HYDE-Every now and then, in the modern era of football where it’s a lot of spread offense, read-options, and quarterback heavy play, an old-school football game is one of the more exciting ones to watch. A battle in the trenches, seeing whether the offensive line will create opportunities on the ground, or whether the defense will make the opposition one-dimensional.
For the folks that surrounded the Bison Sports Complex on Friday night, that is exactly what they got.
Both the Clearfield Bison and the visiting Central Mountain Wildcats seemed to opt for the same game strategy of winning the game out front, and shorten the game. Early on, it seemed as though neither side would find that advantage. However, that thought did not last.
In the final 24 minutes of action, the Bison took control. The offensive line created opportunities, while the defense locked down to ensure a grand finish. Clearfield looked at the scoreboard, and then to the grandstands following an extremely tough, grueling 28-7 victory over the Wildcats.
Head coach Tim Janocko acknowledged that Central Mountain came in with a strategy they didn’t anticipate for, but praised his team in their ability to adapt.
“They (Central Mountain) had a good game plan, and did some things they had not shown before. Credit to our kids to find a way to win,” he said. “They wanted to take some people out of the game, and we did some other things to counter-punch, and we won.”
Both teams decided the way to go in this game was to test the front line, and see who had the better edge. Central Mountain, physically, came in with a size advantage on both sides of the ball. However, Clearfield’s line asserted it’s power early, and often. The Bison held Central Mountain to only 128 yards of total offense, including just 33 yards in the second half.
Janocko credited his offensive line for their play, especially in the ground game.
“You have Dylan Fenton at center, Richard Massimino, Mat Collins, Zach Horton, Noah Johnson, and Logan Stover. There’s six of them that work in there. Those kids rotate around, took control of the game,” he said.
Early on, that control was tough to come by. Central Mountain’s lone score of the game came courtesy of the opening drive. Quarterback Justin Neff started his night strong, handling the ball for all but three plays of the opening 13-play series, which took over half the quarter to complete. He capped off the long drive with a 22-yard sprint down the left sideline to open the scoring. Austyn Carson booted the extra point, giving the Wildcats the opening lead in the game.
After that drive, the Bison defense put the brakes on the senior quarterback. His night ended with 78 yards rushing, and a mere 28 yards passing. His passing yards all came in the first half.
Clearfield answered back two possessions later. After seeing the first drive end on an interception, Bison quarterback Issac Rumery settled himself down and led the charge into the second quarter. The Bison tied the game on a fourth down strike from Rumery to Micah Heichel, the lone passing touchdown either team achieved on the night, plus Josh Serena’s right foot added on the extra point.
When needed, the Bison defense tightened up and forced a punt on the next drive. The ensuing possession was another strong one for Rummery, but this time thanks to his legs instead of his arm.
Rumery put his feet to use, and utilizing the blocking of the offensive line, capped a 12-play drive with a 16-yard run to the end zone that saw him break tackles and jive past defenders. Serena booted the extra point and it was 14-7 heading into halftime.
“Our quarterback made some good runs. He struggled a little bit with some things throwing, but he came back. He’s learning to keep his composure,” Janocko said of his young signal-caller.
Central Mountain decided to change things up to start the second half, and caught Clearfield off-guard. The kickoff from Carson sailed short, but no Bison special team player grabbed the ball. Due to the distance traveled, the Wildcats pounced on the opportunity, taking the loose ball on the kickoff and suddenly had the opening possession.
But, despite the gimmick that set up Central Mountain with a short field, the drive would end in a punt. Both teams would struggle early in the third quarter, yielding no points and little yardage.
That was until 6:20 remaining in the frame, when Clearfield took over on downs at their own 18.
At that moment, the defining drive of the game and the Bison offense began. It was run after run, mainly by senior stand out Seth Caldwell, that ate up yardage. No run on the drive was more than eight yards. The game in the trenches was being dominated by Clearfield, while wearing out the Central Mountain defense. The drive ran out the remainder of the third quarter, and continued deep into the final quarter. Nearly 12 minutes went off the clock thanks to the Bison.
