WINGATE — With the high school football season nearing the end of the regular season, every team wants to finish on a strong note, and push to continue beyond the schedule originally given. Early in the season, the Clearfield Bison were faced with struggles, especially with a lot of youth on the team and a lot of tough competition on their schedule for 2014. But, the squad was able to bear down and put forth a season that once again will be remembered.
This book was not done, because the newest chapter would be written at Alumni Stadium as the Bison would again hit the road for the final time during the regular season to face off with the Bald Eagle Area Eagles.
What became clear from the opening kickoff to the final whistle is how much improved both squads were from the beginning of the season, however it was Clearfield that showed more domination on this night. Thanks to a spread attack on the ground and a strong passing game, the Bison would cruise to the 49-14 victory, locking in yet another winning season for the storied program.
“We played some really good competition, and it’s a young team. We were really tested early on, and it set the tone for the season,” head coach Tim Janocko said afterward. “We lost two tough games early on, but we’ve rebounded from that, and just want to keep getting better.
“Bald Eagle has improved quite a bit since the first game, and that’s a credit to Ron (Hoover) and his staff because you can see they’ve definitely gotten better as a football team.”
The improvement that was showcased on this night was the passing game of Clearfield. At times, quarterback Cody Spaid has been hit-and-miss on the season, struggling to find his receivers and never finding a comfort zone in the pocket. But, Friday night, that all changed. Spaid was strong from his first pass to his last, completing 70 percent of his passes, ending with 131 yards through the air and a season-high three touchdowns.
For Janocko, that was a night Spaid and the entire team needed.
“It’s a night we needed out of him, and we took advantage of some things, and he put the ball on the money for the most part,” Janocko said.
His defense did the rest as they would hold Bald Eagle to just 166 total yards, with over half of that coming on the passing of Jason Jones, who would throw one touchdown pass but also account for one interception.
It did not start out well for the home bunch as on the second play from scrimmage, Mitchell Struble lost the handle on the ball, and the Bison line was there to cover up immediately, forcing the first turnover less than a minute into the game. To follow up, Spaid and his teammate Eric Sellers would swap roles a few times on the Bison opening drive at quarterback to throw the defense off, and it worked as Sellers would either run from a draw, or take the handoff from Spaid to assist in gaining the yardage.
Sellers would eventually take it himself to the end zone for the opening score of the game. A returning Spencer Herrington, finally healthy after a leg injury midway through the season, booted the extra point to give the Bison the early 7-0 lead.
Although Janocko would rather have one quarterback take all the snaps, he was quick to say the dual-quarterback system wasn’t bad, and it was yielding results.
“I think it’s working really well. That’s not something I’ve always wanted to do, but this has been a recipe for success this season,” Janocko said.
After another three-and-out by the Eagles, Spaid would take center stage on the next drive, as following a punt, Spaid’s first pass was to Ryan Lezzer on a screen that went for 19 yards into Eagle territory. One play later, he would look over the middle to find Nick Kovalick all alone for a 34-yard touchdown strike. Another kick, the lead was already up to two possessions.
The Eagles would try again to find some success as Jones connected on his first pass from scrimmage, but the offense then faltered. On 4th and 23, they lined up for the punt, or so it seemed. Jones plays both quarterback and punter, and the coaches decided to call for a fake as he looked over the middle of the field to try and surprise the Bison defense.
It would not work as Josh Sorbera would knock the pass down, giving the Bison great field position on the next drive.
“Sorbera made a huge play knocking the ball out of that kid’s hands. That would’ve been a big play (for Bald Eagle),” Janocko said.
Clearfield wasted little time on the next drive as after just two minutes and four running plays, Spaid once again looked to go to the air, and this time Lezzer would be there to cash in. The 36-yard strike would put the Bison up 20-0 into the second quarter, as Sellers lost the handle on the hold for the extra point.
It would not be until midway through the second quarter that Bald Eagle finally would put together a successful drive that would lead to points. Jones would call his own number on 1st and 10 from the Bison 14 to make his way into the end zone for the first time on the night. Ishler Jared booted the extra point, and the lead would be cut to 20-7.
However, the Bison would not go quietly, but needed some luck on the ensuing drive. When it seemed they were shut down to just three plays, Herrington came on to punt, but suddenly while on the field an Eagle player began running off the field, and confusion abounded. The play was whistled dead due to the fact Bald Eagle broke the huddle with 12 players, and the penalty yielded a first down for the Bison.
Another eight plays would lead to points as Spaid would hook up for his third touchdown on the night, this one to Sorbera, his first receiving touchdown of the year. Sellers would execute the two-point conversion pass to Seth Caldwell, making the score 28-7 heading into halftime.
