HUNTINGDON — If there is a word to describe the 2016 edition of the Clearfield Bison football team, that word would be gritty. Through the first three weeks of the season, the black and red squad has gone toe-to-toe with tough opponents, winning two of those contests, but with no game being decided by more than 10 points. There were no easy games, nor were there any easy downs in any of those games.
Add in the fact that in the first month of action, the Bison would be on the road for three of the first four games, the third of which came Friday night as they loaded up the buses to visit War Vets Stadium in Huntingdon to take on the Bearcats.
Once again, it was a game where neither team would yield easily, and it took all 48 minutes to see who would come out on the better end of the scoreboard.
That team was the one dressed in white, as the Bison used a dominant second half including a shut down fourth quarter from the defense, to achieve a 35-21 victory over the Bearcats.
When asked about all these close games early in the season, head coach Tim Janocko was quick to point out it wasn’t just the first four games that would likely have that kind of feeling.
“It’s gonna be like that this the whole year I think. We have that kind of team, we just keep battling and battling till we get our chance,” he said.
Janocko’s team had struggles in the first half, as the Bearcat offense used big plays to get out to the early lead. The first came on the third play from scrimmage when quarterback Andrew Hudy launched a 65-yard bomb down the left sidelines that landed right in the hands of Jonathan Price. Had it not been for the secondary being right there, that pass would have meant six points.
One play later, it did as Ian Border took the 11-yard run to the end zone to give the Bearcats the first lead of the night. Tim Lightner added the extra point to make it 7-0 not even two minutes into the game.
But Clearfield answered right back with their own big pass, this one coming from Isaac Rumery to Micah Heichel for 38 yards on their first play from scrimmage.
That big play started an eight-play, 59-yard drive that concluded when Rumery lunged into the end zone for a 5-yard touchdown. Josh Serena added the extra point to knot the game up at seven points each, where it remained through the remainder of the quarter.
Neither squad had much momentum through the remainder of the quarter, and it wasn’t until 4:10 remaining in the half when Clearfield made its next statement. However, the original statement came from the defense. Huntingdon started the drive at their own 23, but thanks to a pair of sacks and 15 yards in penalties, they were forced to punt from their own 1-yard line. Hudy took the punt in the shadow of his back pylon, and managed to get the kick away. But, the kick was pitiful, coming off the side of his foot and hooking like a golf ball after a bad swing. The punt only traveled 11 yards, landing out of bounds and bouncing to the outside fence.
The short field meant three plays and into the end zone it would be for the Bison, this time thanks to Seth Caldwell on a 6-yard rumble. Serena added the extra point to give the Bison the 14-7 lead.
Unfortunately for Clearfield, the momentum they had quickly evaporated on their next drive.
The Bearcat defense forced a punt, but the special teams took care of the big play of the game. Peyton Preister saw the snap go over his head, and he tried to cover the ball to at least save himself. But the opposition got to it first, as Colton Reitenbaugh picked up the loose ball and made it to the end zone. The point after tied the game back up at 14, giving Huntingdon momentum heading into the locker room.
“You don’t want to give away points like that. Mistakes happen,” Janocko said of the fumbled snap turned touchdown.
Neither team found much momentum in the first half, combining for just under 300 total yards. The same thing seemed to be coming in the second half when Clearfield started with the ball, but saw their first drive come to a halt thanks to Border intercepting Rumery, his second of the night.
That interception led to an 11-yard touchdown from Hudy to put the Bearcats back in the lead, 21-14, following the point after.
However, it was at that moment that the Bison began to dig their cleats into the grass and bear down on the opposition.
In the second half, the Bison defense came up huge, holding the Huntingdon offense to just 56 total yards in the final 24 minutes. Beginning at the 4:11 mark in the third quarter, it was the Bison offense that would take over.
Rumery would have his longest run of the season on the Bison’s final drive of the quarter, a 34-yard dash down the right sideline on a 2nd-and-13 after Clearfield was tagged with an illegal block penalty. Caldwell capped off the drive with a 1-yard push, and Serena’s right foot tied the game up at 21-all entering the final quarter.
In that final quarter, Caldwell finally broke out and showed why the Bison have relied on him for the last three years in the backfield.
