HYDE — There is always something bittersweet when Senior Night comes each year for the Clearfield Bison. It’s the final home game of the regular season, and for many it’s a night to reflect on success, and memories. On this night at the Bison Sports Complex, it also was a night where the potential of success meant an opportunity of being unblemished.
The opposition on this night was the Bishop Carroll Huskies, and both squads were ready for battle.
That battle ended in dominance in all aspects of the game. The Bison clinched a decisive 49-0 victory on the night, locking up the Mountain League championship, and most of all, securing their first perfect season since 2013.
Head coach Tim Janocko has seen seven of those perfect seasons, but when asked about what makes this team unique from the rest, he focused on the names that are not discussed very much.
“I think this team has a lot of speed and character; a lot of unsung heroes like the offensive line that you don’t hear a lot about,” he said. “They’re the ‘lunch pail guys’, they come to work and know how to do their job.”
The offensive line did its job, but the defense set the tone from the start, literally.
The first play of the game saw Huskies quarterback Jake Zazvrskey roll to his left after being flushed from the pocket and looked down the sidelines. His pass went directly into the hands of Taye Lynch, and the first turnover of the night came just 14 seconds after kickoff.
Clearfield capitalized on the plus side of the field as first Brett Zattoni rumbled into the red zone to set up 1st and Goal at the Huskies four. One play later, Caleb Freeland started his senior night in positive fashion as he powered to the touchdown right up the center of the Bishop Carrol defense. Zach Hess added on the point after, and the 7-0 lead was set.
If an opening-play interception was tough, the Huskies were in for another rude awakening on the ensuing possession.
On 2nd and 10, Evan Becquet took the handoff to his left, but ran into a wall of Bison defenders. At the head of that pack, senior Ryan Lazauskas decided to make his mark on the night with his biggest play of the season. While holding back Becquet from gaining yardage, Lazauskas put his hands on the ball and ripped it from Becquet’s grip as if he was peeling the lid off a can. The big linebacker then let his legs do the rest of the work, and 30 yards later, the defense put forth a score. The only downside to the score was the kick from Hess bounced off the upright, leaving the score 13-0.
For Janocko, seeing Lazauskas make such a play epitomized what the game was all about.
“He’s a great kid, and I’m so happy for him. Everyone contributed tonight,” Janocko said.
Bishop Carroll finally got an opportunity to put on a sustained drive following the strip-six of Lazauskas. A pair of tough runs by Zazvrskey plus a pair of third-down completions to Becquet kept the drive alive for over half the first quarter. The Huskies took 15 plays to work into Clearfield territory, but found itself with a 2nd and long thanks to a personal foul penalty that pushed them closer to midfield.
On the 16th play of the drive, Jake Lezzer made his big play of the night. After dropping a sure first-down catch on the opening drive, his hands made the big play with the second interception on the night, and the third turnover for the Huskies in as many drives.
Clearfield took just one play after the interception to secure points when Isaac Rumery, playing in his final regular season game of his record-setting career, launched a pass to Lezzer and looked to have the touchdown secured. However, just one yard from the end zone, the Huskies knocked the ball from his grip and saw it tumble into the end zone.
Just yards before the ball would roll from the end zone, Lynch ran up and fell on the ball. After officials had a quick conference, they raised their hands to signal the touchdown. Lezzer got credit for a 46-yard reception, but thanks to the fumble and the quick thinking, it was Lynch getting credit for a one-yard touchdown reception.
Rumery made up for the missed extra point by Hess as the offense went for two, and got it with a reception by Spencer Graham. After one quarter, the 21-0 gap already seemed to be one that was overwhelming for the opposition.
Clearfield started the second quarter just as successful thanks to Freeland. Although this time, Freeland was on the receiving end instead of on the ground, as he hauled in a deep pass from Rumery over the middle of the field for a 56-yard score. Hess made up for his early miss and pushed the score to 28-0 early in the second quarter.
The Huskies, after turning the ball over on their first three drives, saw their drives go three-and-out on the final drive of the first quarter, and their first drive of the second. Meanwhile, Clearfield saw another score when Freeland pushed his way into the end zone from two yards out at the 8:08 mark in the second. With Hess kicking the extra point through, it guaranteed a running clock in the second half.
However, it wasn’t a guarantee the scoring was over, as Clearfield added a sixth score at the 5:14 mark in the quarter when Rumery tossed his third touchdown of the game, this one to Lynch, and no fumble came of it. The 42-yard strike and ensuing point after made it 42-0, and ultimately was the final pass by Rumery on the night.
His final regular season game saw him complete only five passes, but throw for 192 yards, averaging almost 40 yards per completion.
