HYDE — With Halloween just a few days away, the treat for the Clearfield Bison on this Friday night was to honor the players who have spent the majority of their high school tenure suiting up in red and black. The treats kept coming as they walked with their family in front of their peers, while they took in the admiration. The biggest treat they could attain was being able to represent their school each week, win or lose, with pride.
On this night, however, there was one big trick to take in. While all the seniors were being honored, across the field would be the toughest challenge of the entire season.
In an ironic matchup, coming to the Bison Sports Complex were the state-ranked Karns City Gremlins, keeping with the Halloween theme. Last week, head coach Tim Janocko felt that his team when they looked at their schedule for the final game of the season, maybe bit off more than they could chew for a season finale.
But, statistically, these two were a very even match-up. The Gremlins, like the Bison, came into the contest at 8-1. Karns City averaged 41 points per game, while Clearfield averaged 30. Karns City held their opponents to an average of 9.1 points a game, with Clearfield holding their opposition to just over 10 per game.
This was looking to be a game that would be close, and that is exactly what the fans would get.
Both squads would see spurts of dominance, only to see the other team come back. However, on this night, when it mattered most, it wasn’t a senior that made the biggest plays. Instead, it was a sophomore quarterback named Issac Rumery that showed how far he has come along in just his first season as the signal-caller for the Bison. He took control of the Bison, and led his offense on a charge not just to close out the first half, but also the second half. When the dust settled, the Bison looked at the scoreboard to see the realization that they were on the better end of a 35-28 score, taking down a team that is likely on their way to a deep playoff run.
“They are state ranked for a reason,” Janocko said afterwards about the Gremlins. “They are a fantastic football team, and are well coached. It was a good, clean, hard-fought football game. We just made plays.”
Janocko couldn’t speak enough about his quarterback. Rumery had a career night at the helm of the Clearfield offense, throwing for 294 yards, completing 15-of-25 passes, and throwing three touchdowns compared to one interception.
Rumery waited his turn to take the field as the Gremlins would take the field to start the game, and quickly went to work eating up yardage. Big runs by running back Cullen Williams and quarterback Jacob King put Karns City into the red zone. But on a 2nd-and-5, Eric Dodd got the carry, only to see the ball snagged from his grip. The loose ball got scooped up by the Bison defense, forcing the first turnover of the night.
Sadly for the Bison, they could do nothing with their opening drive, and had to punt the ball back to the visiting squad.
The second possession for the Gremlins didn’t end as abruptly, but did have its own trick to getting on the board. Willams came in motion from the left side and took the toss from King, but suddenly slowed up. He changed the grip on the ball and it was clear his intention. The half-back pass was the call, and his deep ball down the right sidelines hit an open Jimmy Thompson for the opening touchdown. Kaiden Powers then added the extra point, and the Gremlins had the early 7-0 advantage.
Clearfield went three-and-out on the next possession, and Karns City would have a near mirror image drive after regaining possession.
This time, King would be the one doing the throwing. On a 4th-and-8 from the Bison 27, he connected on an underneath screen to Powers, who found a hole and escaped tackles on his way to the endzone. The extra point made it 14-0 entering the second quarter.
The ensuing drive for Clearfield is when Rumery finally began to find his rhythm. The opening play from scrimmage was a 36-yard strike to Mason Royer. Two plays later, he found Ryan Lezzer for a 35-yard gain. The Bison were finding success through the air as the ground game was non-existent at this point. Cleafield made it into the red zone, and tried on three occasions to power into the end zone with Ty Bender and Seth Caldwell, with all three attempts being stuffed.
But on 4th-and-Goal, Rumery elected to bootleg to his left, and he then tossed a perfect touch pass to Caldwell, putting Clearfield on the scoreboard for the first time. Senior Josh Serena nailed the extra point, and the lead for the Gremlins was cut in half.
Clearfield pushed back on the next drive thanks to the defense, forcing a punt after Karns City made it to the red zone, only to have a third down snap go over King’s head.
WIth 5:52 before halftime, as Clearfield tends to do, they went on a lengthy drive to eat up yardage and time. But again, once they got to knocking on the door of the end zone, the rushing attack seemed to hit a wall. Yet, they were that close, it was bound to work eventually.
