DUBOIS — A season of hard work and dedication on the football field is all in achieving one goal, a championship. The Clearfield Bisons for the last two seasons earned a District IX championship, and have gone on to compete in the PIAA State Playoffs to determine the best Class AAA team in the state.
Having came from behind last week to defeat Johnstown, head coach Tim Janocko’s group of players were ready to enter the state playoffs with a lot of momentum and the hope that their season would not come to an end.
Across the field, a similar team with a very different record. The Shamokin Area Indians made the trip west to do battle against Clearfield, as both teams descended upon the E.J. Mansell Stadium in Dubois, the same field that Clearfield won their District IX championship on two weeks earlier.
However on this night, it wasn’t the talk about the heart that both teams played with for 48 minutes, and then some. It wasn’t about the spectacular catches, or big runs the young men on the field put on the opposing defenses. Instead, the talk of the night was focused on the officials, and the calls they either made, didn’t make, or the ones that would be the difference in the game.
The officiating crew called 19 penalties on the night, 13 of which went against Clearfield, and ultimately made the end of the game painful to watch from the stands, depending on which side of the field the fans were cheering from. Two of the final three drives of the night were marred with penalties, including the final play of the game. In the end, it was Clearfield at the unfortunate end as Shamokin scored late in the fourth quarter, then denied the Bisons on a two-point conversion in overtime for the controversial 27-26 victory.
Going in, it was expected that both teams would play to their strengths, and that turned out to be fact. Shamokin used a strong passing game to put up a majority of their points, while Clearfield used it’s ground game to wear out the defense and put points on the board.
The game began promising for Clearfield as they opened the scoring in the first quarter. Utilizing some strong leg work by Beau Swales and Christian Lezzer, Swales punched the ball into the end zone from six yards out. An extra point by Spencer Herrington gave Clearfield a 7-0 lead with 2:29 left in the quarter. Swales finished the contest with a game-high 124 yards on the ground.
The ensuing possession for the Indians ended just six seconds into the second quarter as quarterback Tucker Yost was able to find Robert Bainbridge for the three-yard passing score. Jonathan Vanaskie tied the game with his extra point.
Not wanting to stay down for long, Clearfield came right back, but decided to use something that has not been used much this season, the passing game. But, when it has been, it has been effective. This time, Curtis Frye decided to go deep down the sidelines, and laid the ball perfectly into the hands of Lezzer for a 35-yard scoring strike. Herrington made the extra point, giving Clearfield a 14-7 lead, which it held heading into halftime.
The lone score in the third quarter came thanks to Lezzer as well, this time using his legs out of the wildcat formation to score his only rushing touchdown of the game. Herrington’s kick was blocked, leaving the score 20-7.
However, the fourth quarter would be the one that many fans and players alike will be discussing for months on in.
After starting at mid-field, Shamokin got a quick first down thanks to a personal foul penalty on Clearfield. It didn’t take long for the Indians to capitalize as two plays later, Yost found Madara in the end zone from 22 yards out. Clearfield held the game to a touchdown as they blocked the ensuing extra point, leaving the score 20-13.
But, it was the final scoring drive in regulation that many fans are still talking about. After taking over at mid-field with time on the clock, Yost went to work trying to break down the Clearfield secondary.
He did not find much luck, as his passes were going incomplete, however the controversy came about because of two pass interference penalties. Fans in attendance as well as other Clearfield players, were upset because it seemed the defender had his hands up to not touch the player trying to make the catch. But the officials believed otherwise, and it gave Shamokin a fresh set of downs both times, including a 1st and Goal on the Bison 7.
With 37 seconds remaining, Yost threw his third touchdown pass of the night as he found Ryan Burns for the 7-yard strike. An extra point later, the game was tied at 20, and would lead to overtime.
Clearfield won the toss for the extra period, and elected to go on defense. The Bisons held the Indians to a loss of five yards and an incomplete pass to start off the drive, leading to a 3rd and Goal from the 15. Shamokin answered quick with a handoff to Draven Miller for the only rushing touchdown for the Indians on the night. An extra point by Vanaskie made in 27-20.
The Bisons were ready to respond, and did so just two plays in as Frye found Swales in the end zone for his second passing touchdown of the night.
Clearfield lined up to get the extra point and send the game into yet another overtime period, but the Bisons called timeout before the attempt. When they came out of the stoppage in play, it was the Bison offense on the field. The coaches on the Clearfield sideline decided to go for the win right then and there.
It would turn out to be the most talked-about play of the night.
Frye took the snap, and then faded back, looking to pass for the score rather than rumble in with his legs. Frye looked to Trey Jordan, and faded the pass in the air. Contact between Jordan and the Shamokin defender was seen, but unlike when Clearfield was on defense, the officials deemed the contact non-interference. The ball hit the ground, and in doing so, ended the season for the Bisons.
With a final record of 11-2, the Bison seniors finished their career with a sour taste in their mouth, however they are leaving a legacy. The 12 seniors earned a record of 31-7, including two trips to the state playoffs, two District IX championships, and were also part of last year’s historic 13-win season that saw it come to an end in the quarter-finals of the state tournament.
An unfortunate way to end another successful season, but still a great year for Clearfield football.
See photos of the game here: http://www.clearfieldfootball.org/112511game.html
SCORE BY QUARTER
Shamokin 0 7 0 13 7 27
Clearfield 7 7 7 0 6 26
BISONS: 6-yard run by Swales (Herrington kick), 2:29
INDIANS: 3-yard pass from Yost to Bainbridge (Vanaskie kick), 11:54
BISONS: 35-yard pass from Frye to Lezzer (Herrington kick), 7:13
BISONS: 4-yard run by Lezzer (Herrington kick BLOCKED), 6:36
INDIANS: 22-yard pass from Yost to Madara (Vanaskie kick BLOCKED), 10:40
INDIANS: 7-yard pass from Yost to Burns (Vanaskie kick), 0:37
INDIANS: 15-yard run by Miller (Vanaskie kick)
BISONS: 9-yard pass from Frye to Swales (Conversion FAILED)
First Downs: SN-14 CF-16
Rush Yards: SN-154 CF-200
Pass Yards: SN-117 CF-136
Penalties: SN-6 CF-13
Penalty Yards: SN-56 CF-117
Total Yards: SN-271 CF-336
Interceptions: SN-2 CF-1
Fumbles: SN-2 CF-3
Fumbles Lost: SN-1 CF-2
Shamokin: Miller-15 carries, 83 yards, TD; Burns-6 carries, 28 yards; Tillett-5 carries, 10 yards; Dunn-3 carries, 27 yards; Taylor-1 carry, 18 yards; Anonia-1 carry, 1 yard; Shurock-1 carry, (-6) yards; Yost-1 carry, (-8) yards.
Clearfield: Swales-23 carries, 124 yards, TD; Lezzer-15 carries, 64 yards, TD; Frye-10 carries, 9 yards; Hertlein-1 carry, 3 yards.
Shamokin: Yost-8 completions, 16 attempts, 104 yards, 3 TD, INT; Madara-1 completion, 1 attempt, 13 yards; Burns-0 completions, 1 attempt, INT.
Clearfield: Frye-6 completions, 11 attempts, 136 yards, 2 TD, INT.
Shamokin: Madara-3 catches, 36 yards, TD; Burns-2 catches, 38 yards, TD; Tillett-2 catches, 34 yards; Shurock-1 catch, 6 yards; Bainbridge-1 catch, 3 yards, TD.
Clearfield: Lezzer-3 catches, 84 yards, TD; Swales-2 catches, 38 yards, TD; Jordan-1 catch, 14 yards.