Takeaways by Defense Pave Way for Offense In Bison Victory

WINGATE — A battle of unbeaten squads welcomed fans to Alumni Stadium on Friday night.  The homestanding Eagles of Bald Eagle Area were looking to showcase they had emerged as a titan in the Mountain League.  On the opposite side, dressing for the first time in many years in all-white attire, were the Clearfield Bison, always a powerhouse every season.

What was billed as a shootout ended up being a stunner.  The Eagles offense was stuffed, the defense exposed, and turnovers proved costly.  It all led to Clearfield holding onto an undefeated record thanks to a 42-7 triumph.

“Our defense played their best game tonight.  Hats off to them.  We made plays when we needed to,” head coach Tim Janocko said afterwards.  “Bald Eagle is a very good football team.  We were physical, we were tough, and it’s a good win for us.”

The Eagles started the game with the ball, and seemed to be on their way to showing why their offense was a strong force.  A pair of runs by Gage McClenahan pushed the ball into Clearfield territory, then Jaden Jones pushed inward more thanks to his right arm.  But, things came to a halt very quickly.

The 1st and 10 call was a pass over the middle on a slant route to Blake Roberts.  The ball hit off his hands, and the tip landed right into the awaiting grasp of Jake Lezzer.  The first huge turnover at 9:13 of the game set Clearfield up with strong field position.

It was on this drive where Isaac Rumery showed why he was possibly the best quarterback in the Mountain League, and while also showing why he decided to go to Penn State as a potential walk-on.

Brett Zattoni (28) and Isaac Rumery (11) combined for five of the six Bison scores.

On 3rd and 1 at his own 34, he was flushed to his right from the pocket and seemed to be looking to tuck and run, or take a sack.  Just about a yard from his own sideline, he halted and spun the other direction.  Defenders doubled back, but were met with his offensive lineman still doing their job protecting their quarterback.  Rumery then loaded up and hurled the ball deep across the field, and somehow after all the chaos, the pass landed in the hands of Taye Lynch for an exciting 50-yard gain that got the crowd and his team roaring.

Four plays later, Brett Zattoni capped off the drive with a two-yard touchdown dive to open the scoring.  Zach Hess hammered the extra point, and with still half a quarter to play, Clearfield found itself in the lead.

The Bison defense did not relent on the second drive, despite giving up a few big runs to McClenahan.  However, they forced a fourth down incomplete pass to turn the ball back over to their offense.  That offense did not waste any time making an impact.

Starting at its own 40, Rumery took the snap, and decided to go deep to Lynch down the sidelines.  The pass sailed, but an adjustment by Lynch brought in the ball to his arms, and he sprinted to the end zone for the score.  Hess’ kick made it 14-0, silencing the blue and gold fans on the home sidelines.

“We made plays.  Our offensive line dominated and our play makers made big plays,” Janocko said.

Although the defense made big plays, they weren’t immune to being beat.  The ensuing drive after Clearfield’s second score started with a 49-yard pass from Jones to Kaden Bittinger to set up the Eagles inside the Bison 12.  Jones then took his own snap two plays later for a 12-yard scamper into the end zone.  Peter Van Cise booted the extra point, and the deficit was down to just one possession with just over two minutes remaining in the opening quarter.

Mistakes on the first drive cost the Bald Eagle offense, but special teams then cost them on the kickoff.  Van Cise hooked the ball like a golf shot out of bounds near the Bison coaches.  Janocko opted to take the ball at the spot it went out, setting up Clearfield 1st and 10 at their own 38.

Rather than look to the pass, Clearfield stayed focused on the ground game, and it paid off in major fashion.  At the Eagles 34, Caleb Freeland found a hole right up the center of the defense, and turned on the jets. The run was good enough for another Bison touchdown, and with just seconds remaining in the quarter, the lead extended back to a 14-point spread.

Yet, the Bison were not done.  Special teams hurt Bald Eagle on the last kickoff, and bit them again on the ensuing kickoff return.  Nicholas Turner took the ball and moved well for about 10 yards.  When he got tackled, the ball escaped his grasp, and falling onto the fumble was the Bison to set up a short field.

Unfortunately for Clearfield, the drive was the first for them to not go anywhere thanks to a pair of incomplete passes, plus a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty.  The Bison punted away, but Ryan Lazauskas put the ball inside the Eagles 20, giving his defense a chance to make up for the miscue.

The defense did just that deep into their own territory.  Ten plays into the drive, Jones found himself sacked at his own 26, but saw the ball come lose of his right hand, and into the palm of the Bison defensive line.  The third turnover of the night led Clearfield to an opportunity to extend the lead even more.  They did just that as the drive after the takeaway concluded with Rumery doing his own Saquon Barkley impression as he leaped over a defender to score a 3-yard touchdown.  It was 28-7 with 4:22 remaining, and Bald Eagle was still looking for an answer.

