HYDE — Homecoming night is always special to high school students, as well as the parents. It’s a chance to look at the brightest, and most appreciated students in school, and have their peers vote on who deserves to be crowned the best of the group. For Clearfield, that night came on Friday night.
The only part of the night that seemed to not be welcoming was the weather. The Clearfield Bison warmed up in cool conditions, but the skies were only overcast. But, the clouds began rolling in, and then decided to open up. Homecoming for the Bison would then turn into a damp night for everyone. Still, the team put on their cleats, and took to the field knowing that a ball game was still to be played.
At halftime, the Homecoming Court was introduced to the fans, as the black and red balloons waved in the wind while the ladies walked on the field in their heels, while having umbrellas above their heads. In the end, Sarah Lash would emerge as the 2014 Clearfield Homecoming Queen, and was greeted by her family, friends and the Bison fans to congratulate her. At the same time, those same fans would welcome the team to their sidelines for 48 minutes of gridiron action.
Clearfield used the conditions to play football the old-school style, and with the Bellefonte Red Raiders showing they were an improved team from year’s past, trying to gain an early advantage was critical. But, when the Bison found footing, they used every bit of it. Clearfield would put over 400 yards of rushing against the Bellefonte defense, and improved their record to 4-2 with a 41-6 triumph at the Bison Sports Complex.
“It’s a credit to our kids because Bellefonte is much improved,” Head coach Tim Janocko said in the locker room afterward. “They got some kids back from last week that were injured, and did some things we hadn’t seen before from them, like running the ‘Wildcat.’
“They had some success, so it’s a credit to our defense to hold them to six points.”
That’s not to say Bellefonte didn’t have success of its own, as running back Austin Jackson would rumble for 137 of the team’s 267 rushing yards. But, a lot of those came on one play. At the same time, Clearfield themselves were in a bit of a bind as it was the first time Barrion Banks would take the field for the Red Raiders. After transferring in from York, he looked to be a big asset that would help Bellefonte. But, issues with paperwork to complete the transfer so he could play delayed his chance to be on the field, and tonight was his debut in the red and white Red Raider colors. Janocko admitted that was an unexpected twist in their game plan.
“He was something different, we hadn’t seen film on him,” Janocko said.
Yet, the Bison defense kept him in check all night. When the Bison took the field on offense, Bellefonte seemed to not find the right footing to stop them, and even gave away yards. On the opening drive for Clearfield, the Red Raider defense jumped off sides on three different occasions, giving the Bison an easy path down the field. That drive culminated in Eric Sellers scoring a 16-yard touchdown. Josh Sorbera booted the extra point, and the Bison had the early 7-0 lead.
Sellers admitted the opening drive was key, not knowing the night he was going to have as the plays and downs wore on.
“That first drive, our offense manhandled them, and we were just going to ride that wave as long as we could,” Sellers said walking off the field.
That touchdown would be the lone score in the first quarter, as the slight puckering of rain that began at kickoff soon became a steady shower, and by early in the second quarter, it was a heavy hit of water on the field. Both teams struggled to try and get a passing game going, and the wet football just made it worse for everyone. However, one of the key passes of the night was about to happen, and the rain did not play as big a factor, but the Bison defense was making a big factor in an instant.
Following a punt by Sorbera, Bellefonte started their first drive of the second quarter at their own 33. Quarterback Mark Armstrong took the snap and looked to his right. The pass came off his arms, but looked to not have the best flight down the field. Ryan Lezzer sensed this, and pounced. He would intercept the ball, and with his brother and former Bison player Christian in the stands to root on his younger sibling, Ryan would take the ball to the end zone for the pick-six. Another kick by Sorbera made it 14-0, and at that point momentum was squarely in the corner of the home team.
“It was a big play by Ryan. Definitely a momentum swing,” Janocko said.
Clearfield would force a punt on Bellefonte’s next drive, which took up over five minutes on the clock and saw 13 plays from the Red Raiders. Still, Clearfield would not back down and despite starting at their own 14, the Bison would not let up. Like a real herd of their namesake animal, the offense rumbled forward behind the running of Sellers and Seth Caldwell. Sellers would get to finish the drive with a 16-yard touchdown run, his second of the night. A missed extra point didn’t seem to phase the team, as they took a 20-0 lead into halftime.
Coming out of the half, however, did not see a great start for Clearfield, at least on defense. After the kickoff, the Red Raiders were 1st and 10 at their own 29, and did not waste any time trying to get something good to happen. Austin Jackson took the handoff, and found a gap, and ran down the sideline for the long 71-yard touchdown. The extra point was botched, and already early in the second half the score was cut to 20-6.
We knew #22 (Jackson), sooner or later, he’s gonna get one because he runs so well. Bellefonte is a team on the rise, and I think in the future they are going to be better,” Janocko said about the score.
