HYDE — After having to endure the long ride home a week ago, while having the sour taste of their first loss in their minds, the Clearfield Bison were certainly glad to be back inside the realm of their own Bison Sports Complex on Friday night. In their quest to still try and be the top team in the Mountain League for 2019, they welcomed in the Tyrone Golden Eagles to kick off October.
The night ended with the home squad a little sore, a bit bruised, and potentially without a key player for a while, but it ended on a positive note as the Bison got back on track with a 28-14 triumph.
“I thought our offensive line had a good night, Oliver (Billotte) managed the game really well. (Brett) Zattoni ran really well, (Jason) Plubell had some good runs, Matt Pallo stepped up,” head coach Tim Janocko said afterwards. “Overall, everyone pitched in and really made some good plays.”
Clearfield’s opening statement came strong as they forced the Eagles to punt after their first drive. But, the second drive provided the biggest scare of the night.
On 3rd and 5 at their own 45, Billotte made a solid pass over the right side to Jake Lezzer, who made his usual cuts and got 23 yards on the play to move the chains. But, once the play was over, he wasn’t moving at all, at least not to head back into the huddle. A week ago, Lezzer was knocked around by Bellefonte as though he was a pinball, and came out of the game on four occasions, yet he finished the game on the field. This time, Lezzer was helped off the field by the Bison trainers and his older brother, former player and now assistant coach Christian Lezzer. That play became his only stat of the night as an injured ankle forced him to sit out the remainder of the game, as he remained on the sidelines, but on crutches, with his teammates.
That drive, however, did not end in failure, as the Bison offense motored on thanks to the legs of Zattoni and the arm of Billotte. After 11 plays, Billotte added six points to the board when he connected with Pallo, who took over as primary receiver after Lezzer’s exit, on a six-yard strike to give Clearfield the lead. Zach Hess added the point after, and the 7-0 score held its way with three minutes remaining in the first quarter.
The one-score lead held into the second quarter after the Bison defense forced another Tyrone punt, something the Golden Eagles were doing a lot in the first half as they were held to 93 total yards.
Clearfield’s second drive was just as effective, but rather than do it through the air, the eight-play drive focused on the ground attack, and the Bison offensive line helped create holes to keep the chains moving until Zattoni got into the end zone for the first time on the night from five yards out. Hess stayed true, and Clearfield extended its lead with just over eight minutes until the half.
Zattoni had a monster night as he had nearly 200 all-purpose yards from his time as a rusher, receiver, and also kick returner.
Billotte’s night got better as the third drive for Clearfield ended the same way as the first, as he connected on his second touchdown pass, this one to Karson Kline from just outside the goal line. The sophomore quarterback would have a great rebound from last week’s loss as Billotte completed 8 of 13 passes for 83 yards, but tossed no interceptions, and a pair of touchdowns.
Another extra point, and heading into the break the Bison held a 21-0 lead and got an opportunity to put the game away as they were receiving the second-half kickoff.
That opening drive in the second half was exactly what Clearfield is expected to do with a big lead and wanting to keep things simple. For 10 plays, the Bison decided to move the chains, but also run the clock, only throwing the ball one time on the drive. It was heavy doses of Zattoni and Plubell that moved the ball down the field for almost five minutes, culminating with Zattoni’s second touchdown of the night from six yards out.
Hess made it 28-0 and at that point Clearfield had the game in hand. But, Tyrone wasn’t the kind to back down even though it appeared the game was out of reach.
The Bison defense got exploited a couple times on the ensuing drive as Tyrone quarterback Brandon Lucas first broke out a 37-yard sprint on a 3rd and 16, then connected on a 27-yard pass to Damon Gripp to set up the Golden Eagles in the red zone. Three plays later, the Lucas-Gripp connection put Tyrone on the board with just barely under two seconds remaining in the third quarter.
“They made a couple plays, but we did a good job defensively,” Janocko said of the Tyrone push in the second half.
The final score of the night came in the fourth quarter when the Lucas-Gripp connection worked for a third time, but this one had to be earned as it seemed Gripp was stopped at the 12-yard line. Unfortunately the Bison secondary pursued Gripp too fast, and he escaped a would-be tackle and muscled into the end zone. The extra point cut the lead in half, but that was as close as the visiting team would get as they would be halted on their final drive as time expired.
For Janocko, the win was important for his team’s confidence, and also kept them in the running for a potential Mountain League title as one week after handing Clearfield it’s first loss, Bellefonte fell to Penns Valley, their second loss of the year.
All that aside, Janocko was more interested in another number: six.
“Sixth win of the year, that’s a winning season, guaranteed,” he said. “That number six is significant.”
Next week, Clearfield (6-1) has a chance to reach another milestone in program history. The Bison will play host to Bald Eagle Area for Senior Night, and potentially give Clearfield its 600th victory in program history. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. with the senior festivities happening prior to game time.
SCORE BY QUARTER
Tyrone 0 0 7 7 – 14
Clearfield 7 14 7 0 – 28
BISON: O. Billotte 6-yard pass to Pallo (Hess kick), 3:09
BISON: Zattoni 5-yard run (Hess kick), 8:12
BISON: O. Billotte 12-yard pass to Kline (Hess kick), 4:23
BISON: Zattoni 6-yard run (Hess kick), 7:10
GOLDEN EAGLES: Lucas 8-yard pass to Gripp (Raabe kick), 1.9
GOLDEN EAGLES: Lucas 23-yard pass to Gripp (Raabe kick), 7:04
First Downs: 14/17
Rush Yards: 129/275
Pass Yards: 209/83
Total Yards: 338/358
Tyrone: Lucas-22 carries, 110 yards; Clifton-2 carries, 0 yards; Ch. Beck-1 carry, 19 yards; Zimmerman-1 carry, 1 yard; Homan-1 carry, 1 yard; Co. Beck-1 carry, 1 yard; Team-1 carry, (-1) yards.
Clearfield: Zattoni-24 carries, 152 yards, 2 TD; O. Billotte-8 carries, 63 yards; Plubell-6 carries, 38 yards; I. Billotte-2 carries, 13 yards; Firanski-2 carries, 6 yards.
Tyrone: Lucas-15 for 23, 129 yards, 2 TD.
Clearfield: O. Billotte-8 for 13, 83 yards, 2 TD.
Tyrone: Gripp-7 catches, 92 yards, 2 TD; N. Zimmerman-3 catches, 24 yards; Clifton-4 catches, 4 yards; B. Zimmerman-1 catch, 9 yards.
Clearfield: Pallo-5 catches, 41 yards, TD; Lezzer-1 catch, 23 yards; Kline-1 catch, 12 yards, TD; Zattoni-1 catch, 8 yards.