“Cody stayed in the pocket really well, found the open receivers, and stood tall in the pocket. He looked like a big-time quarterback in my eyes,” Janocko said of his quarterback.
Coming out of the break, it was more of the same ground-and-pound attack from Sellers and Caldwell, as both would push the ball down the field beginning at their own 35. Sellers would finish the drive off with his second touchdown of the game, capping an 82-yard rushing night. Another extra point, and it was 35-7 as it would be the lone score of the quarter.
The Bison capitalized on a three-and-out again on the following possession that led into the fourth quarter, as that drive would end with Cory Shimmel finding a gap on the left side of the line to rumble in for another rushing touchdown. Herrington’s kick was true, and the 42-7 score meant the running clock was put in place.
At that point, the varsity team had done their job, and the underclassmen were given a chance to get some playing time. Unfortunately, on their first drive, Shimmel would cough up the ball on the second play, which would then be recovered by Bald Eagle.
Two plays later, Jones would use the air to find Cody Scholl for a 34-yard touchdown pass. Another extra point, and it was 42-14, still with a running clock.
Still, the jayvee offense would take the field on the next drive, and in a way Shimmel was looking to make up for his mistake on the previous drive. He would call his own number on 1st and 10 from the Bison 28. He would find a gap on the right, and in an instant turned on the jets. The varsity defense for Bald Eagle couldn’t keep up, and Shimmel would sprint for the 72-yard touchdown run. That would lead him to be the team-high rusher on the night, finishing with 103 yards and two scores, having only touched the ball seven times.
Herrington’s kick was true, locking in the 49-14 final.
“He’s been doing that all year. Shimmel would be playing varsity football for a lot of people, but he’s capable of breaking it at any time. We need more out of him as the year goes on. He’s definitely another weapon,” Janocko said.
The win for the Bison is their fifth straight, and it puts them in a three-way tie at the top of the Mountain League standings with Tyrone and Central, with Tyrone holding the overall lead with their one-loss season, that one loss coming last week at the hands of Clearfield. Even though the Bison will get a share of the Mountain League title for 2014, Janocko isn’t looking ahead to the unknown about their playoff circumstances, but instead is looking at the here and now.
“We’re going into our ninth week of the season, and these kids have solidified a winning season, and that’s important to us, and then it’s back to business next week,” Janocko said.
Clearfield (6-2) will close out the regular season with Senior Night next Friday as they host the Mounties of Philipsburg-Osceola.
SCORE BY QUARTER
Clearfield 20 8 7 14 – 49
Bald Eagle 0 7 0 7 – 14
BISON: 2-yard run by Sellers (Herrington kick), 9:24
BISON: 34-yard pass from Spaid to Kovalick (Herrington kick muffed), 6:56
BISON: 36-yard pass from Spaid to Lezzer (Herrington kick), 1:01
EAGLES: 14-yard run by Jones (Jared kick), 5:35
BISON: 12-yard pass from Spaid to Sorbera (Sellers pass to Caldwell for conversion), 0:52
BISON: 1-yard run by Sellers (Herrington kick), 6:14
BISON: 8-yard run by Shimmel (Herrington kick), 11:44
EAGLES: 17-yard pass from Jones to Scholl (Jared kick), 4:34
BISON: 72-yard run by Shimmel (Herrington kick), 3:50
Clearfield/Bald Eagle Area
First Downs: 13/5
Rush Yards: 204/72
Pass Yards: 131/94
Total Yards: 335/166
Time of Possession: 21:58/26:02
Clearfield: Sellers-15 carries, 82 yards, 2 TD; Caldwell-13 carries, 73 yards; Shimmel-7 carries, 103 yards, 2 TD; Lezzer-2 carries, 4 yards; Spaid-1 carry, 5 yards; Norris-1 carry, (-2) yards; Team-1 carry (-1) yard.
Bald Eagle: Struble-17 carries, 30 yards; Jones-4 carries, 21 yards, TD; Scholl-1 carry, 9 yards; Hockenberry-1 carry, 5 yards; Morgan-1 carry, 5 yards; Heinbaugh-1 carry, 1 yard; Vanderhoof-1 carry, 1 yard; Comly-1 carry, 0 yards.
Clearfield: Spaid-7 for 10, 131 yards, 3 TD.
Bald Eagle: Jones-7 for 13, 94 yards, TD, INT.
Clearfield: Lezzer-4 catches, 82 yards, TD; Kovalick-1 catch, 34 yards, TD; Sorbera-1 catch, 12 yards, TD; Wingate-1 catch, 3 yards.
Bald Eagle: Scholl-2 catches, 31 yards, TD; Struble-2 catches, 24 yards; Jarrett-2 catches, 1 yard; Kunes-1 catch, 40 yards.