Clearfield would have to wait a bit longer to get their own response, but they knew who was capable of doing it, and Sellers was ready to prove it once again. He would take a handoff from Cody Spaid and rumble up the middle, bouncing off defenders, and score his third touchdown on the night. Sorbera was true in his kick, and it was once again a three-touchdown margin for the Bison.
After the score, Bellefonte finally seemed to get a drive going with some promise. After beginning at their own 30, the team would nickel and dime their way into Bison territory, and even with a block in the back penalty that set them up with a third and long, the team rebounded to connect on a long pass, the only one completed on the night for Bellefonte, to Banks, which made it 1st and Goal at the Bison 9.
But, the Bison came up big when it mattered. A tackle for loss, then a stop at the goal line, followed by another tackle for loss and finally a high pass forced a turnover on downs. After 16 plays, Bellefonte had nothing to show for it.
Clearfield would make them pay on the next drive, as after four plays, Sellers again would find daylight, but this time did so up the middle, and then let his speed take over from there. His 53-yard touchdown run seemed to encompass nearly 70 yards as he weaved both left and right to avoid tackles. Sorbera’s extra point made it 34-6 with half a quarter to play, but for the varsity squad, their job was done.
Sellers would cap his four-touchdown night by rushing for 178 yards on the ground. Afterward, he admitted the game plan was to try and pass the ball, but that went out the window pretty quick.
“Coming into this game, we thought we had to show out on our passing style, and see if we could open it up in the air,” Sellers said. “It was pretty ironic, it opened up in the sky, and started raining, so we knew we had to beat them on the ground.”
Janocko echoed his senior quarterback, and talked about not just the ground game, but his offensive line, stating “He’s getting a lot better at running the ball, and Caldwell is getting better at running the ball. It comes down to those two guys and our offensive line maturing. Out of all those guys (on the line), there’s only one senior, and two are sophomores. There’s a lot of young kids on that offensive line.”
Following another 3-and-out by Bellefonte, the underclassmen of the Bison took the field to get some playing time and experience under the lights. Their playing time didn’t last long, but it was for good reason. After the Red Raider punt, Cory Shimmel took the first snap he got from his teammates, and went forward, and at that moment no one was touching him. It took only 14 seconds, but Shimmel put in an 80-yard touchdown to push the lead even larger. Sorbera’s kick made it 41-6, putting the running clock into effect for the final few minutes of the game.
“Shimmel is real close to seeing a lot more varsity time. He sees some time now, but he’s a game breaker. It’s just now getting him reps, but he has a lot of potential,” Janocko said.
The win gives Janocko a sense of happiness for the kids on his team, especially after all that has happened to them this season.
“I’m happy where we’re at. We’re 4-2 with a young team, and you look at all the adversity these kids have faced with the scheduling; we went to West Virginia to face a team we’ve never played before, with a young team, and you look at the teams we’re facing, they’re overcoming adversity,” Janocko said. “Now, we’re going to play in another hornet’s nest, but they’re not yielding though. They are a resilient bunch.”
The “hornets nest” Janocko speaks of is the fact that his team is on the road next Friday night to face Tyrone (6-0), a team they’ve beaten the last two seasons by a combined two points. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Bellefonte 0 0 6 0 – 6
Clearfield 7 13 7 14 – 41
BISON: 5-yard run by Sellers (Sorbera kick), 9:15
BISON: 39-yard Interception return by Lezzer (Sorbera kick), 10:00
BISON: 16-yard run by Sellers (Sorbera kick Wide Left), 1:07
RED RAIDERS: 71-yard run by Jackson (Feldman kick Muffed), 11:39
BISON: 20-yard run by Sellers (Sorbera kick), 5:00
BISON: 53-yard run by Sellers (Sorbera kick), 6:47
BISON: 80-yard run by Shimmel (Sorbera kick), 4:45
First Downs: 11/14
Rushing Yards: 267/437
Passing Yards: 23/7
Total Yards: 290/444
Time of Possession: 30:40/17:20
Bellefonte: Jackson-15 carries, 137 yards, TD; Kephart-11 carries, 29 yards;Banks-9 carries, 55 yards; Kreger-5 carries, 27 yards; Gardner-4 carries, 14 yards; Armstrong-2 carries, (-1) yards; Jabco-1 carry, 0 yards; Team-2 carries, 6 yards.
Caldwell-18 carries, 108 yards; Sellers-17 carries, 178 yards, 4 TD; Shimmel-3 carries, 97 yards, TD; Lezzer-2 carries, 54 yards.
Bellefonte: Gardner-1 for 3, 23 yards; Armstrong-0 for 2, INT.
Clearfield: Spaid-1 for 5, 7 yards.
Bellefonte: Banks-1 catch, 23 yards.
Clearfield: Lezzer-1 catch, 7 yards.