HYDE — The second season of football. No matter what level one plays, whether it’s high school all the way to the pro level, that is the ultimate goal, because it means a successful season has been had by all. For the Clearfield Bison, this is a familiar site. Their 9-1 season that led to a record 13th District IX championship locked them into the top seed in the Class AAA bracket.
The Bison Sports Complex would have the honor of hosting one more game thanks to the Bison earning the top seed in the bracket, and they were ready for action. Across the field, a familiar foe at this time of year, the Johnstown Trojans, who came into the playoffs at an even 5-5 to lock into the No. 4 seed.
Wind was howling since before the game began, with gusts sometimes reaching near 40 MPH, and it caused havoc for both squads. Neither team would give in, and kept it close.
It was so close, 48 minutes wasn’t enough to decide it, and it would be settled in overtime.
Little did anyone know that it would be an unexpected play, one that wasn’t even planned, that would decide who would move on. That one play is what would stun the Bison at home, as they would lose the overtime classic as Johnstown came back to stun Clearfield in a 20-14 final.
“You know our kids played hard. It’s playoffs, and this is what games are like in the playoffs…they made a play, and that’s what it came down to,” head coach Tim Janocko said afterwards.
It was a game that did not feature a lot of offense from either side, as the weather created problems for both squads, relying heavily on the run instead of the pass. The Trojans had success on both sides, totaling 269 yards of offense compared to the Bison’s 165, with 112 of those through the air from senior quarterback Jeremy Updyke.
However, it was the Bison that were imposing their will early in the highly contested match-up. The Bison forced a three-and-out, thanks to a holding penalty on second down, and forced a punt. That punt would net only 13 yards as the swirling wind caught the ball and gave the Bison starting field position at the Trojan 38 for their opening drive.
It would take eight plays, highlighted by a strong pass by Cody Spaid down the middle of the field to Travis Ogden, to get on the board. Spaid would do the honors on a 2-yard sneak to the end zone. Josh Serena attempted the extra point, but it would sail wide-right, leaving the score 6-0 with 6:30 left in the first quarter.
Johnstown battled back on the following drive, which saw Updyke complete a soaring pass down the right sideline to Theo Tinsley for 36 yards to set up a 1st and Goal. One play later, Terrell Jones would cough up the ball which would be recovered by Clearfield, stopping the momentum by Johnstown in an instant.
The Bison couldn’t do anything with the turnover, but neither team had any luck over the next 12 minutes of gaining any yardage. It wouldn’t be until 5:55 remained in the second quarter where the Bison would start imposing their will. Thanks to some hard running by Seth Caldwell and Ryan Lezzer, Clearfield would march down the field on 11 plays, culminating with Lezzer getting the 5-yard touchdown run. He would also add on the two-point conversion to make the score 14-0, where it remained heading into halftime.
Neither team would score in the third quarter, and the wind would continue to gust but now some snow was being tossed around in the air.
Entering the fourth quarter, Johnstown had something going. They roared into the red zone thanks to a 42-yard rumble by Bryce Gibson, the longest run from scrimmage on either side, on a 4th-and-1 play at the Trojan 40. Gibson would lead all rushers with 116 yards, but it was Updyke who would conclude the drive. He would connect with Exree Loe on a 10-yard touchdown pass to put the Trojans on the board. The two-point try would fall short, leaving the score 14-6 with 10:55 left in the game.
Still neither team would give in, exchanging three-and-outs on three straight drives. Johnstown would take over with 7:13 remaining in the game, and this would be the defining drive, but not because of the visitors. Instead, it was because of Clearfield.
The drive would start on the Trojan 8, but after three plays it would already move into Bison territory. The reason: back-to-back personal foul penalties against Clearfield, giving Johnstown free yardage.
“One was a face mask, and another was a late hit out of bounds. It wasn’t anything dirty, but those things happen in football,” Janocko said.
The Trojans would make the Bison pay, as they would go 15 plays, taking five minutes off the clock, and ultimately getting in the end zone thanks to a 3-yard run by Updyke. They would then go for two, and Updyke looked right once again for Hoe, who leaped up for the ball, pulling it down by the sideline. The Bison were motioning he was out, but the officials said otherwise, and in that moment, the game was tied at 14.
Clearfield would do nothing on the ensuing possession, going three-and-out, but suddenly saw a major momentum shift. On the punt, Hoe was ready to field the ball around his 20, but in an instant it bounced right off his hands. The live ball would be recovered by Clearfield, and the great field position was exactly what they wanted.
Still, Johnstown would not yield, forcing a 4th and 16. Janocko decided to gamble, and sent out Serena to attempt a 42-yard field goal, the first field goal attempt all season by the Bison. The snap was strong, Carter Wood held it down, but Serena’s kick would land 3 yards short of the cross bar.
Johnstown elected to run out the clock, and that would send the game into extra time.
The crowd was roaring at this point, and the Clearfield sideline was ready for a shootout. The Bison won the coin toss, electing to go on offense, hoping to capitalize on the momentum gained from the fumble.
All that momentum was gone in a flash. Spaid took the snap from Dylan Fenton, and tried to hand off to Lezzer, but the ball bounced on the ground. Neither team would seem to want to recover the ball, as it bounced nearly 20 yards behind the original line of scrimmage. Finally, Johnstown fell on the ball, ending the possession, and meaning they only needed a field goal to win.