The third down call from the two-yard line was a direct snap to Caldwell, who went full-speed to the line and then airborne, punching the ball across the goal line for his second touchdown on the night. Serena’s kick evened the score at 14 heading into halftime, neither team holding a true advantage over the other.
Sadly for Clearfield, the momentum achieved with the back-to-back scoring drives ended on the second play of the third quarter. Rumery had his pass intercepted by Williams at the Bison 33, quickly erasing the hopes of getting the lead on the opening possession.
Instead, it was Eric Dodd getting the next four hand-offs that was capped with a three-yard touchdown run. Powers booted another extra point, and just as quickly as the quarter began, the Gremlins had the lead.
Karns City would then try to make it a two-score game on the next drive, but were forced to punt. On that play, things went disastrous. The snap sailed over the head of Thompson, who then scooped it up to try and escape the herd of Bison coming at him. Somehow, he made the first group miss, and then the second.
The Bison suddenly were chasing the punter down to somehow stop the drive. Thompson seemed to run 30 yards, if not more, to achieve a seven-yard gain. But, it was 4th-and-6, and it was suddenly a fresh set of downs for the Gremlins, keeping the drive alive.
When asked what he was thinking on the play, Janocko was having flashbacks.
“I was thinking about last year against Johnstown, when they fumbled the snap after a field goal they picked it up and scored on it in overtime. I was just thinking ‘We can’t let this happen again, we cannot let this repeat;’ that’s what was going through my mind,” he said of the baffling play.
That scramble gave new life to the Gremlins, who capitalized on the momentum when Powers went for a 7-yard rushing touchdown to cap off the 11-play drive. His extra point once again gave Karns City a two-score advantage, but still lots of time on the clock.
In that moment, things changed. Clearfield knew at that point, if they were going to win the game, the way to do so was through the air.
This was the moment Rumery was waiting for. The time came for him to show what he could do. He was surrounded by seniors on the offensive line, in the backfield, and at wide receiver. Those seniors never played with a young quarterback, but trusted him to make the right calls to get the Bison back down the field.
He would do just that on the next drive. Rumery completed all but one of his passes, and finished the drive with a three-yard strike to Micah Heichel. Serena’s point after cut the lead to 28-21 entering the fourth quarter.
If the touchdown began the changing of the guard, the next Karns City possession made it stick.
Williams would appear to get the read-option hand off from King, but the exchange between the two seemed to be anything but smooth. The ball would pop out in the midst of the action, and when it hit the turf, Dylan Fenton was right there to get his hands and forearm around the ball. It was the second turnover of the game for the Gremlins, but one that came at one of the worst times.
“The unsung heroes tonight were our defensive line; they played really well. They (Karns City) flanked us on occasion with their speed on the outside, but our line played one heck of a football game,” Janocko said.
The drive after the turnover was swift. Rumery took the snap in the gun, and he immediately looked left. He and Heichel for the entire season have found a way to make a big score when it mattered most, and this play was it. The pass went right into Heichel’s hands, and in just one play, the Bison were back in the end zone. Serena was true once again, and with 10:35 remaining in the game, everything was knotted up at 28-points each.
Karns City, still, was not going away, as the next drive started with a 40-yard strike to Brian Beabout. Yet afterwards, the drive stalled out.
Powers came out after the drive ended at the 26-yard line, attempting a 43-yard field goal to give the Gremlins the lead once again.
The height on the kick was good, but his boot was not enough as the ball bounced at the four-yard line, and rolled into the end zone for a touchback.
Clearfield took over at its own 20-yard line with just over seven minutes to play.
This drive was unlike any in the game, as for the first time, it was the ground attack that began to work alongside the passing game. Rumery opened it up with an eight-yard scramble, then connected to Lezzer for another 15 yards. After losing yardage on a sack, it was Rumery again relying on his arm to get yardage. He looked over the right side of the field, connecting with Lezzer for a 45-yard strike to get the Bison in opposing territory.
Two plays later, Caldwell finally broke loose. The hand off to the senior back would go for 22 of his game-high 72 yards, and culminated with his third overall touchdown on the night. This would give the Bison the lead, and with 4:04 left in the game, the Gremlins had just one timeout to work with.
Williams would get two yards on the first play from scrimmage. But on both second and third down, King’s passes would fall short. Having used their timeout prior to fourth down, this was a make-or-break moment.
The 4th-and-8 call was a drop back pass, and Williams ran a post across the middle. King looked, and the pass was there, only to be knocked down by the linebacker.
