HYDE — The second season of high school football has arrived. Each week has the potential of seeing a season end, which brings even more motivation to make sure that the year continues. Once again, the Clearfield Bison found themselves back in the playoffs. However, unlike many years past, they went from being a Class-AAA school, to a now Class-AAAA school.
There was not a District 9 title game for this classification, so it was immediately into the District 5-6-9 sub-regional semi-finals.
What became a major advantage for the Bison is the opening game of the playoffs is played at the higher seeded team’s field. Clearfield came in as the No. 1 seed, ready to make yet another run into the postseason. Across the field, not only was it a familiar foe, but one that had stepped foot onto the turf at the Bison Sports Complex just over a month ago. The Bellefonte Red Raiders came in hoping to spoil the final home game for Clearfield in the 2016 season.
Although both teams had early struggles, it became clear as the time progressed who the better team was.
At the end of 48 minutes, the home crowd erased what happened on the field last season in the opening round of the playoffs. The Bison rode a wave of momentum gained just before halftime to the 34-7 triumph.
“We did a great job, again, offensively. I think Isaac had a big night, our receivers had a big night, we ran the ball. When you put 34 points on the board, you should win,” head coach Tim Janocko said afterwards.
It wasn’t easy for the Bison in the first half. The rushing game of the Red Raiders was huge in the first 24 minutes. Running back Dexter Gallishaw and quarterback Tyler Kreger would out-rush the entire Bison offense in the first half, gaining 203 yards on the ground.
In the second half, however, it wasn’t the case. Clearfield made changes at halftime, and held the Bellefonte offense to 38 yards on the ground in the final 24 minutes. Janocko credited Bellefonte with some changes they made compared to their first game against his team, which was a 28-0 shutout on September 30, specifically with Kreger in at quarterback instead of Chase Gardner.
“We try to simulate it in practice as best we can. We made a couple adjustments, and it kind of got them on their heels,” Janocko said. “We gave up yards, but still only gave up seven points.”
Neither team would score in the first quarter, but Clearfield took advantage of its first drive in the second quarter. Beginning at their own 35, quarterback Isaac Rumery connected with Luke McGonigal, immediately gaining the first down. One play later, Seth Caldwell found a hole for his first breakout run. Just three plays later, the senior back found his way into the end zone. Josh Serena nailed the extra point, and Clearfield had its first lead of the night.
Unfortunately, that lead would only last one minute and ten seconds.
Gallishaw opened the ensuing drive with a 25-yard gain to get Bellefonte into opposing territory. But three plays later, it was his play of the night. Gallishaw took a sweep hand-off to the right side of the line, and found the edge. Breaking into the secondary, he crossed back behind Heichel, and there was no stopping him. The 45-yard touchdown run, plus the extra point of Chris Perisko, tied the game at seven.
For Bellefonte, the change in momentum was big in their hopes for victory. But those hopes got dashed on their next drive. Facing a 3rd-and-20 at the Bison 32, Kreger dropped back to pass. The ball would get deflected at the line, but instead of hitting the ground, it landed in the big arms of Dylan Fenton. The turnover would prove to be big just two plays later.
It was 1st-and-10 just outside of midfield, and Rumery decided to find one of his key targets. His pass went just beyond the linebackers into the grasp of Ryan Lezzer. The senior wide receiver made the first defender miss, then the second, and the third. Lezzer was not to be denied as his 51-yard touchdown reception put the Bison back on top. Serena’s extra point made it 14-7 entering the break.
Clearfield deferred the coin toss, opting to receive the second half kickoff. It only took one play to prove that decision was a wise one.
From their own 32, the Bison lined up with three wide receivers. The fake to Caldwell allowed Rumery to move to his left, and he soared the ball down the sidelines. Heichel saw the pass fall right into his hands, and no one was catching him. The coaches pointed his way to the end zone, and after adding in the point-after, the 21-7 lead put momentum squarely in the hands of the home team.
“It may’ve taken the air out of their sails when we went up two scores. It’s a catch-22, we have to take advantage of what they are doing defensively,” Janocko said.
Rumery had another stellar night in his young career, completing 11 of 17 passes for 217 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions. Heichel and Lezzer would combine for all but 41 of those yards, ensuring their final game at the Bison Sports Complex was one for the ages.
Clearfield’s next possession of the third quarter would take up more time on the clock, mainly due to the fact Janocko decided to use the rushing game to wear down the Red Raiders. That tactic worked as after struggling in the first half, Caldwell found his big gain. He capped the final Bison possession of the third quarter with a 24-yard rumble through the heart of the Bellefonte defense for his second touchdown of the night. Serena’s extra point made it 28-7, making any comeback nearly impossible to achieve for Bellefonte.