With 8:35 remaining in the game, the score still tied, Rumery handed the ball to the senior, and Caldwell’s legs went to work. He broke several tackles and got into the open field for a 56-yard gain to put the Bison in opposing territory. That drive concluded when Rumery connected, in a mirror image from last week’s game against Central, with Micah Heichel over the middle of the field past the secondary. The 31-yard touchdown pass and Serena’s kick gave Clearfield the 28-21 lead.
With the lead, and time on their side, the Bison defense went to work and kept the Bearcats from getting any momentum. The drive following the score would be three-and-out, and Huntingdon began looking tired.
“We were real physical in the first half, and I think us being physical wore them down. There wasn’t as much spring in their step in the second half,” Janocko said.
The final drive for the Bison was all about milking time off the clock, but it ended up being another notch in the belt, or in this case sticker on the helmet for Caldwell. After already having one long run on the night, his second of the evening came as a surprise, simply because it wasn’t necessary.
On 3rd-and-7, Huntingdon had just used their final time out of the half. All the Bison needed to do was get the first down, and the clock would run to close out the night. Caldwell got the nod to get the job done, and he would pick up the needed yardage…but didn’t stop. He broke through the line, got past the linebackers, and sprinted past the secondary for a 45-yard touchdown that iced the game for the Bison.
In the second half, Caldwell rushed for 127 of his 154 yards, 48 of which came on the final drive. Janocko knew he had a special player when Caldwell began getting carries as a freshman, and has figured out what kind of back he has become.
“Seth is the kind of back where the more he touches the ball, the better he gets. That’s a sign of a good back. Credit to him, and credit to our offensive line,” Janocko said. “That (touchdown) was huge. We just wanted to get a first down there, and he takes it for a touchdown. That was the game.”
Huntingdon had two and a half minutes left in the game to try and go down the field to make it more interesting, but Hudy and Border would combine to gain no yardage, and turned the ball over on downs, leaving the Bison to just kneel and close out the night.
The Bison now sit at 3-1 as they head into the middle portion of their season, which will start with back-to-back games at the Bison Sports Complex. Next week, the Bison will host Central Mountain, a school that has gone up in class, and is very familiar to Janocko and his staff. Already looking ahead, he’s aware that no game at this point, after having the first four be back-and-forth contests, will be a give away.
“They don’t get any easier. (Central Mountain) is a (Class) AAAAA school, but it will be good to be home,” he said.
Kickoff next week is tabbed for 7 p.m.
SCORE BY QUARTER
Clearfield 7 7 7 14 – 35
Huntingdon 7 7 7 0 – 21
BEARCATS: 11-yard run by Border (Lightner kick), 10:11
BISON: 5-yard run by Rumery (Serena kick), 6:44
BISON: 6-yard run by Caldwell (Serena kick), 4:10
BEARCATS: 13-yard fumble return by Reitenbaugh (Lightner kick), 0:25
BEARCATS: 11-yard run by Hudy (Lightner kick), 8:24
BISON: 1-yard run by Caldwell (Serena kick), 1:12
BISON: 31-yard pass from Rumery to Heichel (Serena kick), 6:33
BISON: 45-yard run by Caldwell (Serena kick), 2:33
First Downs: 11/6
Rushing Yards: 229/104
Passing Yards: 146/95
Total Yards: 375/199
Time of Possession: 26:39/21:21
Clearfield: Caldwell-21 carries, 154 yards, 3 TD; Rumery-15 carries, 65 yards, TD; Lezzer-3 carries, 13 yards; McGonigal-2 carries, 0 yards; Team-3 carries, (-2) yards.
Huntingdon: Border-15 carries, 49 yards, TD; Hudy-15 carries, 13 yards, TD; Glenny-3 carries, 42 yards.
Clearfield: Rumery-6 for 16, 146 yards, TD, 2 INT.
Huntingdon: Hudy-6 for 12, 95 yards, INT.
Clearfield: Heichel-3 catches, 123 yards, TD; Lynch-2 catches, 13 yards; Lezzer-1 catch, 10 yards.
Huntingdon: Werner-4 catches, 29 yards; Price-1 catch, 65 yards; Glenny-1 catch, 1 yard.
|08/26||@ DuBois||20 – 30||0 – 1|
|09/02||@ Penns Valley||21 – 7||1 – 1|
|09/09||CENTRAL||30 – 28||2 – 1|
|09/16||@ Huntingdon||35 – 21||3 – 1|
|10/14||@ Bald Eagle Area|