At that moment, Clearfield had iced the game, and watched the clock run out on their biggest win of the season.
The win was an effort by senior leadership relying on a young quarterback to make the veteran decisions in critical times. Janocko was asked afterwards what was the key moment in the game that set the tone for the night, and he couldn’t come up with just one. Instead, he keyed in on players who made major contributions, including Rumery.
“There were just so many big-time catches. Heichel had another super night, Lezzer had a big night, Royer…so many different people contributed,” he said. “Plus seeing our sophomore quarterback performing like he did, while getting hit quite a bit.
“He’s not the same kid we opened the season with, that’s for sure.”
The Bison end the regular season at 9-1, and capped off yet another Mountain League championship. But for Janocko, seeing his team achieve such a big win was enormous for the program. He also knows the win will do a lot more in the near future, as playoffs are just one week away
“It means a lot. I’m hoping we are the number one seed (in the bracket), which will give us another playoff game here at home for our seniors. To beat a team that is so well coached, and we have a great deal of respect for, that is a feather in our cap,” Janocko said.
Clearfield enters the District 5-6-9 playoff bracket for Quad-A next week, and as the No. 1 seed will host the opening game.
The opponent will be announced early in the week, but will be played at the Bison Sports Complex next Friday night. Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m.
D9Sports.com has released the District 5-6-9 playoff bracket for Quad-A. Clearfield is the No. 1 Seed and will host No. 4 Bellefonte. It is the second time these two teams will meet this season. Clearfield won the first game against the Red Raiders on September 30, 28-0.
In the opposing game in the bracket, Johnstown will play host as the No. 2 seed against No. 3 Dubois. The winners of those games will face in the Regional finals the following week.
SCORE BY QUARTER
Karns City 14 0 14 0 – 28
Clearfield 0 14 7 14 – 35
GREMLINS: 24-yard pass from Williams to Thompson (Powers kick), 5:45
GREMLINS: 27-yard pass from King to Powers (Powers kick), 2:05
BISON: 6-yard pass from Rumery to Caldwell (Serena kick), 10:39
BISON: 2-yard run by Caldwell (Serena kick), 0:39
GREMLINS: 3-yard run by Dodd (Powers kick), 9:38
GREMLINS: 7-yard run by Powers (Powers kick), 3:34
BISON: 3-yard pass from Rumery to Heichel (Serena kick), 0:05
BISON: 33-yard pass from Rumery to Heichel (Serena kick), 10:42
BISON: 22-yard run by Caldwell (Serena kick), 4:04
First Downs: 14/12
Rush Yards: 144/103
Pass Yards: 159/294
Total yards: 303/397
Time Of Possession: 24:04/23:56
Karns City: Williams-13 carries, 66 yards; Dodd-10 carries, 48 yards, TD; Powers-8 carries, 26 yards, TD; King-4 carries, 3 yards; Troutman-2 carries, 4 yards; Thompson-1 carry, 7 yards; Garing-1 carry, 6 yards; Team-1 carry, (-16) yards.
Clearfield: Caldwell-18 carries, 72 yards, 2 TD; Rumery-9 carries, 29 yards; Bender-1 carry, 3 yards; Lezzer-1 carry, (-1) yards.
Karns City: King-6 for 11, 135 yards, TD; Williams-1 for 1, 24 yards, TD.
Clearfield: Rumery-15 for 25, 294 yards, 3 TD, INT.
Karns City: Beabout-3 catches, 64 yards; Powers-2 catches, 67 yards, TD; Thompson-2 catches, 28 yards, TD.
Clearfield: Heichel-8 catches, 124 yards, 2 TD; Lezzer-4 catches, 105 yards; Royer-1 catch, 36 yards; Lynch-1 catch, 20 yards; Caldwell-1 catch, 6 yards, TD.
|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|
|09/23||CENTRAL MOUNTAIN||28 – 7||4 – 1|
|09/30||BELLEFONTE||28 – 0||5 – 1|
|10/07||@ Tyrone||22 – 3||6 – 1|
|10/14||@ Bald Eagle Area||37 – 0||7 – 1|
|10/21||PHILIPSBURG-OSCEOLA||49 – 0||8 – 1|
|10/28||KARNS CITY||35 – 28||9 – 1|
|11/04||District 5,6,9 Playoff Game