HYDE — Summer workouts…complete. Two-a-day practices…over. Preparation…all set.
There was nothing left for the Clearfield Bison team to do for the start of the 2017 football season except strap on the pads, lace up the cleats, and put on the helmets. Just about a week ago, the scrimmage at Mansion Park in Altoona was just to get acclimated to one another. Points meant nothing, but learning was the importance.
On this night, it was for real. The Bison Sports Complex turned on the new lighting, the band took to the field to play the anthem and alma mater, and finally out from the locker room came the black and red squad, ready to do battle on the turf.
Opposing them was their old rival, the DuBois Beavers, ready to spoil the opening night of the new season.
Early on, it seemed like that was going to happen, as the home squad appeared to not get in sync, with mistake after mistake costing them points and opportunity. Yet, despite the offensive woes, the defense locked down and kept the mistakes from being too large. That is when the offense realized they could still make plays, gain yards, and put points on the board.
The offense locked in, while the defense locked down. After 48 minutes, the Bison overcame their miscues and secured the shut out victory over DuBois, 21-0.
“We were on our heels a little bit. We turned the ball over three times in the first half, and to be up 14-0 at halftime was a tribute to our defense,” Bison Head coach Tim Janocko said afterwards. “Coach Garrett and Coach Glunt had some great calls in there.”
The defense for Clearfield did not force a turnover till late it the contest, but they were able to keep DuBois from getting any momentum. Quarterback Matt Miller was struggling early on, finishing the night with just seven completed passes for 59 yards, well below what he averaged last season.
DuBois was shut down on its first drive on downs, but didn’t wait long for its next opportunity.
Junior quarterback Isaac Rumery, who improved throughout his first season as the Clearfield signal-caller, saw his first pass of the 2017 season land right in the waiting hands of Beaver safety Buddy Lines, immediately halting the first drive of the season with a turnover.
However, the Bison defense made its own statement, denying any points as they once again halted DuBois on fourth down.
A scoreless first quarter wasn’t without some major highlights, as Clearfield found its way beginning at the 2:21 mark in the opening stanza. The drive nearly didn’t happen as Spencer Graham mishandled a handoff on a punt return, losing the ball but his teammates pounced on it to ensure Clearfield would keep possession. However, the fumble recovery meant it was 94 yards from the line of scrimmage to six points.
But, the first true challenge for the Bison turned out to be one the offense welcomed. Rumery launched a first-down pass to Micah Heichel for 41 yards to get the Bison near mid-field. Three plays later, Graham found a pass for another 22 yards to put the team at 1st-and-Goal at the eight-yard line of DuBois.
Rumery then cashed in when he found Graham open across the middle of the field for a five-yard strike to put six points on the board. Jake Sorbera added his first point of the season with a perfectly kicked extra point. Just seconds into the second quarter and Clearfield had the 7-0 lead, capping an impressive and methodical 94-yard drive.
Unfortunately for the home team, the following two possessions did not go as planned. Rumery threw his second interception of the night to Kolby Ho, and then he lost a fumble deep in his own territory.
Yet despite the miscues, the Bison defense stood tall, denying any opportunity for the Beavers to get points on the board following the miscues. Janocko felt that his quarterback was ready for the game. Maybe a little too ready in his eyes after how things began.
“I think he had too much adrenaline there in the beginning, he was really pumped up,” he said. “But he got things under control and made some big plays. We made some big plays offensively when we needed to. It’s that ‘first game’ stuff that we need to fix and get better.”
The Bison had their defining drive beginning at the 6:12 mark remaining in the first half. Starting at their own 16, Rumery made a play with his arm to start, connecting with Heichel. Then, turning to the ground game seeing that his young offensive line began to protect better, Ty Bender got the call to grind out some yards. Following establishment of the run, Rumery connected for 46 yards to Heichel, putting Clearfield in the red zone once again.
Four plays later, Eli Glass caught his only pass of the night. But, the pass was good for another six points. Sorbera added another point after, and heading into halftime the Bison held the 14-0 advantage.
When the teams arrived to start the second half, the focus for Clearfield shifted not from just putting up points, but instead keep DuBois from an opportunity to put up points. That meant riding the clock, letting seconds work off, but also keeping drives alive.
In the third quarter, Clearfield held the ball for nearly nine minutes, erasing chances for DuBois to put any points on the board.
“Our offensive linemen got better, and that’s what it is, experience and playing time. They got better as they went on and took control,” Janocko said.
That control also included a big opportunity. Clearfield took over possession at the Dubois 41 following a Beaver punt, but on the first play of the ensuing drive, Rumery was flushed backwards in the pocket. His pass was meant for Glass, yet fell incomplete. But, more over, the Bison offense found themselves in a deeper hole thanks to a holding penalty just behind the line of scrimmage. The penalty, plus the loss of yardage due to when the flag occurred, meant Clearfield had 1st-and-31 at its own 38.
It was clear that the coaches decided to opt for a passing play, but with no open receivers, Rumery had to use his legs to create some time. What he did was give himself opportunity, and he made it worth the effort.
Rumery found a gap in the middle of the defense, then cut right as he made it to the secondary. His legs were in stride as he escaped the last Beaver defender to cross the goal line. His third touchdown of the night came thanks to his legs. The 21-yard penalty got countered by a 62-yard run to the end zone, and Sorbera booted his third extra point on the night. The score then went to 21-0, where it remained right through the final whistle.
Rumery finished the night with 236 all-purpose yards, three touchdowns, and just two interceptions.
Janocko afterwards was not surprised by how his team played the first week out, especially considering it was the defense that kept Clearfield in the game when turnovers cost the Bison offense many opportunities.
“I don’t think it was surprising. I thought we played well, and was encouraged by our scrimmages last week,” Janocko said. “Did I think we were going to shut them out, no, but I think we certainly played well.”
With the first win out of the way, Clearfield (1-0) heads into their Mountain League schedule beginning next week. Their first opponent will be the Rams of Penns Valley, 22-21 winners over Punxsutawney in their opener, and that contest once again will be at the Bison Sports Complex with a start time again at 7 p.m.
SCORE BY QUARTER
Dubois 0 0 0 0 – 0
Clearfield 0 14 7 0 – 21
BISON: 5-yard pass from Rumery to Graham (Sorbera kick), 11:23
BISON: 4-yard pass from Rumery to Glass (Sorbera kick), 0:48
BISON: 62-yard run by Rumery (Sorbera kick), 1:09
First Downs: 6/17
Rush Yards: 115/169
Pass Yards: 58/165
Total Yards: 173/334
Time of Possession: 17:19/30:41
DuBois: McCluskey-17 carries, 78 yards; Schneider-2 carries, 17 yards; Miller-2 carries, 14 yards; Hopson-1 carry, 1 yard.
Clearfield: Bender-17 carries, 57 yards; Rumery-11 carries, 73 yards, TD; Zattoni-11 carries, 19 yards; McGonigal-5 carries, 18 yards.
DuBois: Miller-7 for 23, 58 yards.
Clearfield: Rumery: 9 for 17, 165 yards, 2 TD, 2 INT.
DuBois: Hopson-3 catches, 32 yards; Ho-2 catches, 15 yards; Husted-2 catches, 11 yards.
Clearfield: Heichel-4 catches, 115 yards; Graham-2 catches, 27 yards, TD; Lynch-2 catches, 22 yards; Glass-1 catch, 9 yards
|08/25||DUBOIS||21 – 0||1 – 0|
|09/22||@ Central Mountain|
|10/13||BALD EAGLE AREA|
|10/27||@ Karns City|