HYDE — Fall was in the air at the Bison Sports Complex, and so were the Homecoming festivities. Although held a bit earlier this year compared to years past, it didn’t seem to make the night any less special. For a brief moment, football was not the focus. Instead it went on the individuals of the homecoming court, and who their students decided deserved to wear the crown.
At halftime, last year’s queen placed the crown upon the 2013-2014 Homecoming Queen, Colleen Mulhollan. It was tears of joy in front of many of her peers and family.
But for the rest of the night, the focus was the gridiron, specifically the homestanding Clearfield Bison. Coming off another strong win, the hope was the home crowd could give them a boost. The Huntingdon Bearcats were looking to play upset and make the night a tough one to take in, as they were coming off a tough loss from the week prior.
In the end, one single player stole the spotlight. Sure, he may have given credit to his offensive line, but his statistics were the big difference.
Clearfield’s quarterback and captain, Christian Lezzer, had the best night as a starter in his career. At the end of 48 minutes, he accounted for nearly 300 all-purpose yards, and had a career-best six touchdowns as the Bison would down the Bearcats in a high-scoring 58-30 outing.
“They had no answer for him, ” Head coach Tim Janocko said afterward. ”We had some other kids run the ball pretty well, too. And we had Ryan Lezzer get a couple of big catches, and Wyatt Flanagan had one. They just didn’t have an answer for our offense.”
It was hard to contain No. 4 all night, as by the end of the first half he was already up to 155 yards rushing, and 48 yards passing. Every touchdown except for the final two were scored by Lezzer, but Janocko credited Huntingdon for focusing on trying to stop him, but at the same time creating havoc at all times.
“I thought we did a lot of good things. We were very efficient throwing the ball when we had to. We put a lot of yards up and a lot of points up,” Janocko said.
Defensively, the Bison held their own, holding the Bearcats to 312 yards of offense, but it was clear that they were hurting. Running back and defensive back, Tyler Stratton, was looking strong in the first half, but after the first quarter did not play, appearing to be nursing either a leg or hip injury on the sideline.
“You know, we have two good corners that are freshman, but it’s tough against an offense like that to not have some struggles,” Janocko said.
Clearfield opened the night receiving the kickoff, the first time in 2013 that had occurred, and Lezzer quickly went to work using his legs, arms, and mind. Stratton got a lot of calls on the drive, picking up 17 yards on his five carries. Lezzer also connected with Wyatt Flanagan on a crossing route as the team drove all the way to the 1-yard line, which Lezzer punched in on a 3rd and short. Spencer Herrington booted the point after, and Clearfield was on top 7-0 nearly halfway into the first quarter.
On the next drive, Huntingdon seemed to be shut down in the run game, gaining only 21 yards. But on 3rd and 3, quarterback Hudson Speck found a gap in the secondary, connecting with Devon Claar on a 59-yard strike that quickly silenced the crowd. Devon Green added the point after, and the score was tied with just over four minutes remaining in the opening period.
Yet, Clearfield would not give up. On the ensuing drive, Stratton drove the ball into Bearcat territory before he would leave the game. That was not a problem as Lezzer connected with his brother, Ryan, deep down the sidelines to set up a 1st-and-goal from the 3. One play later, it was the second touchdown for the senior quarterback. Another extra point and it was 14-7 entering the second quarter.
Following a Huntingdon punt, Lezzer let the backup running back, Seth Caldwell, get his first taste of the turf for the night as his first carry went for 36 yards, being called down just before the goal line, costing him a score. It did not seem to phase Clearfield as Lezzer took the next snap right up the middle for the touchdown. Another Herrington boot and it was 21-7 barely into the second quarter.
Lezzer added his fourth touchdown on the next drive following another Bearcat punt, this one from six yards out. But after scoring 21-unanswered points, the Bearcats found life.
Their next drive started at their own 18 and began with an incomplete pass. Then, Claar found some room down the left side, and broke free for a 67-yard run down to the 15 of Clearfield. Had it not been for a shoe-string tackle, it would have been a touchdown. But, in the end Michel Lauer would take the next hand off and go that final 15 yards for the score. Another extra point cut the lead in half, with just under five minutes before the break.
Wanting to get one more score in before halftime, Janocko opted to keep the ball on the ground, and run down the clock. A healthy dose of both Lezzer and Caldwell made it easy to wear out the defense, and Lezzer finally broke free for a 12-yard touchdown down the right side. One more Herrington kick and it was a 35-14 score heading to the break.
