Clearfield Bisons (0-0) at Central Dragons (0-0)

It seems as though the entire summer the topic of football was on everyone’s mind.  With the NFL Lockout seemingly having no end in sight, fans were wondering if the “big boys” of fall would even compete.

Then with the fiasco at both Ohio State and the University of Miami, college football was seemingly also looked at in a negative light, at least when it came to those two universities.

But, when it comes to high school football, the only news coming out of the Clearfield Area School District is that come this Friday night, the Bison football team will take the field for the first time in 2011.  It will be the first competitive game head coach Tim Janocko and his squad will have since Dec. 3, 2010.  It was that night that Clearfield’s season came to an end thanks to Allentown Central Catholic.

The 2010 team took home many post-season rewards, including Janocko being inducted into the CPFCA Coaches Hall of Fame at the Lezzer Lumber Classic this past June.

With all the accolades the 2010 team earned, Janocko turned his attention to this year’s squad.  Now, with all the summer workouts, all the scrimmages, and all the off-season practices complete, the Clearfield Bisons get their first taste of action on Friday night as they travel to Martinsburg to take on the Central Dragons.

Looking at the statistics from last year, you would think this game would be easy for Clearfield.  When the Bisons hosted the Dragons in last year’s season opener, it was a 42-14 thumping.  Yet, the Dragons ended the season at a respectable 7-5, including winning six of their last seven games.  The Dragons’ season ended in the playoffs with a 17-7 loss to Tyrone.

First-year coach Dave Baker has a team that last year was all about the ground game, averaging nearly 184 yards per game and over 2200 on the year.  However, the Dragons lost their lead rusher in Lucas Runk, who ran for 814 yards and 14 touchdowns last season.  The Dragons also lost their No. 2 rusher, Lucas Blattenberger, who gained 442 yards and six touchdowns.

Those are tough holes to fill, but the Dragons are confident that senior running back Jarron Knisely will be able to step into those shoes in the backfield.  Knisely had 307 yards rushing last season, with two touchdowns.  Yet, with this being the first game of the year, he will get a heavy dose of the ball as has been noted in years past with Central.

The other position that is in question with Central is the quarterback.  Derek Nothstein was under center for the Dragons last year, but with graduation that means someone new will be calling the signals.

Central has two potential starters in senior Matt Ritchey and junior Troy McCarty.  Either one will have the potential of being a strong leader of the Dragon offense, so watch for both to get some playing time during the game.

However, the Bisons are looking forward to finally getting back on the field and getting the season under way.  Janocko said at the final scrimmage against Bellwood-Antis that “every game is going to be a war.”  That first battle is on Friday night.

The Bison offense returns with it’s leader, quarterback Curtis Frye, calling the signals.  The senior quarterback is coming off a season where he completed nearly 60 percent of his passes, threw for over 1800 yards, and had a quarterback rating of 108.  The spread offense worked extremely well for the Bisons last year as they averaged 131 yards a game through the air.  At the same time, the rushing attack of the Bisons was just as potent as the passing attack.

The biggest loss for Clearfield from last season has to be running back Derek Morgan, who ran for 1404 yards and 19 touchdowns.  But the Bisons return a running back that showed last year he is just as strong and quick as Morgan, that being Beau Swales.

Swales was high on the list for Janocko, as he praised his ability to run low and hard, which is what made Morgan so dangerous last year.  Could mean big things for Clearfield this season.

The Bisons’ biggest question mark heading into the first game is their receiving corps.  Clearfield lost four receivers from 2010 that accounted for 17 of the 20 receiving touchdowns for the team.  The top receiver in that group was Derek Danver, who caught 40 passes for 608 yards and seven scores.  Add in Andrew Redden, Jack Mellgard and Brandon Hogue, and that leaves many openings for receivers on the 2011 squad.

If one were to judge by the scrimmage against Bellwood-Antis, the top receiver this year could be sophomore Christian Lezzer.  Despite only catching two passes last year, his speed and maneuverability against the Blue Devils was evident, as he scored two of the first three touchdowns for the Bisons.

Other receivers that could have a big impact in the first game are juniors Seth Beardsley and Dylan Graham, plus senior Macayah Rowles.  Don’t be surprised if sophomores Trey Jordan and Michael Beck get some playing time as well.

Janocko and his Bison team are ready for this year to begin, and no better time than this Friday night.  Kickoff at the Central High Football field is set for 7 p.m.  For directions to the field, located in Roaring Spring, visit ClearfieldFootball.org.

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