A drive that took 21 plays, the longest drive the Bison have put together in the last five years, saw Caldwell handle the ball all but seven times. He capped off the marathon series with a 1-yard plunge into the end zone. That run would be his final one of the night, as he finished with 120 yards rushing and the lone touchdown. Serena added the extra point, and the two-score gap meant the Wildcats needed to do something quick.
“What can you say about Seth Caldwell. He just gets better as the game goes on,” Janocko said of his tail back.
The Wildcats managed to get a needed boost as Neff took the ensuing kickoff at his own 10-yard line, and returned it just past mid-field, dodging tackles in the process.
Janocko praised the ability of Neff on the night, saying that he was everything he and the team expected, but especially on his ability to get away from tackles.
“Thing about him is that he’s hard to get a square hit on, so he’s very elusive. So we had to get more people to the ball, and we did,” he said.
However, that momentum that Neff brought quickly ended. On 1st and 10, an illegal shift moved the team back five yards. A false start on the next attempt pushed Central Mountain back another five yards.
On 1st and 20, Neff’s lone mistake on the night would be the one to put the nail in the game.
Neff went back to pass, looking for Evan Prough over the center of the defense. Instead, Collins decided to snag the ball out of the air.
He wasn’t done yet. The big linebacker showed that he is powerful, but also can be extremely fast when duty calls. After picking the ball off at his own 42, Collins followed his defense down the Bison sideline. The dominant linebacker would rumble to the end zone, securing the pick-six, and ultimately sealing the game for the home squad.
“Mat Collins…if you’re in college, he’s what you’re looking for. He’s someone special,” Janocko said.
Central Mountain went three-and-out on the next possession, and at that point Clearfield let the underclassmen get some playing time, and ran out the remainder of the clock to victory.
The Bison (4-1) get the luxury of having back-to-back home games for the first time this season. Next week they return to the Bison Sports Complex to host the Bellefonte Red Raiders. Bellefonte (3-2) is coming off a stunning upset victory against Tyrone, in Tyrone, by a 14-13 final.
It is homecoming night for the Bison. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m., and will also include the Alumni Band performing the alma mater alongside the current Clearfield Bison Marching Band.
SCORE BY QUARTER
Cn. Mountain 7 0 0 0 – 7
Clearfield 0 14 0 14 – 28
WILDCATS: 22-yard run by Neff (Carson kick), 5:06
BISON: 15-yard pass from Rumery to Heichel (Serena kick), 9:29
BISON: 16-yard run by Rumery (Serena kick), 0:17
BISON: 1-yard run by Caldwell (Serena kick), 7:39
BISON: 58-yard interception return by Collins (Serena kick), 7:16
First Downs: 6/16
Rushing Yards: 100/222
Passing Yards: 28/66
Total Yards: 128/288
Time Of Possession: 20:49/27:11
Central Mountain: Neff-18 carries, 78 yards, TD; Houtz-6 carries, 13 yards; Weaver-2 carries, 9 yards; Ishler-1 carry, 0 yards; Team-1 carry, (-1) yards.
Clearfield: Caldwell-27 carries, 120 yards, TD; Rumery-10 carries, 50 yards, TD; Bender-8 carries, 51 yards; Team-2 carries, (-2) yards; McGonigal-1 carry, 3 yards.
Central Mountain: Neff-4 for 10, 28 yards, INT.
Clearfield: Rumery-5 for 12, 66 yards, TD, 2 INT.
Central Mountain: Heverly-1 catch, 15 yards; Carson-1 catch, 11 yards; Prough-1 catch, 6 yards; Eck-1 catch, (-4) yards.
Clearfield: Heichel-3 catches, 44 yards, TD; Lynch-1 catch, 21 yards; McGonigal-1 catch, 1 yard.