Caldwell finished with 117 yards on the ground, the seventh time he has rushed for over 100 yards in a game this season.
The final score of the night came in the fourth quarter, once again thanks to the Bison rushing game. But, Caldwell got a rest for the main part of that final drive, letting his teammate and likely heir to the Bison ground attack, Ty Bender, get a majority of the snaps. Bender made the most of the opportunity.
Despite only carrying the ball seven times all night, on the final drive he had the biggest carry and longest gain for the Bison. Bender found a gap through the line on 1st-and-10 at the Bellefonte 40, then cut left to avoid the tackle. A stiff-arm to the corner gave him enough room to sprint into the end zone for what was the final score of the night. Serena, surprisingly, missed the extra point as it hit off the right upright. But, the 34-7 score remained until the clock struck zero.
“Ty Bender, that’s a glimpse of the future. He runs hard,” Janocko said.
Clearfield (10-1) now has another week of football to look forward to. That’s one more week than the team experienced one season ago, and for Janocko it’s not just about what they are doing on the field that makes the next game that much bigger. Instead it’s what the next game provides for the team outside the football field.
“We get another week, and that’s huge. The longer you get to keep practicing, the longer you keep playing, it’s good for the kids. It’s good for the program. We are blessed,” he said.
Clearfield’s opponent in the District 5-6-9 Regional Final will be the Greater Johnstown Trojans, who defeated DuBois 48-24 to secure their position in the title game. These two teams are very familiar with one another, as they have faced off in the playoffs in five of the last six seasons. Clearfield won the first four games before being stunned last season in the 20-14 overtime thriller that the Trojans won thanks to a muffed field goal-turned touchdown.
Tentatively, the game between the No. 2 seed Trojans and the No. 1 seed Bison is slated for next Friday at 7 p.m., according to PennLive.com. However, the game could also be played on Saturday afternoon. The game will be played at a neutral site.
The PIAA has released the official time and location for the District 5-6-9 Subregional Championship in. No. 1 seed Clearfield (10-1) will play No. 2 seed Johnstown (10-1) on Friday, November 11, at 7 p.m. The game will be played in Hollidaysburg.
The last time Clearfield played in Hollidaysburg was in 2013 when they faced Somerset in the Class AAA Subregional 5-6-8-9 championship, a game that ended in a 21-6 victory for the Bison and the Subregional championship.
SCORE BY QUARTER
Bellefonte 0 7 0 0 – 7
Clearfield 0 14 14 6 – 34
BISON: 6-yard run by Caldwell (Serena kick), 10:15
RED RAIDERS: 45-yard run by Gallishaw (Persiko kick), 9:05
BISON: 51-yard pass from Rumery to Lezzer (Serena kick), 2:40
BISON: 68-yard pass from Rumery to Heichel (Serena kick), 11:49
BISON: 24-yard run by Caldwell (Serena kick)
BISON: 40-yard run by Bender (Serena kick FAILED), 5:42
First Downs: 7/17
Rushing Yards: 241/240
Passing Yards: 9/217
Total Yards: 250/457
Time of Possession: 22:20/25:50
Bellefonte: Gallishaw-16 carries, 113 yards, TD; Kreger-14 carries, 128 yards.
Clearfield: Caldwell-20 carries, 121 yards, 2 TD; Rumery-13 carries, 30 yards; Bender-7 carries, 83 yards, TD; Zattoni-4 carries, 11 yards.
Bellefonte: Kreger-3 for 13, 6 yards, INT; Paloskey-1 for 2, 3 yards.
Clearfield: Rumery-11 for 17, 217 yards, 2 TD.
Bellefonte: Fortney-2 catches, 0 yards; Boone-1 catch, 6 yards; Gallishaw-1 catch, 3 yards.
Clearfield: Lezzer-6 catches, 101 yards, TD; Heichel-2 catches, 79 yards, TD; McGonigal-2 catches, 30 yards; Lynch-1 catch, 11 yards.
|08/26||@ DuBois||20 – 30||0 – 1|
|09/02||@ Penns Valley||21 – 7||1 – 1|
|09/09||CENTRAL||30 – 28||2 – 1|
|09/16||@ Huntingdon||35 – 21||3 – 1|
|09/23||CENTRAL MOUNTAIN||28 – 7||4 – 1|
|09/30||BELLEFONTE||28 – 0||5 – 1|
|10/07||@ Tyrone||22 – 3||6 – 1|
|10/14||@ Bald Eagle Area||37 – 0||7 – 1|
|10/21||PHILIPSBURG-OSCEOLA||49 – 0||8 – 1|
|10/28||KARNS CITY||35 – 28||9 – 1|
|11/04||District 5,6,9 Semifinals|
|11/04||vs. Bellefonte||34 – 7||10 – 1|
|TBD||District 5,6,9 Finals|