DUBOIS — Normally, kids have already gotten the experience of getting on the bus for the first day of school, all the while when their parents are taking snaps of them in their new outfits as they send them off for another year of education. This year, those parents saw some of their sons get on the bus for the first time this year for a different reason.
The Clearfield Area School District doesn’t officially start their calendar year until Monday, but the Bison football team actually got to load up the buses a few days early. The 2016 season, unlike last year, meant a road trip, but also a renewal of a rivalry that last saw action back in 2009. The Bison made a short trip up Rt. 322 and over Rockton Mountain to descend on E.J. Mansel Stadium for a battle on the turf against the DuBois Beavers, a team that they normally would scrimmage against before the year would begin.
This time, the score would count, and the fans on both sides of the field would not be disappointed at the effort put forth by both teams.
Unfortunately for the visitors, squandered opportunities and untimely, and extremely costly, turnovers would spell their doom. When the clock struck zero, the Beavers were the ones celebrating a 30-20 victory, handing Clearfield its third straight opening-game loss, and their third loss to the Beavers dating back to 2008.
“Turnovers killed us tonight. DuBois is good; they are a big and physical team, so you can’t take anything away from them. Their quarterback is a running back, and he gave us problems,” head coach Tim Janocko said afterwards. “Our turnovers put our defense on the field too many times.”
An interception by sophomore quarterback Isaac Rumery, making his first-career start after being the backup to Cody Spaid a year ago, plus a fumble from Ryan Lezzer were the two turnovers that doomed Clearfield, as both were converted into points.
On the other side of the ball, DuBois had a pure rookie at quarterback, in the truest sense. Braden Paulinellie is listed as a running back on the roster for the Beavers, but junior Matt Miller was injured prior to the start of the season, and the senior running back was the one tabbed to take the snaps for this night. In his four years on the squad, not only did he never play quarterback, but he never took a snap.
But, Paulinellie decided to rely on what he’s best known for, and that’s his feet.
He would rumble on this night for 194 yards on 25 carries, three of those carries resulting in touchdowns.
Head coach Frank Varischetti knew it was risky by putting someone who’s never taken a snap as the signal-caller, but knew that he had a special player that could cause panic for the opposition.
“Never taken a snap at quarterback since he’s been playing for us, but he did what he does best and that’s run the ball, and made a few passes when needed to. He’s a great player,” Varischetti said of his running back-turned quarterback.
After exchanging opening series, it was the Beavers that made the first big play of the game as it was special teams doing the bidding. Peyton Priester had his fourth-down punt attempt batted right back in his face following a high snap, setting up the Beavers with a short field starting at the Bison 21. However, the defense stood up and kept DuBois from doing the most damage, holding the Beavers to a 4th-and-Goal at the 6-yard line. Carson Hanna made sure the drive wouldn’t go empty as he booted the 23-yard field goal to open the scoring, and gave the home squad the early 3-0 advantage.
The Bison would experience their next setback one drive later. Faced with a 3rd-and-10, Rumery would drop back and get flushed to his right. He would try to thread the pass before going out of bounds, but Paulinellie made his presence felt on defense as he intercepted the ball, the first turnover of the night.
The ensuing eight-play drive was capped off by the impromptu quarterback on a one-yard plunge into the end zone for the first touchdown of the night. Hanna saw his extra point sail left, leaving the score 9-0 through the end of the quarter.
Clearfield would get on the scoreboard on their second drive of the second quarter, as last year’s star running back, senior Seth Caldwell, capped off a six-play drive on a 7-yard rush to pay dirt. Josh Serena was true on his point-after, pulling the visitors to within two points, 9-7.
Sadly, those moments of joy lasted a mere 55 seconds.
On 1st an 10 from their own 39, the Beavers saw their quarterback become the running back he’s normally set as on the roster. After finding a gap on the left side, Paulinellie turned up the speed, and 61 yards later the sirens of the DuBois fire department truck went off for the second touchdown of the night. Hanna was successful on his point-after, and the lead was back up to nine points, 16-7.
Rumery would find his rhythm on the next drive, as he trusted his line to protect him and to get both Caldwell and Ryan Lezzer some running room, but then when it mattered the most, he trusted his arm. Faced with 3rd-and-16 following a sack, Rumery reached back and launched a pass over the linebackers, focused on Micah Heichel who was in stride past the secondary. The ball sailed just a bit, but landed right in Heichel’s gloves, and it was onto the races. The 61-yard touchdown pass, plus the extra point, made it a 16-14 score at the break.
That pass highlighted a strong first outing for the sophomore, as he would go 8-for-16, for 166 yards, and the one touchdown plus the one interception.
Clearfield opened the second half on offense, and looked a lot like the Bison squad from a year ago. Nothing thrilling, or special, but a strong drive that focused on Caldwell and Lezzer doing a bulk of the ball carrying But it was Rumery who would cap it off with his eight-yard dash up the middle to the end zone. Janocko elected to go for two so that the lead would equal a touchdown, but Caldwell’s efforts were stopped. Yet, the Bison were out front for the first time on the night with the 20-16 advantage.
