and Tyler Stratton in the ground attack has been evil for opposing defenses. Both are averaging over 100 yards a game rushing, and have combined for 18 touchdowns. The option offense works well for this team, and has been the difference in many of the victories Clearfield has gotten this season, including last week in a 14-13 thriller.
Lezzer leads the team on the ground, but when he’s not using his legs it’s his right arm doing the damage. Thus far, Lezzer has gone 36 for 59, 818 yards, 12 touchdowns and five interceptions through seven games.
If Lezzer needs to use his arm to make plays, Bald Eagle needs to be aware of Trey Jordan, the quick receiver on the team, and also Shawn Lord, who’s the tall receiver on the team. Both have shown to have strong hands, and each are extremely tough to bring down once they have the ball in their grasp.
This toss-up game could be one that decides who wins the Mountain League division, as Clearfield has a two game lead on second-place Central. A win for the Bison will all but assure them a title, but a win by the Eagles will put them a game out of the lead heading into the final regular season games.
It should be quite the contest at the Bald Eagle Area High School in Wingate. Kickoff Friday night is set for 7 p.m.