Clearfield Bisons (5-0) at Philipsburg-Osceola Mounties (4-1)

Rivalry games are a part of football the same way as tailgating is part of pregame festivities.  The excitement around them is always higher, the competition is more intense and the players always are hungry for that win.

The Clearfield Bisons enter the second half of the season undefeated, but are facing a task that in years past would be a game that they would win whether it is home or away.  Under the Friday night lights, the Bisons must make a quick trip down Rt. 322 to the town of Philipsburg to take on coach Jeff Vroman and his 4-1 Philipsburg-Osceola Mounties.

This game last year was a lopsided victory for the Bisons on their homecoming night, as they defeated P-O by a final of 56-25.  This year, it’s at P-O’s Memorial Field, and it’s their homecoming.

Most importantly, this game will be a tough one to win for either squad.  Both teams have strong offenses and extremely tough defenses, meaning it could possibly  be a low scoring game.

P-O is coming off of a 46-21 victory, their third win of the season by more than 15 points.  The way they are doing that is the old-fashioned way, as they are all about the run game and drilling the ball into the heart of the defense.  The Mounties are averaging 250 yards a game on the ground, and thus far have four players with at least 150 rushing on the year, with two of them closing in on the 400-yard mark.

The top rusher for the Mounties is Michael John, who has 398 yards thus far this season, and is averaging nearly nine yards per carry.  Then there’s Cody Lee, who has 357 yards, averaging just over six yards a carry.  C0mbined, the two have nine touchdowns on the year.

P-O has used the run for a majority of the year, but their passing game has been effective when it has been used.  Quarterback Mike Marcinko has completed nearly 50 percent of his passes, and has five touchdowns compared to only one interception.

Should Clearfield have difficulty stopping the run, it could open up the passing game and create trouble for the Bison secondary.

However, P-O needs to be on their toes as they are facing a team that is practically a mirror image of them this season.  Clearfield has been more of a running offense than a passing offense as in years past.  That could make the Mountie defense vulnerable if the Bisons get their ground game working early and often.

After last week’s 35-19 triumph over Central Mountain, the Mounties need to somehow find a way to contain Beau Swales.  With 768 yards rushing and nine touchdowns, Swales has become the breakout star and the workhorse for Clearfield.  Another big night for him and he could reach the 1,000-yard mark.

At the same time, with all the attention on Swales, it has opened up the run for both Christian Lezzer and Ryan Hertlein.  The two combined have nearly 400 yards rushing and have accounted for six touchdowns.

The trifecta of strong running backs has shown to be extremely effective through the season thus far, but the man calling signals hasn’t been that bad himself.

Quarterback Curtis Frye is having a rather off-year throwing the ball, as he’s only completed 19 of 46 passes, with only 324 yards, six touchdowns and two interceptions.  Those are low numbers for a Bison passing offense, however with a rushing game like the Bisons have, the passing offense has not been needed as much.  But, that doesn’t mean it can be overlooked.

The biggest milestone on Friday night could come from the sidelines.  If Clearfield is able to continue it’s undefeated season, head coach Tim Janocko will reach a big milestone in his coaching career.  A win over P-O will give him win number 200 as Clearfield’s head coach.  Many great players have come through Clearfield when Janocko has been the lead man on the sidelines, and he has led the Bisons to many undefeated seasons and league championships.

This year is shaping up to be another one of those seasons, but Janocko is not looking ahead at his number of victories, but is rather focused on preparing his team to win on Friday night.

It’s the Mounties’ homecoming game, and with all the hype that is around this clash of rival teams, it is sure to be a game that will be talked about come the end of 48 minutes.  It is going to be a very packed stadium Friday night, with both sides of the stands full and many standing around the gate.

Kickoff between the Bisons and the Mounties at Memorial Field is set for 7 p.m.

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