SPRING MILLS-The signs of fall have started to show. Apple trees are starting to release their fruits, temperatures are dropping, and most noticeable is the school buses are back on the road taking students to their class. For Clearfield, their year officially began on Monday, but the team already has one game under their belt. However, the Bison wanted to put last week’s loss behind them, and loaded up the buses once more for a trip through State College and past Centre Hall into Spring Mills.
There they took to the grass at the Penns Valley High School to take on the Rams, who also were coming off a loss the previous week.
The fall air welcomed fans on both sides, and the fans on both sides got to witness a highly competitive, highly contested game between both squads. Each quarter only saw one score, but it was the competitive spirit that kept both teams battling. At the final whistle, the Bison hoisted their helmets to the sky with a 21-7 triumph.
Head coach Tim Janocko afterwards was quick to point out that this Penns Valley team is a lot different than he was anticipating.
“That’s one of the best Penns Valley teams they’ve had here in a long time. We still had some miscues by our younger kids, which hurt us, but we overcame those,” he said. “Some of our seniors really rose up and made some big plays.”
Those young players that had troubles and miscues were quarterback Isaac Rumery, who was making his second start in his career. He would lead the Bison in rushing with 87 yards, and also throw for another 132 yards, but early in the game he would cough up the football twice on consecutive drives.
That first fumble would give Penns Valley excellent field position to start their opening drive. After driving the ball into the red zone, quarterback Andrew Tobias went play action following four consecutive run plays, finding Nic Kubalak over the middle for the 16-yard touchdown pass. Marcus Woodford booted the extra point and it was an early 7-0 advantage for the home team.
Clearfield’s second drive ended the same way, except it came at a more costly time as Rumery would help push the Bison into Ram territory. After a 14-yard gain on 2nd and 10, the Ram defense did the same move that stripped the Bison sophomore of the ball the previous time, and it was recovered by Penns Valley.
Unfortunately for the Rams, despite a 13-play drive following the turnover, they would be stopped on fourth down, but thanks to a quick punt by Tobias, they would pin the Bison deep in their own territory for their first drive of the second quarter.
It didn’t take long for Clearfield to make sure they got the game tied up. Rumery missed Mason Royer on the first pass, but on second down he looked to his left and saw Ryan Lezzer beat the zone coverage by three yards. He ripped a pass towards the sideline, and it fell right into Lezzer’s hands. At that point, it was a foot race, one that Lezzer would win with ease. It was a 90-yard touchdown pass, and Josh Serena’s right leg, that tied the game, 7-7, a score that remained heading into the locker room.
“That’s what he (Lezzer) has to do, and we expect that from him. He’s a playmaker,” Janocko said of his senior wide out.
Both squads would battle in the trenches for a great part of the second quarter and most of the third, something that Janocko noticed would be a true test for his team. Compared to the two teams the Bison have faced the last two weeks, the opposition has been bigger in stature. But, as the game progressed, he saw his team begin to create opportunities for Lezzer, Rumery and Seth Caldwell.
“I just think it was their size, and we’ve played some big teams. Dubois was big, Penns Valley is big. We just knew we had to do a better job blocking,” Janocko said.
Clearfield would get it’s next big break following a punt from the Rams, and it came on special teams. Return man Spencer Graham took the punt from Tobias just outside his own 40, and after twisting right, he swapped to the left side and followed his blockers. He wouldn’t make it to the goal line, but the 44-yard punt return put the offense at the 20-yard line to start the drive.
Five plays later, after getting to 3rd-and-Goal, Rumery made his second big play of the night as he connected to Royer over the linebackers, threading a needle for his second touchdown pass of the night. Another extra point and the Bison had their first lead of the night.
Janocko was quick to point out the punt return was the game-changing play for his team.
“We’ve been practicing that. Graham had a big return that set up the go-ahead score. That was huge.”
The final score of the game came thanks to the legs of Caldwell. After another Penns Valley punt, the Bison went on a running rampage to try and run out the clock. Aside from a lone pass from Rumery to Lezzer, the 11-play drive took place on the ground. Caldwell got the ball on 2nd-and-6 at the Ram 34, and he took it to the house. The score put Clearfield up 21-7, but the Rams wouldn’t go away yet.
The final drive for the Rams started at their own 22, and Tobias relied on his arm to push the ball down the field, hitting mainly Jarred Hurd, who led the Rams with 75 yards receiving. But soon they were running out of downs. On 1st-and-10 from the 13, a false start first moved the Rams back five yards. Tobias tried for Kubalak on the next play, but the ball fell short. Second down saw the same when he looked for Takota Bubb. Kubalak was the target on third down, but the pass was batted down.
Finally, the fourth down pass iced the game as it went to the end zone, but landed in the hands of Caldwell. At that point, the game was over.
Janocko’s team has been through a tough few weeks, but now at 1-1, he feels that they have improved from the previous week. He also knows the schedule that follows has no game that will not be highly contested.
“It doesn’t get any easier, but we’re battle tested. We are going to be in games like this all year, we just have to learn from them,” Janocko said.
Next week is Clearfield’s first home game of the season, a big rivalry game against the Central Dragons, who are 2-0 following their 31-7 victory over Tyrone.
SCORE BY QUARTER
Clearfield 0 7 7 7 – 21
Penns Valley 7 0 0 0 – 7
RAMS: 16-yard pass from Tobias to Kubalak (Woodford kick), 6:33
BISON: 90-yard pass from Rumery to Lezzer (Serena kick), 11:24
BISON: 8-yard pass from Rumery to Royer (Serena kick), 7:22
BISON: 34-yard run by Caldwell (Serena kick), 2:34
First Downs: 11/9
Rushing Yards: 221/110
Passing Yards: 132/151
Total Yards: 353/261
Time of Possession: 25:24/22:36
Clearfield: Caldwell-18 carries, 79 yards, TD; Rumery-16 carries, 87 yards; Lezzer-5 carries, 34 yards; McGonigal-2 carries, 25 yards; Team-3 carries, (-3) yards.
Penns Valley: Bubb-19 carries, 69 yards; Wenrick-6 carries, 11 yards; Tobias-3 carries, 20 yards.
Clearfield: Rumery-7 for 9, 132 yards, TD.
Penns Valley: 13 for 29, 151 yards, TD, INT.
Clearfield: Lezzer-4 catches, 110 yards, TD; Royer-2 catches, 15 yards, TD; McGonigal-1 catch, 7 yards.
Penns Valley: Hurd-7 catches, 75 yards; Bubb-3 catches, 45 yards; Rudolph-2 catches, 15 yards; Kubalak-1 catch, 16 yards, TD.