BROCKWAY — Sometimes when things are going well, there is very little that can be done to stop it. In the case of the Clearfield Bison football team, that is clearly the case.
Even with a post-season birth already guaranteed, head coach Tim Janocko and his undefeated squad still had one goal yet to be accomplished. It was one that was put forth during the spring and summer months, waking up early to begin practice, then studying film and keeping prepared for each week’s contest. After nine games, each different but with the same result, the Bison put their undefeated streak on the line to go after the Class AAA championship for District IX.
The team with the task of ending that streak and stealing the title away was the 4-5 Bradford Owls, who needed a win last week just to make the game and also needed a win to continue playing.
On a cold, blustery, and often wet night at Frank Varischetti Field in Brockway, the turf that usually plays host to the Rovers would actually be the turf where Clearfield would stay true to their destiny. The offense made plays; the defense created turnovers; and the special teams squad had big returns.
It all capped off a spectacular season as the Bison would stampede all over the Owls, shutting out their opponents 49-0, clinching their third consecutive championship and adding yet another victory to an historic run of victories for the senior class.
Janocko gave the most credit to the dominance of the front seven that made the big plays happen after the game.
“You just can’t say enough about them. They just dominated the game, that’s the bottom line,” Janocko said. “They (Bradford) came out and showed some things we hadn’t seen in previous weeks. We made some adjustments. The blocked field goal on their first series was huge, and after that we took off.”
The blocked field goal was as close as Bradford got all night to scoring, as the defense of the Bison forced three turnovers, holding the Owls to just 176 total yards on offense.
The majority of that offense was quarterback Matt Yurkewicz, who had a team-high 92 yards rushing and 66 more yards passing. However, his two interceptions both turned into points for Clearfield.
Clearfield, meanwhile, was racking up yards left and right thanks to the offensive line. Both Tyler Stratton and Christian Lezzer eclipsed 100 yards on the ground, with Stratton gaining 143 and Lezzer 111, and combined for five touchdowns. Seth Ford added another 73 yards rushing, including one touchdown.
Lezzer did not see much action in the air, as he only attempted two passes. His lone completion went to Shawn Lord, but that as well was for a touchdown.
“It was just a total-team effort. We ran the ball well, had some big plays on defense, Trey (Jordan) had a big punt return which I thought was huge. We just made big plays,” Janocko said.
Bradford wanted to make a statement early on their first series, as they took the touchback on the opening kickoff and drove right into the red zone in just under four minutes. However, once there, the Bison defense started to toughen up. On the ensuing three plays, the Owls were held to just five yards, and Ty Reiley came out to try a 30-yard field goal.
But, as Janocko said, the defense held strong, blocked the kick and recovered the loose ball at the 42, setting up a short field for the offense.
By this time the sprinkles that greeted fans driving to the stadium had picked up a bit, and a wet field made conditions hard to throw in. So, it was old-school, slam and jam offense for Clearfield as Stratton and Lezzer each got their hand in carrying the ball. After splitting duties on the carries, Lezzer was the first to reach the end zone, capping the drive with a three-yard plunge. Spencer Herrington’s right leg was true like it has been so far in the season, and it was 7-0 with just under five minutes to play.
Bradford could not get anything going on their second drive despite starting off with a strong run by Aaron Fishkin, who ended the night with 46 yards rushing. The Owls were forced to punt after only making it to their own 20, but the punt was partially blocked, going out of bounds at the Owl 31.
That short of a field made quick work for the Bison as it was the same story on the ensuing possession. Lezzer would cap that drive off with a 5-yard scamper to the end zone. Another PAT, and it was 14-0, which it remained heading into the second quarter.
On the ensuing possession, the wind in the Owls’ sails quickly faded. On 1st and 10 near midfield, Yurkewicz was flushed from the pocket but was able to get enough separation to launch a pass downfield to his receiver. The problem was, the pass was short, and it ended up in the hands of Dylan Graham. The first turnover of the night lit a fire under the Bison that would set off an inferno for the second quarter.
It took only three plays following the turnover for the Bison to score, as this time Stratton found the end zone on a 23-yard rumble. Herrington was again accurate, and the 21-0 lead was intact, still 10:44 remaining in the half.
The Owls did push into the red zone on their next possession, getting inside the 10. However, a false start pushed them back, and Yurkewicz failed on the next three plays as all his passes hit the turf. Despite being deep in their own territory, no points would come of it, and Clearfield took over on downs.
On the next play, Lezzer managed a 10-yard gain, but a late hit by the Owls tacked on an additional 15 yards, and the frustration of the team in white became obvious as they began hitting harder and stronger. But, the Bison line withstood the onslaught, as the team in black rumbled down the field, with Lezzer again capping the drive with his third rushing touchdown of the game. Still, with 4:29 remaining, there was a lot of time for the Owls to score, but a 28-0 deficit was staring them in the face.
