MILL HALL – The midway point of the season arrived on a crisp Friday night for the Clearfield Bison and the Central Mountain Wildcats. The color pink was prominent on both sides of the ball as both squads raised awareness for breast cancer, but the color each team was looking at was the green turf that lay below their cleats.
It seemed like from the beginning it would be a battle of which side would show their will, with neither side giving in. After 24 minutes, despite a lead, it was obvious that neither team would go down without fighting for every possible inch of turf needed.
But, once the second half began, it soon became clear which squad would be the ones to beat. The battle of the trenches was even at halftime, but the Bison began showing their desire in the final 24 minutes, overpowering their bigger opponents, and remaining undefeated on the 2013 season with a 49-13 victory.
“We made some blocking adjustments at the end of the second quarter, and we knew we were getting the ball to start the third quarter. At that point, in the second half, we got on a roll,” head coach Tim Janocko said afterward.
The Bison held the Wildcats in check in the first half, yielding 27 total yards, none of which came through the air. Clearfield, meanwhile, racked off 176 total yards of offense, but never really got momentum through the first two quarters. Drives stalled when the Central Mountain defense held on fourth down, or forced a punt. Neither team would score until late into the first quarter, showing that both teams were not going to simply yield when necessary.
“Our offensive and defensive linemen did an outstanding job tonight,” Janocko said. “I thought our defensive line shut down their run game for the most part, and offensively once we got everything figured out, they did some great blocking.”
It seemed to do the trick as in the second half, the Bison offense ran rough shod on the Wildcats. Christian Lezzer had a big night on the ground, rushing for a team-high 134 yards and a score, with teammate Tyler Stratton backing him with another 89 yards and three touchdowns, all coming in the third quarter. Lezzer also had a decent night passing the ball, unlike past weeks, as he went 5-for-11 and 137 yards and a touchdown.
Most importantly for Clearfield, at least to Janocko, was his team not once turned the ball over.
“We preached about it all week. Turnovers kill you anywhere, but when you turn the ball over on the road, it can really be bad,” Janocko said.
Neither offense was sharp in the opening moments. After Central Mountain only went three plays and punted, Clearfield found itself stalled out right in the red zone after a long drive. But after the third straight 3-and-out by Central Mountain, Clearfield got its spark, first by a strong punt return by Jake Wingate. The ensuing drive would start on the Wildcats 31, and after three plays it seemed like Clearfield was boxed in on a 4th and 7 from the 28. That was when Lezzer decided to make a play…with his arm.
Lezzer launched the ball over the center, seeing Wingate in the back of the end zone. Wingate and the defender fought for the ball, but Wingate pulled it in, and just barely got his left foot in for the first touchdown of the night, coming with just over a minute to go in the first quarter.
Spencer Herrington booted in the extra point, making the score 7-0.
The second quarter would be the same way, with Central Mountain punting on each possession, and only gaining one first down in the first half. Clearfield finally got a drive going late in the quarter, as both strong passing and tough running gave Lezzer the chance to get his second touchdown of the night, this one on the ground, on a 10-yard sprint. Herrington kicked another extra point, and it was 14-0 heading into the break.
But when the squads came out for the second half, an entirely new game occurred. The Bison got great field position to start the third quarter, as an Eric Sellers kick return put them near mid-field. On first down, Lezzer, was nearly boxed in, yet thought about running. But during his scramble, he never tucked the ball, and instead kept looking downfield. He saw Stratton opened, and soon connected. The 44-yard spectacular pass play set up the Bison in the red zone, and two plays later Stratton punched his way into the end zone for the third touchdown of the night. Another extra point, and the 21-0 score stood with 10:36 left in the third.
Not to be outdone, the Wildcats again got their game going, putting together a long drive that pushed them close to midfield. But a sack on Bryce Bitner ended those hopes, and again the Wildcats had to punt.
The next drive would be short and to the point as Lezzer and Stratton were running downhill, and with purpose on each carry, with Stratton bulling his way into the end zone for his second straight score. One more kick, and it was 28-0.
