WINGATE — On a night where the clouds grew darker by the minute with the threat of rain, the Clearfield Bisons and the Bald Eagle Area Golden Eagles descended on the field at the Bald Eagle Area High School to compete on Friday night. Clearfield was hoping to continue it’s winning ways, but Bald Eagle was competing with a lot more on it’s mind.
Earlier in the week, Eagles assistant coach Gawen Stoker passed away. He was head coach of Bald Eagle for 25 years before electing to retire a few years ago. He returned as an assistant, wanting to give back to the school and the area.
The Golden Eagles took to the field with heavy hearts, but had a job to do in honor of their fallen coach and leader. But after 48 minutes of play, it was Clearfield who was celebrating at the end of the night. Bald Eagle turned the ball over five times, four of which led to scores, as the Bisons would take the 49-14 victory.
Despite the win, head coach Tim Janocko was humble in what his team accomplished, mainly due to the circumstances surrounding the game.
“It’s bittersweet honestly. I’m happy with how our team played, but there’s a lot of heavy hearts in this area,” Janocko said on the field. “This entire community and area is hurting. I have to give credit to the BEA kids, and they played hard, but they were playing with a lot on their mind.”
It was a difficult night for Bald Eagle against a tough Bison defense. The Golden Eagles only managed 192 total yards on the night, most coming in the second half.
At the same time, Clearfield was holding a clinic on how to play old-school football in the first two quarters of play. The Bisons scored 42 of their points in the first half, with a majority of those coming off of the BEA turnovers.
Once again, the workhorse for the Bisons was Beau Swales. The senior running back ended the night with 85 yards rushing, including two touchdowns, plus 46 yards receiving.
“He is our big play guy,” Janocko said. “He finishes his runs, and that’s what you want in a back. He’s falling forward, and still gaining ground.”
The Bisons ended the night with 220 yards on the ground, with six of their seven touchdowns coming due to the rushing game. Janocko said that the game plan was to establish the run due to the threat of rain in the area. But, he also gave major credit to his defense for creating the five turnovers.
Bald Eagle elected to start the game with the ball, but quickly went three and out and punted the ball away. After two completions by Frye, who ended the night 4 for 4, it was then the ground game thanks to Swales and Ryan Hertlein. After an eight-yard gain by Hertlein, Swales ran the final 17 yards over two plays to get the first points of the game. An extra point later, and Clearfield was up 7-0.
The Golden Eagles had some success the next drive as they drove past midfield into Clearfield territory. Unfortunately they found themselves with a third down, and that seemed to be when the wheels began falling off. Quarterback Jeffrey Koleno dropped back, but was flushed out to his left and threw a pass that in retrospect was not the best option. The ball was surrounded by white jerseys, with Swales getting the interception.
On the first play following the turnover, Christian Lezzer had his number called for what would be his only carry of the night. But, he made it count as he ran 48 yards to the end zone for the second touchdown of the game. After Spencer Herrington’s extra point, it was 14-0 Clearfield with just over six minutes to go in the first quarter.
The best play of the Golden Eagles came on the first play of the next drive as Cody Ripka escaped into the Bison secondary for a 50-yard gain to the Clearfield 17-yard-line. But, Bald Eagle couldn’t do anything with it and found itself in a 4th and long situation. Quarterback Cole Long wanted to pass, but the ball went behind the line, falling to the ground at the receiver’s feet. Lezzer pounced on the loose ball, scooping it off the ground, and rumbling down the sideline for 71-yards and another touchdown.
Trailing 21-0, Bald Eagle was hoping to get something going on the next drive, but on a 3rd and 17 at their own 12, the ball again came loose in the backfield, and Clearfield recovered. A short field meant Swales would get the call and he rumbled in from seven yards out. Another extra point, and it was 28-0, and the first quarter wasn’t yet completed.
The second quarter saw much of the same as Bald Eagle had a three-and-out to start the quarter, and it was followed up by another Clearfield touchdown, this time by Curtis Frye.