Huntingdon would not fair any better coming out on the opening drive of the second half, as a sack near the goal line would force a long 4th and 28, and a punt. But, the center misjudged the snap and the ball went high, actually striking the goal post. By rule, it was declared a safety, and Clearfield then had a 37-14 advantage.
Unfortunately, penalties following the free kick forced Clearfield to punt for the first time all season.
Clearfield did manage to get things really rolling on their next possession, as the two Lezzers connected to start the drive on a 41-yard pass to create a 1st and goal at the 9. Christian then took the next snap in for his sixth touchdown of the game. Another extra point and it was 44-14 with 5:21 left in the third quarter.
Finally, Huntingdon answered with its own long drive, spanning nearly eight minutes and eating away yardage in small bits. No play went for more than 13 yards, but each run by Lauer and pass by Speck was methodical and took time off the clock, and tired out the Bison defense. Lauer would cap it off with a 3-yard plunge into the end zone. Claar would run in for the two-point conversion, and the score was 44-22 with 10:42 left.
Lezzer then would let his running back do the talking as after he rumbled for 33 yards to start the next drive, Caldwell would get the next two carries, capping the drive with a 14-yard boost into the black for his first touchdown of the night. One more extra point, and it was 51-22, not quite to the point of the running clock.
But Clearfield would have the opportunity on the next drive. Speck was back to pass when the defense blitzed and knocked the ball out of his grip. The Bison defense fell on the ball, and just mere minutes after their last score, they were looking for one more put-away drive to ice the game.
They got it as by this time many backups were in the game, but Caldwell got the bulk of the carries, ending the drive with a two-yard score. Herrington was true once again, and the Mercy Rule was in.
Unfortunately, it was not in for long as on the very first play of the next drive, Jacob Oliver ripped off a monster 78-yard run down the sideline for his lone touchdown of the game. He would also add on the two-point conversion, making the score 58-30. Clearfield would take the next drive and simply run out the clock.
Still undefeated on the season, Janocko is pleased where his team is at entering the mid-point of the season. It has not been great at times, but he did say he was pleased with the progress.
“I’m glad we’re 4-0,” Janocko said. ”Now we have to worry about going to Central Mountain against a Quad-A team. Nothing gets easier. There are still some big games ahead of us.”
Central Mountain got their first win of the year Friday night against Bellefonte before hosting Clearfield to close out the month of September.
See photos of the Homecoming win here: http://www.clearfieldfootball.org/092013Game.html
SCORE BY QUARTER
Huntingdon 7 7 0 16 – 30
Clearfield 14 21 9 14 – 58
BISON: 1-yard run by Lezzer (Herrington kick), 6:45
BEARCATS: 59-yard pass from Speck to Claar (Green kick), 4:04
BISON: 3-yard run by Lezzer (Herrington kick), 1:50
BISON: 1-yard run by Lezzer (Herrington kick), 11:06
BISON: 6-yard run by Lezzer (Herrington kick), 5:28
BEARCATS: 15-yard run by Lauer (Green kick), 4:42
BISON: 12-yard run by Lezzer (Herrington kick), 0:56
BISON: Safety, 10:27
BISON: 9-yard run by Lezzer (Herrington kick), 5:21
BEARCATS: 3-yard run by Lauer (Claar Run), 10:42
BISON: 14-yard run by Caldwell (Herrington kick), 9:45
BISON: 2-yard run by Caldwell (Herrington kick), 5:03
BEARCATS: 78-yard run by Oliver (Oliver run), 4:39
First Downs: 10/23
Rush Yards: 217/416
Pass Yards: 95/89
Total Yards: 312/505
Time of Possession: 19:52/28:08
Huntingdon: Lauer-15 carries, 74 yards, 2 TD; Oliver-6 carries, 88 yards, TD; Speck-5 carries, (-32) yards; Claar-3 carries, 77 yards.
Clearfield: C. Lezzer-25 carries, 203 yards, 6 TD; Caldwell-17 carries, 119 yards, 2 TD; Stratton-8 carries, 37 yards (Left game after 1st quarter, leg/hip); Sellers-3 carries, 25 yards; Shimmel-3 carries, 34 yards; TEAM-1 carry, (-1) yards.
Huntingdon: Speck-5 for 15, 95 yards, TD.
Clearfield: C. Lezzer-3 for 5, 89 yards.
Huntingdon: Kidd-2 catches, 23 yards; Claar-1 catch 59 yards, TD; Lauer-1 catch 13 yards, Peters-1 catch, 0 yards.
Clearfield: R. Lezzer-2 catches, 73 yards; Flanagan-1 catch, 16 yards.