HUNTINGDON — One week ago, the Clearfield Bison were hanging their heads in defeat, suffering their second loss of the season and the first on their home turf since the new field was installed. But, every team at any level knows that in defeat, you must move forward and focus on the next task at hand. The Bison needed to do that since they still had a long season to go.
The middle portion of their season began with another road trip, this time to Huntingdon to face off with the Bearcats, as they were hosting “Superhero Night” as fans dressed up anywhere from Superman to Wonder Woman, and even a few Ninja Turtles were spotted in the crowd.
On the field, however, the Bison were the real superheroes. From the opening kick to the final whistle, Clearfield wanted to show dominance. They did so by putting forth an old-school, smash mouth game from their offense while the defense played shut-down all night long. In the end, that kind of attack was too much for the home team as the Bison walked away with the 30-14 triumph.
Bison head coach Tim Janocko was especially pleased with his offense, especially the play of his young front line, who were able to assist in getting nearly 400 yards of offense on the ground.
“We started to do that last week in the second quarter, and it carried over. Our offensive line is getting better, more confidence. Our sophomore tailback is getting more confidence,” Janocko said.
The sophomore tailback he spoke of was Seth Caldwell, who has seen some early struggles in his first season as the main go-to back for Clearfield. But against Huntingdon, the young back exploded. His night ended with over 200 yards of rushing, 176 in the first half, and two touchdowns. Not to be outdone, senior quarterback/tailback Eric Sellers rushed for over 100 yards and another score. Caldwell was quick to point out it wasn’t just him that won tonight, it was his offensive line.
“Our offensive line adjusted great. We’ve been trying to focus on the backers and safety,” Caldwell said. “Our front line only has one senior this year, but he’s still playing very strong. I’m very impressed of how they’re blocking, and I love playing with those guys.”
On the opposite side of the ball, the Bison defense was lights out, holding Huntingdon to 60 total yards of offense.
The night did not start out well for the Bison as after forcing an opening-drive punt, the Clearfield offense was working well, and plugging away at the ground game. But quarterback Cody Spaid had the ball stripped from his hands on a 2nd and 2 after just getting into Bearcat territory, leading to the first turnover of the game. It did not take long for Huntingdon to pounce, as on the very first play from scrimmage, Jon Wagner found a gap on the right side of the defense and never looked back. The opening score and extra point made it 7-0 with still half a quarter to play.
But, Clearfield answered right back on the next drive, especially after a strong return led to good field position on the kickoff. This drive set the tone for the night as Sellers and Caldwell each took turns in the spread look to pick away at the defense. Caldwell capped it off with a 15-yard scamper to the end zone. Josh Sorbera nailed the extra point, and it was tied at seven a piece.
That score remained even through the end of the first quarter, but the Bison got the ball back after another 3-and-out from Huntingdon, and took care of business on the ground on the ensuing drive. All but one play was a run, and it brought them deep into the red zone thanks to Sellers and Caldwell.
But, in a twist, on 1st and 10 from the Bearcat 14, Janocko called an end around sweep, and Spaid then handed the ball to Ryan Lezzer, who pushed hard to the goal line and stretched his arm out just before going out of bounds to get the second score of the night. Sorbera’s kick would go wide left, giving the Bison a 13-7 lead and momentum on their side.
Unfortunately, that momentum was quickly stopped. In fact, it was stopped so fast there wasn’t any time to savor the lead. On the ensuing kickoff, Wagner took the ball from his own 10, and found a gap on the right, then switched fields and crossed to the left. No one was stopping Wagner on the return, and thanks to another extra point from Kodiak Heaton, the Bearcats were back in the lead by a single point.
It was then that Janocko went old-school football for good. Still looking at 11 minutes before halftime, Janocko and his staff elected to show how much they could control the game. The next drive did so with 10 plays and 55 yards of field in front of the offense to show how dominant they wanted to be. That drive ended with Clearfield back in the lead thanks to another touchdown from Caldwell and a two-point conversion, leaving the score 21-14 at halftime.
Even before the half, Clearfield was not only showing dominance on the ground, but also on the clock. In the entire first half, Huntingdon only held the ball for just over seven minutes. Despite the short time on the field, they had the lead for a brief time, but with two quarters left, it was still a long way from being done.
The Bison would receive the opening kickoff for the second half, but did not manage to score any points, turning it over on downs in Huntingdon territory. But, what the drive did was take over half the quarter, leaving little time for the Bearcats to work with.