Bradford went three-and-out on the next drive, but the ensuing punt went bad for the Owls as well. It appeared they had Jordan wrangled up when he received the ball, but despite three tacklers in his face, the senior escaped and roared down the sideline, deep into Owl territory. The Bison had a short field, and it was only a matter of time for the inevitable to happen.
It took just three plays for Stratton to score his second touchdown with just under two minutes to play. The extra point made it 35-0, and just like the previous two weeks of play, it guaranteed a running clock in the second half.
Yurkewicz tried to get something going on the next drive, but on a 1st and 10 from the Owl 39, he made his second failed pass of the night, this time being picked off by Seth Beardsley.
Following the turnover, Lezzer decided to make use of his arm despite the bad conditions. On 3rd and 7, he found his senior tight end, Lord, who scored the only passing touchdown of the night. Another extra point made the score 42-0 heading into the break, the same score as one week ago when Clearfield hosted P-O.
With a running clock in the second half, both teams elected to keep the ball on the ground, hoping to run the clock down and possibly score. The Bison’s first possession of the third quarter lasted 13 plays. Despite not scoring any points on the drive, the running clock took nearly nine minutes out of playing time for Bradford, who took over at their own 20 following a touch back of the punt.
Sadly, the problems in the first half bit the Owls again, as two plays into the drive Yurkewicz lost the handle on the ball, and the fumble was recovered by Clearfield.
Just like the previous drives with a short field, Clearfield put the ball in the hands of their backs, this time with the drive ending as Ford plunged for his lone 1-yard touchdown. The extra point made it 49-0, and with that the second team offense took over for the remainder of the game.
Sitting at 10-0, Clearfield has once again accomplished their goal of a District IX championship, something that Janocko never gets old of hearing. But this one did have a little different feel versus the others Clearfield has won in the past.
“No it doesn’t get old,” Janocko said. “We were going after the title, but is a little different though since we did have a playoff spot locked up. So, we were playing for pride and the District IX title.”
Now, the focus turns to the official start of post-season play. Clearfield is the top seed in the District 5-6-8-9 bracket, and will lace up the cleats one more time next week to start the “second season” as Janocko puts it.
“Now if you lose, you go home. So we have to keep working hard,” Janocko said.
Clearfield will open their PIAA playoff run next week. They will face the fourth seed, Punxsutawney, in the sub-region. The game will be played at the Bison Sports Complex, date and time to be determined.
See photos of the game here: http://www.clearfieldfootball.org/110212Game.html
ClearfieldFootball.org is reporting that next week’s sub-regional playoff between No. 4 seed Punxsutawney and No. 1 Clearfield will take place on Friday, November 9. The game will take place at the Bison Sports Complex. As of now, no start time has been released.
Official game details will likely be released at the beginning of the week.
SCORE BY QUARTER
Bradford 0 0 0 0 – 0
Clearfield 14 28 0 7 – 49
BISON: 3-yard run by Lezzer (Herrington kick), 4:51
BISON: 5-yard run by Lezzer (Herrington kick), 0:52
BISON: 23-yard run by Stratton (Herrington kick), 10:44
BISON: 4-yard run by Lezzer (Herrington kick), 4:29
BISON: 3-yard run by Stratton (Herrington kick), 1:40
BISON: 21-yard pass from Lezzer to Lord (Herrington kick), 0:37
BISON: 1-yard run by Ford (Herrington kick), 11:17
GAME STATISTICS (Bradford/Clearfield)
First Downs: 11/17
Rush Yards: 110/324
Pass Yards: 66/21
Total Yards: 176/345
Penalty Yards: 65/45
Fumbles Lost: 1/0
Time of Possession: 19:00/29:00
Bradford: Yurkewicz-15 carries, 92 yards; A. Fishkin-7 carries, 46 yards; Corignani-3 carries, 10 yards; J. Fishkin-2 carries, (-6) yards; Siffrinn-1 carry, 5 yards; McWilliams-1 carry, 3 yards; TEAM-2 carries, (-34) yards.
Clearfield: Stratton-20 carries, 143 yards, 2 TD; Lezzer-14 carries, 111 yards, 3 TD; Ford-12 carries, 73 yards, TD; Rosa-3 carries (-2) yards; Sellers-3 carries, (-4) yards; Beck-1 carry, 3 yards; Williams-1 carry, 0 yards.
Bradford: Yurkewicz-5 completions, 14 attempts, 66 yards, 2 INT
Clearfield: Lezzer-1 completion, 2 attempts, 15 yards, TD
Bradford: Teribery-2 receptions, 38 yards; J. Fishkin-2 receptions, 18 yards; Corignani-1 reception, 10 yards.
Clearfield: Lord-1 reception, 15 yards, TD.