In the second half, we came out and didn’t look real good, they went right down the field and made some nice adjustments on us. Coach Janocko is a good coach,” Varischetti said.
The Bison defense stood tall on the next drive, stopping Paulinellie on fourth down, and it seemed as though momentum had moved in the favor of the white jerseys.
That momentum was immediately stopped three plays later. Lezzer took a handoff and went up the middle. However, the Beaver defense knocked the pigskin right from his grasp, and the fumble would be recovered by DuBois in Bison territory.
While Paulinellie did get some carries on the drive following the turnover, it was Brock Adams that got the honor of putting the points on the board with his lone touchdown of the night. Hanna’s extra point made the score 23-20 Beavers heading into the final quarter of play.
After being stopped on fourth down, the Beavers would put the ball in the end zone on the first play of the fourth quarter, and it was Paulinellie that once again did that with his two-yard punch across the goal line. The 10-point gap was still small, and with 11:55 to go in the game, Janocko and his team were not giving in.
The ensuing drive after the Beavers’ score would define how tough DuBois was on this night. After starting at their own 30, the Bison would rely on Lezzer and Caldwell on the ground, but it was Rumery’s right arm that would help them get down the field thanks to a pair of passes hauled in by Heichel to get them inside the five-yard line. But then, things began shutting down. On first down, Caldwell was halted for no gain. Rumery’s pass on second down fell short. Lezzer was pushed out of bounds on third down, and that left one down to decide the game.
In a scene that had eerie reminders of the Seahawks and Patriots from Super Bowl XLIX, Rumery’s fourth down pass was knocked away at the goal line, meaning a turnover on downs.
“That was the series of the game, when we were up 10, and we stopped them four times at the four-yard line and our offensive line took over from there,” Varischetti said.
DuBois would drive the ball down the field to the Bison 37, but were stopped on fourth down. Following the final time out for Clearfield, the Beavers came out ready to go for it on fourth down ready to try and ice the game. However, they didn’t need to do much because the hard count caught the Bison, and the lone penalty they were docked on the night gave DuBois a free first down, and three kneel downs by Paulinellie ensured the victory by the Beavers.
Janocko said afterwards that they had to improve on defense, and maybe the team had some first-game jitters, but did not use that as an excuse. Instead, he looked ahead to how the team would respond at their next game, and even at their next practice.
“It’s what you do after you get smacked. We’ve been able to, in the past, bounce back, and I expect us to do the same,” he said afterwards. “We got smacked here, but it was a good football game. We had opportunities to win it, but just didn’t make the plays needed in the second half.”
Meanwhile, Varischetti was taking in the victory, especially since after a few years of seeing the rivalry between Clearfield and DuBois only happen as a scrimmage. He made sure to emphasize one key part of the win, which was the play of Paulinellie.
“Anytime you can beat your rival, with a backup quarterback in there, it’s a good day,” Varischetti said with a smile.
Clearfield (0-1) is on the road once again next week as they will travel to Penns Valley. Dubois (1-0) will host Conneaut Area. Both games are set for a 7 p.m. kickoff.
SCORE BY QUARTER
Clearfield 0 14 6 0 – 20
Dubois 9 7 7 7 – 30
Beavers: 23-yard field goal by Hanna, 4:40
Beavers: 1-yard run by Paulinellie (Hanna kick wide left), 0:56
Bison: 7-yard run by Caldwell (Serena kick), 6:43
Beavers: 61-yard run by Paulinellie (Hanna kick), 5:48
Bison: 51-yard pass from Rumery to Heichel (Serena kick), 2:13
Bison: 8-yard run by Rumery (Caldwell run failed), 8:28
Beavers: 7-yard run by Adams (Hanna kick), 3:55
Beavers: 2-yard run by Paulinellie (Hanna kick), 11:55
First Downs: 12/21
Rush Yards: 132/317
Pass Yards: 166/103
Total Yards: 298/420
Time of Possession: 21:51/26:09
Clearfield: Caldwell-16 carries, 58 yards, TD; Rumery-10 carries, 35 yards, TD; Lezzer-6 carries, 39 yards; Team-1 carry, 0 yards.
Dubois: Paulinellie-25 carries, 194 yards, 3 TD; Adams-12 carries, 92 yards, TD; Kruzelak-7 carries, 46 yards, Team-3 carries, (-15) yards.
Clearfield: Rumery-8 for 16, 166 yards, TD, INT.
Dubois: Paulinellie-14 for 20, 103 yards, INT.
Clearfield: Heichel-5 catches, 115 yards, TD; Lezzer-2 catches, 40 yards; Royer-1 catch 11 yards.
DuBois: Hanna-5 catches, 38 yards; Saunders-3 catches, 39 yards; Adams-2 catches, 20 yards; Kruzelak-2 catches, 7 yards; McCluskey-2 catches, (-1) yards.
|08/26||@ DuBois||20 – 30||0 – 1|
|09/02||@ Penns Valley|
|10/14||@ Bald Eagle Area|