During the course of the year, the Clearfield Bison knew that there would be challenging games on their schedule. The first game is the first test to see how they will be as a unit, the first road game is always a difficult task, and then facing a strong team early on gave them a chance to push themselves.
But now, as the Bison return home to their own field, and their own fans, they are in for the most difficult challenge they will have all season long.
This week, Clearfield is putting their undefeated record to the ultimate test, as coming in to try and knock them off is the one-loss Tyrone Golden Eagles.
A year ago, this game was a battle of desire, heart, and yardage. Clearfield went up early in the first half, but Tyrone battled back to come within one-point of the lead. Thanks to a blocked extra point, Clearfield held the advantage. But when they got the ball back late, Clearfield started running out of downs to try and ice the game. At the same time, Tyrone used up their time outs. It came down to a 4th and 2 play with about a minute left to decide the contest. Head coach Tim Janocko called time out, and admitted afterward that he was considering punting the ball back.
But his offense told him on the sidelines, “We can get two yards.” So he sent the squad back out, and the quarterback keeper went to the line and then plunged forward.
When officials measured, the black and red sideline went insane, as Clearfield gained the first down, and achieved their signature win of the season with the 14-13 triumph.
This year’s game could come down to yet another one of those games, because both teams are extremely good on both sides of the ball, meaning once again yardage could become critical right from the opening kickoff.
The Golden Eagles are averaging 139 yards passing and 220 yards rushing per game, a very balanced attack, and one that can eat up defenses if they are not careful. Senior quarterback Erik Wagner has been extremely strong passing the ball, going 46-for-81 so far this season, passing for 750 yards, seven touchdowns and only three interceptions. But what makes him so potent is the fact that he has so many weapons in the passing game to throw to.
Five different receivers have a touchdown reception this year, with junior Nicholas Getz getting the most yards thus far through the year, 283. But also look at James Oliver and Silas Crawford to also be big in the passing game, each with over 181 yards catching this season so far.
On the ground, Oliver has just been a bull when rushing. He is just 172 yards from the 1000-yard mark on the season, and has 14 touchdowns to his name. However, against a very strong Clearfield defensive line and linebacker bunch, getting to that mark could be rather difficult.
Offensively, the Bison are practically mirroring the Golden Eagles, but if Tyrone wants to win the game, they indeed need to stop the run, and stop it early.
A week ago, quarterback Christian Lezzer got a much needed rest against Bellefonte. He was averaging about 26 carries a game, and it was starting to show. So, Janocko elected to let his lead player on offense get a breather, as he only ran eight times, but provided two touchdowns in the game that was a 49-13 rout.
Do not expect the same this week, as Lezzer now will have fresh legs, and has a major desire to lead his team to victory.
He is only 115 yards away from breaking the 1000-yard mark on the season, and there is a chance he could either break it or get mighty close. His 16 rushing touchdowns this season lead the team, but after last week it also means that he and teammates Tyler Stratton and Eric Sellers could provide some new wrinkles in the game.
Sellers had a great performance in his first career start at quarterback, throwing for a touchdown and leading the first-team offense to a great game, but in doing so it opened up the running and passing game, with Lezzer often lining up at receiver, and even Stratton sitting at quarterback taking snaps.
Stratton himself has 664 yards rushing thus far this year, with 11 touchdowns, so he is just as potent out of the backfield as Lezzer.
Quite possibly the silver bullet for the Bison is their freshman tailback and corner, Seth Caldwell. He has provided some great excitement all year long, rushing for 475 yards and five touchdowns, but defensively has provided 12 tackles, plus two interceptions, including one two weeks ago against Central Mountain that was returned for a touchdown. He possibly could be the one player that on both sides of the ball could create havoc for Tyrone.
In the end, this game could be a mirror image of a year ago, coming down to the last drive, or the last big play. This means the crowd will be extra excited for each moment.
Do not expect many seats to be open at the Bison Sports Complex, as it could turn into a standing-room only crowd long before kickoff. In what has been voted the WTAJ-TV Game of the Week by viewers, this is one game that will be a defining moment for both teams, no matter who wins or loses.
Kickoff at the Bison Sports Complex is at 7 p.m.
|08/30||ST. JOAN OF ARC||45 – 7||1 – 0|
|09/06||PENNS VALLEY||37 – 15||2 – 0|
|09/13||@ Central||35 – 20||3 – 0|
|09/20||HUNTINGDON||58 – 30||4 – 0|
|09/27||@ Central Mountain||49 – 13||5 – 0|
|10/04||@ Bellefonte||49 – 13||6 – 0|
|10/18||BALD EAGLE AREA|