The seventh score of the night for Clearfield, which ultimately became the final score of the game, came in eerily similar fashion as one in the first quarter. The Huskies again found themselves putting together a successful drive beginning at 5:14 remaining in the half. It seemed to stall out just prior to midfield, but an offside penalty on the Bison defense gave a 1st and 10. A few plays later, a personal foul did the same thing.
Bishop Carroll got into the red zone, and faced 2nd and Goal at the 10. The Bison defense then turned up the pressure, pushing Zazvrskey to retreat prior to letting a pass go to his right. The Bison knocked the ball in the air, and the Huskies tried to knock it to the ground. Unfortunately, the second knock went directly into the hands of Oliver Billotte. The tall linebacker then put his long legs to work, as he hustled down the sidelines all the way to the black turf to score the second defensive touchdown on the night.
Hess hammered the extra point, and the 49-0 gap was set with just 12 seconds remaining in the half.
“He’s athletic. For a freshman, he carries himself very well. You wouldn’t know he’s a freshman,” Janocko said of Billotte.
That score remained for the entire second half as the Bison elected to give their second-string offense and defense some reps. They did their job as they held the first-team Huskies offense to just seven plays for positive yardage and only one first down.
The 10-0 record for Janocko, his seventh as head coach and ninth overall for the history of Bison football, seemed to be one that was very different from past ones. It did mean another Mountain League title for his team, but as he stood near midfield on the CHS logo, with his wife at his side, this season seemed to feel different. He began reflecting not just on the players, but the entire atmosphere surrounding Bison Football.
“This is a really special one for us, going undefeated, because it’s not easy in our league. The competition that we play, to be perfect, is very, very difficult,” Janocko said. “(It’s a) credit to our kids and coaching staff. You know last week, we honored the 1998 team, 20 years. This is our ninth undefeated season, my seventh. Very proud of our program.
“Tonight, we had about six or seven fire trucks bring the cheerleaders up (to the field). We just have such a great relationship with all our volunteers, and this whole town has a special relationship with our football program. I have a lot of gratitude for that, and for those people.”
Despite reflecting on perfection through the regular season, he also made it clear that one season has ended, but another one begins. Clearfield now heads into the playoffs in the District 5-6-9 bracket for Class AAAA. Their opening game in the bracket is a familar foe, the same team they opened the season against, the DuBois Beavers.
“It’s a new season now, it’s 0-0. It will be a barn burner,” Janocko said.
Clearfield defeated the Beavers back on August 24, 28-3, to start their undefeated campaign. DuBois finished its regular season at 4-6 following a victory Friday night over Brookville, 16-7. Kickoff for the opening playoff game next Friday night at the Bison Sports Complex is at 7 p.m.
SCORE BY QUARTER
Bishop Carroll 0 0 0 0 – 0
Clearfield 21 28 0 0 – 49
BISON: 4-yard run by Freeland (Hess kick), 10:45
BISON: 30-yard fumble return by Lazauskas (Hess kick failed), 10:22
BISON: 1-yard pass from Rumery to Lynch (Rumery pass to Graham), 2:51
BISON: 56-yard pass from Rumery to Freeland (Hess kick), 11:47
BISON: 2-yard run by Freeland (Hess kick), 8:08
BISON: 42-yard pass from Rumery to Lynch (Hess kick), 5:14
BISON: 80-yard interception return by Billotte (Hess kick), 0:12
First Downs: 10/9
Rush Yards: 78/144
Pass Yards: 27/197
Total Yards: 105/341
Time of Possession: 29:10/18:50
Bishop Carroll: Zazvrskey-19 carries, 21 yards; Becquet-7 carries, 14 yards; Dumm-6 carries, 23 yards; Hogue-6 carries, 20 yards.
Clearfield: Thomas-8 carries, 21 yards; Plubell-7 for 37 yards; Freeland-5 carries, 22 yards, 2 TD; Zattoni-3 carries, 42 yards; McGonigal-2 carries, 11 yards; Lezzer-1 carry, 17 yards; Rumery-1 carry, 6 yards; Pallo-1 carry, (-3) yards.
Bishop Carroll: Zazvrskey-3 for 11, 27 yards, 3 INT.
Clearfield: Rumery-5 for 7, 192 yards, 3 TD; Billotte-1 for 2, 5 yards.
Bishop Carroll: Becquet-3 catches, 27 yards.
Clearfield: Lynch: 3 catches, 55 yards, 2 TD; Freeland-1 catch, 56 yards, TD; Lezzer-1 catch, 46 yards; Kline-1 catch, 5 yards.