At this point, Janocko decided to stick with his run game and relied on the legs of Swales, Hertlein and Frye to carry them the rest of the game. That game plan worked well as on their next drive, it was just running plays that ended with Frye plunging into the end zone from just a yard out. With the score 42-0 with just over five minutes left in the half, it was guaranteed to have the Mercy Rule put into effect for the entire second half.
“Our defense came up with some big plays. The fumble return and the interception really got us rolling,” Janocko said.
Bald Eagle finally got on the scoreboard on their next drive thanks to some strong running. It was capped off by Nate Sharkey diving into the end zone from one yard out. At halftime the score was 42-7, and Janocko was at that point decided to allow some of the underclassmen the opportunity to play, incorporating them in just before the half.
The second half was all about ground-and-pound as Clearfield took the opening drive and pushed 67 yards on 10 run plays to put it’s final score on the board. It ended with Hertlein bulldozing his way in for the touchdown from 11 yards out. Another extra point, and it was 49-7 with 4:27 left in the third quarter, thanks in part to the Mercy Rule clock running.
The final score of the night came when Koleno floated a pass to Colby Peters from six yards out to give Bald Eagle it’s last touchdown.
Clearfield won the game, but Janocko was looking at the big picture of the night, putting the victory aside for what was most important to the people in the surrounding towns.
“It is bittersweet. This community has experienced a rough week, and they are really hurting,” Janocko said. “They lost a great coach, and it’s going to hurt for a while.”
At the same time, Janocko is looking forward to the next game on the schedule, mainly because there is no travel involved.
“We need to get back home. It’s been two long road games to open the season, so we’re ready to get back to our home field,” Janocko said.
That home game comes next Friday as Clearfield (2-0) plays host to the Penns Valley Rams.
See photos of the game here: http://www.clearfieldfootball.org/090911game.html
Clearfield 28 14 7 0 – 49
BEA 0 7 0 7 – 14
SCORE BY QUARTERS
BISONS: 5-yard run by Swales (Herrington kick), 8:36
BISONS: 48-yard run by Lezzer (Herrington kick), 6:15
BISONS: 71-yard fumble return by Lezzer (Herrington kick), 4:05
BISONS: 7-yard run by Swales (Herrington kick), 2:51
BISONS: 6-yard run by Frye (Herrington kick), 11:03
BISONS: 1-yard run by Frye (Herrington kick), 5:04
EAGLES: 1-yard run by Sharkey (Schall kick), 1:56
BISONS: 11-yard run by Hertlein (Herrington kick), 4:27
EAGLES: 6-yard pass from Koleno to Peters (Schall kick), 10:30
First Downs: CF-13 BEA-7
Rush Yards: CF-220 BEA-86
Pass Yards: CF-71 BEA-85
Penalties: CF-4 BEA-4
Penalty Yards: CF-11 BEA-21
Total Yards: CF-302 BEA-192
Turnovers: CF-1 BEA-5
Fumbles: CF-1 BEA-5
Fumbles Lost: CF-1 BEA-4
Time of Possession: CF-27:17 BEA-20:43
Clearfield: Swales-18 carries, 85 yards, 2 TD; Hertlein-8 carries, 71 yards, TD; Frye-4 carries, 2 yards, 2 TD; Lezzer-1 carry, 48 yards, TD ; Team-9 carries, 14 yards
Bald Eagle Area: Sharkey-5 carries, 35 yards, TD; Ripka-6 carries, 12 yards; Koleno-5 carries, 17 yards; Team-4 carries, 11 yards
Clearfield: Frye-4 completions, 4 attempts, 71 yards
Bald Eagle Area: Koleno-5 completions, 9 yards, 42 yards, TD, INT; Long-4 completions, 5 attempts, 52 yards
Clearfield: Swales-2 receptions, 46 yards; Lezzer-1 reception-14 yards; Myers-1 reception, 11 yards
Bald Eagle Area: Peters-4 receptions, 28 yards, TD; Romine-1 reception, 42 yards; Dillon-1 reception, 16 yards; Team-3 receptions, 8 yards