The time has come where kids are ready to get back to their 180-day routine that runs from September all the way through early June. The yellow school buses will be on the road, picking up students in their return to school with their new backpacks and notebooks, ready for another year of knowledge in the classroom.
For the first few months of the year, it also means another tradition. Come the end of this week, some of those students get to wear their school colors a different way. It involves strapping on some heavy pads on the shoulders, chest and back. A helmet then goes on, along with some cleats.
The Friday night tradition of turning on stadium lights to see students represent their school pride returns, and for the Clearfield Bison, it means another season of District IX competition. Head coach Tim Janocko and his staff return a team that a year ago was very young, but was hungry. That squad would start the season losing two of its first three games, but would end up winning their final six contests, putting them in the driver’s seat towards another Class AAA championship. That title was accomplished, and another trip to the playoffs was achieved.
A season that had seen comebacks and dominance ended in a disappointing 27-0 shutout in the District 5-6-8-9 title game against Somerset, bringing the end to a 9-3 season that saw maturing each week in all positions.
Janocko admits he still has a young team, but this season he has a young team with experience, and already has shown strides in their two scrimmages against Punxsutawney and DuBois.
“I like our team. Our kids have worked hard, and there’s potential here. Now the season starts. It’s a fun time of year,” Janocko said Friday night following their scrimmage against DuBois. “We have 12 seniors, so we have a lot of younger kids. But those younger kids are experienced.”
One key returning player to the Bison this season is their tall senior quarterback, Cody Spaid. Last year he was part of a dual-quarterback scheme with Eric Sellers, and still went 54-for-136 on the season, tossing 12 touchdowns compared to just seven interceptions. This season, the massive 6′ 6″ senior is at the reins for the entire year, looking to improve on his performance from a season ago. As the 2014 season progressed, so did his confidence and his abilities.
All the work he put in over the spring and summer was showing against DuBois as he tossed three touchdown passes in his playing time, something that Janocko was proud to see out of his tall quarterback.
“I have been really happy with Cody’s preseason. He’s got more confidence, handles the ball well, and he’s moving well in the pocket,” he said.
The Bison return a lot of experience in the running game for 2015, as both Seth Caldwell and Cory Shimmel return to take care of the ground work. After a surprising freshman season and a breakout sophomore run, Caldwell comes in for his third year on the varsity squad with more agility, quickness, and speed. Caldwell finished 2014 with 995 yards on the ground, averaging just under five yards a carry, and seven touchdowns.
Joining him is a player who had one incredible breakout year a year ago in Shimmel, who ran for 510 yards on the season and five touchdowns. However, it’s unclear how Shimmel will do this season as he’s coming in with a slight handicap.
“He’s coming back off that injury, and you can see him progressing,” Janocko said. Shimmel suffered a knee injury during the basketball season that sidelined him for the year, and he was wearing a brace on the knee that was hurt, so it is unclear if it will hinder his performance on the field for this season.
When it comes to catching the ball, all eyes are pointing towards Ryan Lezzer, the younger brother of former standout Bison quarterback turned linebacker at Boston College Christian Lezzer. Last year, he led the entire team with 31 catches for 599 yards and nine touchdowns. All those numbers came from just his sophomore season, and could be even higher for the 2015 run.
Once again to start the season, the Bison will be playing a team not only outside the Mountain League, not just outside the Class AAA ranks, but a team that is from out of state. The 2015 season begins Friday with a visit from the Fort Hill Sentinels, who are traveling from Cumberland, Maryland, to take the field at the Bison Sports Complex. After facing a Canadian team in the past and traveling to Keyser, WV last year, this will be the toughest season-opening contest of the last five years for Janocko and his Clearfield squad.
Janocko knows his team is ready for it, but also knows what the Sentinels bring to the field.
“They are a big time team. Two-time state champ, 29-game winning streak coming in. It’s going to be a tough test, but it’s a test we want right now,” Janocko said.
Trying to end a streak that has spanned for more than two seasons will be an uphill battle for the Bison to kick off the year, but Janocko believes it’s what the team needs to get them prepared for their ultimate goal. Every year the Bison are looked at as being the top team in Class AAA for District IX, and this season they are going after a sixth-consecutive championship in the class.
“That is a lot of motivation, you got that right,” Janocko said with a chuckle.
It is time for the “boys of fall” to take the field for real, and the Bison Sports Complex is ready to welcome the new squad to the field for the first time this Friday night. The lights will shine as Clearfield and Fort Hill will kick off at 7 p.m.
2015 Clearfield Bison Football Schedule
All Varsity games kick off on Friday evenings at 7 p.m.
- 4: FORT HILL HIGH SCHOOL (Cumberland, MD)
- 11: PENNS VALLEY
- 18: @ Central-Martinsburg
- 25: HUNTINGDON
- 2: @ Brockway
- 9: @ Bellefonte
- 16: TYRONE
- 23: BALD EAGLE
- 30: @ Philipsburg-Osceola
- 6: District IX Championship