Finally the Wildcats would get on the scoreboard as the following possession, it was five straight run plays, but Bitner went play action on the sixth, connecting with Cody Barner for the 10-yard scoring strike. After not completing a pass in the first half, Bitner made his first completion count. Kathryn Myers had her extra point blocked, so the score remained 28-6.
Yet Clearfield would just not go away. On the ensuing possession, the Bison ripped off carries of 30 and 20 yards by Stratton and Lezzer, and then Stratton rumbled in for the 7-yard score. Another kick, and it was 35-7 with just over a minute to play in the third quarter.
Central Mountain worked toward midfield on the next drive, but had the air not only deflated out of them, but more like pushed out and popped. On a 1st and 10 near midfield, Hunter Weaver received the handoff. The problem was he couldn’t hold onto the ball, and the loose ball was picked up by Seth Caldwell. The speed of the young freshman was turned on as he picked up the fumble, then outran the offense down the sideline, returning the fumble 53 yards for the touchdown. Herrington added the extra point, making the score 42-6, and invoking the Mercy Rule.
With the starters now ultimately done for the night, the underclassmen had their time to shine, but Caldwell was the bright spot. The next drive was all runs by him, culminating with a 38-yard dash for the final Bison touchdown of the night. One more kick by Herrington, and the 49-6 rout was on.
“He’s a young man that the football seems to find him,” Janocko said of his young talent.
The final score of the game came when Weaver pushed the defensive line back to score on a 3-yard run. The ensuing kick was good, making the final 49-13. Clearfield only took one play after the kickoff, kneeling down to seal the win.
Now at 5-0, Janocko is pleased with his team in many aspects, and as with each week, they try to consistently be better than they were the week before.
“I’m impressed with the way our team keeps their poise and doesn’t get flustered, and makes big plays in big situations. The things we need to really work on are to just get better in all aspects,” Janocko said. “We just have to work on things we can control, get healthy, and just prepare like it’s a regular week.”
Clearfield remains on a road trip next week as they will travel to Bellefonte to face the Red Raiders, who are coming off a 53-6 loss to Tyrone.
See photos of the game here: http://www.clearfieldfootball.org/092713Game.html
SCORE BY QUARTER
Clearfield 7 7 21 14 – 49
Central Mountain 0 0 6 7 – 13
BISON: 28-yard pass from Lezzer to Wingate (Herrington kick), 1:11
BISON: 10-yard run by Lezzer (Herrington kick), 1:15
BISON: 8-yard run by Stratton (Herrington kick), 10:36
BISON: 3-yard run by Stratton (Herrington kick), 4:09
WILDCATS: 10-yard pass from Bitner to Barner (Myers kick BLOCKED), 1:26
BISON: 7-yard run by Stratton (Herrington kick), 1:03
BISON: 53-yard fumble return by Caldwell (Herrington kick), 11:47
BISON: 38-yard run by Caldwell (Herrington kick), 6:40
WILDCATS: 3-yard run by Weaver (Myers kick), 0:58
First Downs: 13/9
Rush Yards: 276/108
Pass Yards: 137/65
Total Yards: 413/173
Time of Possession: 21:16/26:44
Clearfield: Lezzer-21 carries, 134 yards, TD; Stratton-12 carries, 89 yards, 3 TD; Caldwell-3 carries, 51 yards, TD (53-yard fumble return TD); Team-1 rush, 0 yards.
Central Mountain: Weaver-16 carries, 54 yards, TD; Lucas-6 carries, 13 yards; Pavalko-4 carries, 24 yards; Caprio-3 carries, 21 yards; Bitner-3 carries, (-14) yards; Turchetta-1 carry, 7 yards; Neff-1 carry, 3 yards.
Clearfield: Lezzer-5 for 11, 137 yards, TD; Sellers-0 for 1, 0 yards.
Central Mountain: Bitner-3 for 17, 49 yards, TD; Neff-2 for 3, 16 yards.
Clearfield: Stratton-3 catches, 95 yards; Wingate-1 catch, 28 yards, TD; Ford-1 catch, 14 yards.
Central Mountain: Barner-2 catches, 37 yards, TD; Pavalko-1 catch, 12 yards; Harris-1 catch, 10 yards; Hanley-1 catch, 6 yards.