Jake Lezzer hauls in what would be a touchdown reception. He also accounted for an interception in the Bison victory.

That answer didn’t happen after the Bison score, as they were on the field for only three plays before handing the ball back to Clearfield on a punt.  The Eagles defense was on the field for just two plays after that.

Unfortunately for them, the second play happened to be a 46-yard bomb to Lezzer on the left sideline, who then juked two defenders for the touchdown to put an exclamation point on a dominant first half.  Hess’ kick made it 35-7 heading into halftime, with Clearfield set to receive the third quarter kickoff.

“When Isaac gets in rhythm, we have receivers who can catch.  We also ran the ball real well.  When we can balance like that, we can be dangerous,” Janocko said.

Rumery’s night passing the ball was pretty much done after the second quarter.  He finished with over 200 yards all-purpose, with 193 coming through the air, and three total touchdowns.  Those passing yards only came on six completions, yielding an astonishing 32 yards per pass on the night.

“He was dropping dimes,” Janocko said with a smile.

The final score of the night came midway through the third quarter as Clearfield decided to shorten the game using the running attack to wear down the defense.  Zattoni then capped off the night with a 1-yard plunge into the end zone for Clearfield’s sixth touchdownt.  With Hess booting the point after, the final score was set, the running clock went into effect, and the reserves got a chance to see some playing time.

Even at 8-0, and with firm control in the Mountain League for the title, Janocko wasn’t looking back on the year since it still had no final chapter.  When asked what the team needs to improve on, he kept it simple, and clear.

“We just gotta keep working.  We can’t look back, always look forward.  Next week is another game,” he said.

That game next week starts the final two regular season games, both of which will take place at the Bison Sports Complex.  Next week’s 7 p.m. kickoff will be against the Mounties of Philipsburg-Osceola, who are coming off a 60-7 beatdown from Huntingdon.

GAME NOTES:

  • Clearfield has 15 takeaways in 2018, more than double its total from a season ago.
  • The Bison held the ball for 18 minutes in the second half despite scoring once, due mainly in part to the running clock.
  • Bald Eagle was held to (-13) yards rushing in the second half.  Only five of their 197 total yards came after halftime.
  • Gage McClenahan (BEA) was helped off the field early in the second quarter following what appeared to be a knee injury.  He previously was injured in the first quarter on the same knee, but returned on the team’s second drive.
  • Rumery’s QBR of 147.4 on the season will increase with his two-touchdown, zero-interception performance.  To date he has only thrown one interception on the year, that coming in the opening game against Dubois.

SCORE BY QUARTER

Clearfield   21   14   7   0  –  42
Bald Eagle Area   7   0   0   0  –  7

BOX SCORE

1st Quarter

BISON:  2-yard run by Zattoni (Hess kick), 6:03

BISON:  60-yard pass from Rumery to Lynch (Hess kick), 3:17

EAGLES:  12-yard run by Jones (Van Cise kick), 2:05

BISON:  34-yard run by Freeland (Hess kick), 0:46

2nd Quarter

BISON:  3-yard run by Rumery (Hess kick), 4:22

BISON:  46-yard pass from Rumery to Lezzer (Hess kick), 2:25

3rd Quarter

BISON:  1-yard run by Zattoni (Hess kick), 5:03

GAME STATISTICS
Clearfield/Bald Eagle Area

First Downs:  14/9

Rush Yards:  243/94

Pass Yards:  193/103

Total Yards:  436/197

Penalties-Yards:  6-52/4-25

Turnovers:  0/3

Time of Possession:  27:58/20:02

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

Rushing
Clearfield:  Zattoni-16 carries, 61 yards, 2 TD; Freeland-9 carries, 112 yards, TD; Rumery-7 carries, 40 yards, TD; Plubell-7 carries, 11 yards, Billotte-2 carries, 10 yards.

Bald Eagle:  Jones-10 carries, 10 yards, TD; McClenahan-7 carries, 60 yards; Roberts-6 carries, 23 yards; Wible-3 carries, 7 yards; Proctor-1 carry, 0 yards; Snyder-1 carry, (-6) yards.

Passing
Clearfield:  Rumery-6 for 9, 193 yards, 2 TD.

Bald Eagle:  Jones-5 for 11, 103 yards, INT.

Receiving
Clearfield:  Lynch-3 catches, 123 yards, TD; Lezzer-2 catches, 57 yards, TD; Graham-1 catch, 13 yards.

Bald Eagle:  Bittinger-1 catch, 49 yards; Hoover-1 catch, 24 yards; Snyder-1 catch, 18 yards; Reese-1 catch, 10 yards; McClenahan-1 catch 1 yard.

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