Clearfield Bisons (5-1) at Hamburg Area Hawks (1-4)

How a team rebounds after a tough loss is always a determining factor in how strong the players’ tenacity can be.  For the Clearfield Bisons, Friday night’s game will be a strong indicator of how good coach Tim Janocko’s team is.

The Bisons experienced a devastating loss last Friday night against Philipsburg-Osceola, their first regular season loss almost two years.  Now, the players and coaches must put that loss in the back of their minds and focus on the task at hand.  This week’s game is another test of determination, and patience.  This week’s opponent is over three hours away as Clearfield makes the long trip to eastern Pennsylvania to take on the Hamburg Area Hawks.

With the Indian Valley and Lewistown school districts combining together to form one school, Mifflin County, the schedule was open for one more AAA school to face off against the Bisons.

Enter Hamburg Area, and a long road trip for the team and it’s fans alike.

Despite last week’s loss, Clearfield is still atop the standings in the Mountain League division, holding a one-game advantage over Juniata.  Plus, they still hold a 100-point lead in the AAA playoff standings over St. Marys.  Another victory will mean more points, and a step closer to a division title.

If the Bisons are to do that, they have to continue to play the way they have been through the first six games.  That is ground and pound the football and let it set up the passing game.  That’s completely opposite of what Clearfield has been known for the last few years, but it has proven to be effective.

An offense that averages 277 yards rushing per game is often very good.  That is thanks in major part to senior running back Beau Swales.  The star 5′ 11″, 179 pound back only needs 119 yards rushing to reach the 1,000-yard mark for this season, and that could very well happen on Friday night.  Swales has shown that he is quick, strong, and does not make mistakes with the football when it’s put in his hands.

Add in the fact that Christian Lezzer, Curtis Frye and Ryan Hertlein have also been able to run the ball effectively against opposing defenses, and the rushing game has been the heart of the Bison team this season.

At the same time, as good as the ground game has been, the passing game has suffered just a little bit.  Janocko admits that they have not passed as much this year because the team builds up an early lead, and have invoked the Mercy Rule on a few occasions, so there hasn’t been as much of a need to pass the ball.  Frye has only completed 30 percent of his passes this year, has 518 yards through the air, six touchdowns and three interceptions.

The Bisons are very capable of breaking a game open with the passing game at any time, and Hamburg knows that.

On the opposite side of the field, Hamburg brings a balanced offensive attack, despite having lost the last four games.  Quarterback Joey Cominsky has completed nearly 57 percent of his passes, and has a passing rating of nearly 112.  However, his touchdown-interception ratio is on the wrong side, as he has four scores compared to seven turnovers.

With the strong secondary that Clearfield has, the passing game could be a problem.

The Hawks do have a strong running game, which in previous games has shown to be a weak spot for the defense at some moments for the Bisons.  The back that Clearfield must be aware of the most is Jacob Wood, who has 380 yards on 59 carries thus far this season.  He also has a team-high six total touchdowns.

Clearfield will also have to be aware of both Patrick Murphy and Montay Berger in the rushing game, as both are averaging at least seven yards a carry.

It is not a lop-sided game by any means, however one team is hoping to get back into the win column while another is hoping to end a losing streak.  Both teams will be ready for the competition, and it should be a very good contest between the two.

Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at the Hamburg High School.  Directions to the field and other information regarding the game is available on www.ClearfieldFootball.org.

The fan bus for the game is now sold out.

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