Even then, Huntingdon never got footing, and never even had a drive sustained in the third quarter as on their lone possession, quarterback Hudson Speck had his pass intercepted by Nick Kovalick on third down, giving Clearfield a short field.
“Kovalick had a big game on both sides of the ball,” Janocko said. Kovalick had a strong game alongside Dustin Maines on defense, while on offense he was creating holes and keeping with his blocks, as on the drive after the turnover he and his other offensive linemen helped Caldwell get his second touchdown of the game. Sorbera booted the extra point and it was 28-14, where it remained heading into the fourth quarter.
At that point, it was all about ball control and running time off the clock. Clearfield got the ball shortly into the fourth quarter after another three-and-out by Huntingdon. The ensuing drive began with 10:32 left in the game, but when it was fourth down at mid-field and the Bison were forced to punt, almost half the quarter remained. But, Clearfield was dominating the clock, as up to that point the Bearcats only had seen the ball twice in the second half, and combined those two drives only lasted just over three minutes.
“That’s huge. When you have the ball and a two touchdown lead, it doesn’t get better than that,” Janocko said.
Although Clearfield was forced to punt, Sorbera began to put the final touches on the night for the Bison as he was able to punt the ball deep into Bearcat territory, forcing them to begin the drive at their own six. After two penalties, they were forced to their own one and had to somehow find daylight, or breathing room for their punter. It turned out, they needed neither.
On second down, the Bearcats ran a reverse, but on the second pitch the handoff was not secured, and the ball was on the ground. Huntingdon fell on the ball, but unfortunately they did so in their own end zone, meaning the defense forced a safety, and the Bison offense would have the ball back with a 30-14 lead.
“That was a great punt by Josh. He filled in tonight for Spencer and he did a great job,” Janocko said.
The free kick was handled easily by the Bison, and with Huntingdon using their time outs, it was a simple matter of running the ball and draining the clock. Sellers, Caldwell, and Cory Shimmel all pitched in to make sure the victory was sealed as they kept the ball for the remaining five minutes of the game.
Janocko was pleased with the offensive production, but was more impressed with how his defense came back after letting victory slip away a week ago. It was that kind of game that made them stand up and play harder, according to the Bison head coach.
“They (defensively) grew up a lot last week. We have the capabilities of being a very good defense. We play the run real tough, made some adjustments in the secondary and we just keep getting confidence.” Janocko said.
Now sitting at 2-2, the Bison don’t have to go far for a few weeks because rather than load up the buses, they will be back in their house, and the schedule doesn’t get any easier. That’s alright according to Janocko.
“We have two tough opponents, but it’s nice to be home,” he said.
The Bison will face off against Brockway next week at the Bison Sports Complex.
NOTES: The Bison held the ball for over 35 minutes in the game, longest time of possession all season; Spencer Herrington was dressed to play to start the game, but was pulled after the opening kickoff with leg pain.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Clearfield 7 14 7 2 – 30
Huntingdon 7 7 0 0 – 14
BEARCATS: 60-yard run by Wagner (Heaton kick), 6:35
BISON: 15-yard run by Caldwell (Sorbera kick), 5:17
BISON: 14-yard run by Lezzer (Sorbera kick WIDE LEFT), 11:24
BEARCATS: 90-yard kickoff return by Wagner (Heaton kick), 11:08
BISON: 4-yard run by Caldwell (Pass from Sellers to Caldwell), 6:16
BISON: 4-yard run by Sellers (Sorbera kick), 1:01
BISON: Safety, 5:51
First Downs: 24/0
Rush Yards: 396/48
Pass Yards: 76/12
Total Yards: 462/60
Time of Possession: 35:49/12:11
Clearfield: Caldwell-32 carries, 227 yards, 2 TD; Sellers-20 carries, 105 yards, TD; Shimmel-8 carries, 61 yards; Lezzer-3 carries, 25 yards; Spaid-1 carry, (-10) yards; Team-2 carries, (-4) yards.
Huntingdon: Wagner-7 carries, 53 yards, TD; Oliver-3 carries, 9 yards; Fisher-2 carries, (-3) yards; Speck-2 carries, (-10) yards; Glenny-1 carry, (-1) yard.
Clearfield: Spaid-2 for 10, 52 yards, INT; Sellers-2 for 2, 24 yards.
Huntingdon: Speck-1 for 4, 14 yards, INT; Wagner-1 for 1, (-2) yards.
Clearfield: Caldwell-2 catches, 29 yards; Summers-1 catch, 30 yards; Lezzer-1 catch, 17 yards.
Huntingdon: Newingham-1 catch, 14 yards; Martin-1 catch, (-2) yards.