SPRING MILLS — Last week, the Clearfield Bison held a tough, and talented, DuBois offense to a mere field goal. This week, that defense faced a bigger task as the Bison began their Mountain League schedule on the road against the Penns Valley Rams.
The home squad took it too the Bison defense, and racked up yardage, and the points. However, Clearfield did not back down, and made critical plays when needed, and capitalized. At the end of a long night, Clearfield stood tall in a high-scoring affair, besting the Rams, 56-42.
“We knew we were playing a good team on the road. Penns Valley is a much improved team, and they have many good players. They are a good team,” Tim Janocko said afterwards of the opposition. “To come in here and get a win, it’s a huge deal for us.”
The Bison defense forced a three-and-out to start the night, and thanks to some excellent passing by Isaac Rumery and some legwork by the Clearfield backfield, the visiting crew got on the board first thanks to an 8-yard rumble by Rumery. Zach Hess added on the extra point to make it 7-0 with 7:36 remaining in the first.
But, the Rams were ready for the answer. Aaron Tobias relied on his offensive line to protect him when needed, as it worked to perfection when he tossed a 31-yard strike to Cole Breon for the opening Penns Valley touchdown of the night. Gage Ripka added on the point after, and it was all tied up.
Penns Valley then gained its first lead on the next drive as Tobias connected on his second passing touchdown of the night, this one to Ryan Ripka, for 30 yards to close out a 10-play drive. Another point after, and the Bison now stared at a 14-7 deficit.
For Clearfield, they needed an answer, and on this night, it was Caleb Freeland who took on the lead as being the go-to guy.
After a huge 47-yard pass down the right sideline to Taye Lynch set up the Bison inside the Ram 20, two plays later Freeland punched in his first touchdown on the night from 13 yards out. Another point after, and it was all knotted up once again.
After the defense forced a punt, Clearfield again went to relying on Freeland and fellow running back Brett Zattoni on the next drive, taking off yardage bit by bit, and eating away at the clock. Freeland capped it off with a 4-yard plunge to give the Bison the lead once again, with Hess making it 21-14 with 4:01 remaining.
Freeland experienced a lot of success on this night, finishing with 126 yards on the ground, and accounting for five touchdowns.
“Caleb is not a surprise anymore. He’s doing a great job. I thought our offensive line played well,” Janocko said.
Unfortunately, the Rams were ready to take away all the celebration as they answered right back with an 8-play drive that ended when Tobias tossed his third passing touchdown of the half, this one to Austin Fisher, from six yards out. One more extra point, and the game was tied up for the third time, 21-21.
Clearfield pushed towards the end zone to close out the half, but the Rams held on and stopped the Bison on the four, closing the half with the tie.
The second half, however, began in possibly the most wild array of plays and moments imaginable from either side of the ball.
The Bison received the opening kickoff, and Jake Lezzer took the grab at his own 17, suddenly finding a seam and bursting to the right, hammering his way down the Bison sideline with a long stride that the Ram kickoff coverage could not match. The run went for 83 yards, and in a matter of 13 seconds, the Bison again held the advantage, 28-21, following the P.A.T.
Penns Valley saw all its excitement erased in one play. However, it did not take long for the momentum to shift again from the visiting side of the field back to the home squad.
Ryan Ripka took the kickoff at his own 21, and decided to take back what Clearfield took from them. He too bounced his way to the outside, rumbled down his own sideline, and found his way into the end zone. Ten seconds after Clearfield gained the lead for the third time on the night, Penns Valley took it back on a 79-yard kickoff return. A mere 23 seconds into the second half, and it was 28-28.
“Jake is a heck of a player, and Ripka is a heck of a player. Two great kids making great plays,” Janocko said of the back-to-back kickoff returns.
Even with those exciting events, things were not done yet in the quick scoring. Clearfield took the ball back and started at their own 45. After a short run by Zattoni, Rumery looked to his right and let the ball fly. What he was looking for was his sophomore receiver, Lezzer, behind the secondary. To his joy, his pass found its mark, and Rumery now had both a rushing and passing touchdown on the night, and Clearfield once again had the lead, 35-28, after the point after.
In one minute and 17 seconds, the teams combined for 21 points, and yet the moment that changed the entire complexion of the game was yet to come.
Tobias was ready to answer once again with his next possession at quarterback, and looked over the middle for Logan Snyder. But, the ball found the hand of Oliver Billotte, who at one point had it pinned to the back of his helmet and pulled it forward to grab the first turnover by either side. Now with the ball and the lead, Clearfield had an enormous amount of momentum on its side..