At that moment, the crowd began roaring. The Trojans took over on the 10-yard line. On first down, Gibson took the hand off, and got stuffed at the 6. The second down handoff went to Jones who only gained another yard. Updyke would take the ball himself on third down, only to fumble it and recover it back at the 10. So with fourth down approaching, out came Chris Harris to attempt a 27-yard field goal.
The Bison crowded the line of scrimmage, the fans began roaring, and the cheerleaders were getting loud. Even the Bison players on the sideline were roaring.
And then, it happened.
Holder Tavis Price couldn’t get the snap, as it was fumbled from center. No one could see where the ball went, but Price somehow got hold of it. The defense was coming, and Price suddenly turned the corner to his right. He could see daylight, and went for it. The Bison defense was coming…but came too late. The ball, and Price, crossed the goal line. The Trojan sideline erupted when Price crossed the goal line for the touchdown, ending the game, and the Bison’s season.
Janocko was subdued with the ending, in just as much shock as everyone dressed in black and red.
“We needed to make some plays on offense that we didn’t make, and we had some plays work against us,” Janocko said. “It’s just a tough way to lose, I’m sure this one will sting a little bit.”
The look on the Bison sidelines spoke volumes. The cheerleaders had red faces from the cold weather, but became soaked in tears of disbelief. Jaws were hanging down as if a ghost had crossed in front of their eyes. Bison players were laying on the turf that were defending the play, not believing what had just transpired. The emotion, the shock, disbelief and reality all began setting in. The season for the Bison had come to a conclusion in the most unexpected way, and no one knew how to take it.
Janocko in a way wasn’t surprised at the competition, noting that the records of every team in the bracket didn’t reflect how tough it would be to advance.
“I looked at this field of four and I thought it was very even with Somerset, University Prep, us and Johnstown, and you saw it tonight with it going into overtime,” Janocko said. “Our kids play hard, and it just comes down to some plays go against you, they made a couple more plays than we did, and that’s what happened.”
The Bison conclude the 2015 season with a record of 9-2, and possibly a bit of wonder of what might have been. At the same time, Janocko wasn’t disappointed with his team and what they accomplished. The senior class was involved in four championship seasons, including a trip to the PIAA state playoffs, two undefeated seasons, and many more memories. Even though the year had concluded, he felt the seniors left an impact on him, the community, and each other.
“It’s a great group of seniors. As sophomores they won 13 games, won nine games last year as juniors, nine again this year. They’ve won a lot of football games in three years,” Janocko said.
Johnstown moves on to the finals of the District 5-6-8-9 bracket in Class AAA to take on Somerset, who defeated University Prep 24-14. That game will be played next Friday or Saturday at a neutral site.
SCORE BY QUARTER
Johnstown 0 0 0 14 6 – 20
Clearfield 6 8 0 0 0 – 14
BISON: 2-yard run by Spaid (Serena kick Wide Right), 6:30
BISON: 5-yard run by Lezzer (Lezzer Run), 1:17
TROJANS: 10-yard pass from Updyke to Hoe (Pass failed), 10:55
TROJANS: 3-yard run by Updyke (Updyke pass to Hoe), 2:12
TROJANS: 10-yard run by Price
First Downs: 12/7
Rush Yards: 157/89
Pass Yards: 112/76
Total Yards: 269/165
Time of Possession: 25:14/22:46
Johnstown: Gibson-21 carries, 116 yards, Jones-16 carries, 43 yards, Updyke-5 carries, (-8) yards, TD; Price-2 carries, 13 yards, TD; Loe-1 carry, (-7) yards.
Clearfield: Caldwell-20 carries, 52 yards; Lezzer-10 carries, 32 yards, TD; Spaid-3 carries, 5 yards, TD.
Johnstown: Updyke-12 for 23, 112 yards, TD.
Clearfield: Spaid-7 for 19, 86 yards, INT; Caldwell-0 for 1.
Johnstown: Hoe-3 catches, 20 yards, TD; Rowe-3 catches, 13 yards, Tinsley-2 catches, 49 yards; Jones-2 catches, 14 yards; Brehm-1 catch 11 yards; Fields-1 catch, 5 yards.
Clearfield: Ogden-3 catches, 58 yards; Lezzer-2 catches, 13 yards; Norris-1 catch, 3 yards; Caldwell-1 catch, 2 yards.
|09/04||FORT HILL, MD||14 – 49||0 – 1|
|09/11||PENNS VALLEY||42 – 18||1 – 1|
|09/18||@ Central||19 – 8||2 – 1|
|09/25||HUNTINGDON||50 – 23||3 – 1|
|10/02||@ Brockway||28 – 7||4 – 1|
|10/09||@ Bellefonte||42 – 7||5 – 1|
|10/16||TYRONE||34 – 17||6 – 1|
|10/23||BALD EAGLE AREA||49 – 12||7 – 1|
|10/30||@ Philipsburg-Osceola||56 – 17||8 – 1|
|11/06||D9 AAA Final|
|vs. Punxsutawney||56 – 8||9 – 1|
|11/13||Region 5/6/8/9 Semis|
|vs. Johnstown||14 – 20 ot||9 – 2|