“Honestly, the game turned around when Oliver Billotte made that interception. We got up by one touchdown, and that was our opportunity to go up by two touchdowns,” Janocko said.
That opportunity turned into a reality because Freeland found an opening up the middle, and he was gone for a 32-yard touchdown run, his third on the night, and it gave Clearfield a much needed cushion.
That was not the final score of the third quarter, as Freeland added his fourth touchdown of the game with less than a minute remaining, pushing the Bison lead to three scores entering the final 12 minutes.
Penns Valley finally stopped the scoring by Clearfield on their second drive of the final quarter, as Ripka scored the only rushing touchdown from the Rams, cutting the lead down to 14.
The Rams opted for the onside kick, but Clearfield pounced on the attempt. Freeland then got to finish his night in a big way as he scored the final Clearfield touchdown, capping of an 8-play drive that took nearly five minutes off the clock.
Penns Valley added on one final score with seconds left in the game to finalize the 98-point night between the two schools.
When asked what he and his team will take away from a night like they experienced, Janocko didn’t focus on the play on the field, but the attitude of his team in the locker room
“I challenged the team at halftime. Our defense did give up some points, but we made some key stops and some key plays when we needed it,” he said. “(But it was) answering the bell at halftime. Penns Valley had momentum, they stopped us there at the end of the half going in. They showed a lot of character at halftime.”
With their 2-0 record intact, and now a share of the lead in the Mountain League, Clearfield looks to next week as they host the team that handed them their first loss a season ago, the Central Dragons. Luckily for the Bison, this game happens at the Bison Sports Complex, something that Janocko is ready for.
“We’ve been on the road for two weeks. It will be nice to get home,” he said with a smile.
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
- The 42 points given up by the Bison defense is the most allowed since their playoff loss to Bellefonte last season (62).
- Combined, the Bison and Rams accumulated for over 1000 yards of offense.
- Billotte’s interception is the fifth turnover forced by Clearfield in the last two games. In 2017, they accumulated six turnovers all season.
- Tobias threw for over 400 yards passing, and four touchdowns, as the Bison defense held the Rams to only 71 yards rushing.
SCORE BY QUARTER
Clearfield 7 14 28 7 – 56
Penns Valley 14 7 7 14 – 42
BISON: 8-yard run by Rumery (Hess kick), 7:36
RAMS: 31-yard pass from Tobias to Breon (G. Ripka kick), 5:22
RAMS: 30-yard pass from Tobias to R. Ripka (G. Ripka kick), 0:06
BISON: 13-yard run by Freeland (Hess kick), 10:46
BISON: 4-yard run by Freeland (Hess kick), 4:01
RAMS: 6-yard pass from Tobias to Fisher (G. Ripka kick), 0:48
BISON: 83-yard kickoff return by Lezzer (Hess kick), 11:47
RAMS: 79-yard kickoff return by R. Ripka (G. Ripka kick), 11:37
BISON: 49-yard pass from Rumery to Lezzer (Hess kick), 10:43
BISON: 32-yard run by Freeland (Hess kick), 9:47
BISON: 34-yard run by Freeland (Hess kick), 0:53
RAMS: 7-yard run by R. Ripka (G. Ripka kick), 6:26
BISON: 5-yard run by Freeland (Hess kick), 1:41
RAMS: 5-yard pass from Tobias to Snyder (G. Ripka kick), 0:12
First Downs: 14/13
Rush Yards: 267/71
Pass Yards: 268/421
Total Yards: 535/492
Time of Possession: 26:39/21:21
Clearfield: Rumery-16 carries, 66 yards, TD; Freeland-15 carries, 126 yards, 5 TD; Zattoni-14 carries, 72 yards; Lezzer-2 carries, 4 yards; Team-1 carry, (-1) yards.
Penns Valley: R. Ripka-14 carries, 50 yards, TD; Tobias-5 carries, 15 yards; Baney-2 carries, 7 yards; Team-1 carry, (-1) yards.
Clearfield: Rumery-14 for 17, 268 yards, TD.
Penns Valley: Tobias-25 for 37, 421 yards, 4 TD, INT.
Clearfield: Lezzer-5 catches, 122 yards, TD; Lynch-4 catches, 78 yards; Graham-3 catches, 61 yards; Glass-1 catch, 6 yards; Zattoni-1 catch, 1 yard.
Penns Valley: R. Ripka-8 catches, 114 yards, TD; Snyder-7 catches, 140 yards, TD; Breon-6 catches, 93 yards, TD; Fisher-2 catches, 17 yards, TD; Lieb-1 catch, 44 yards; Russell-1 catch, 15 yards.