EBENSBURG — Having the week off from competition did not seem to hurt the Clearfield Bison. It meant another week of preparation, and recovery, before heading on the road for the regular season finale. The trip to Ebensburg meant a matchup against the Bishop Carroll Huskies, who themselves had an off-week after forfeiting to Bellefonte due to low numbers.
Both teams came out ready under the lights, but the Bison put on a clinic in the first 24 minutes of action, scoring six touchdowns and dominating the line of scrimmage to gain the 51-14 triumph that ended under the Mercy Rule.
“I have to first congratulate. Bishop Carroll,” head coach Tim Janocko said immediately after the game. “They came out ready to play and we struggled early. We were tested early there in the first quarter. But, we got to establish the run and that allowed us to calm down and get in a rhythm.”
The Bison defense forced a three-and-out on the first possession, forcing the Huskies to punt from deep in their own territory. The ensuing punt did not travel far, never crossing mid-field, and Clearfield began its opening drive heading downhill to the opposing end zone. It took four plays, with three of them being runs by Brett Zattoni, to put Clearfield on the board as the senior tailback ran for 18, 11, and 17 yards, with the last being the rumble into the end zone. Zach Hess started his busy night with his first extra point, and it was 7-0 early.
The second drive for Bishop Carrol did not go much better, as another punt meant a short field for the Bison, this time at the Huskies’ 35. But, on 2nd and 4, the first and ultimately lone mistake for Clearfield came when a mishandled exchange between Zattoni and quarterback Oliver Billotte saw the ball hit the turf, and the Huskies pounced for the first turnover of the night.
Unfortunately for the hosts, the drive following the change of possession did not go anywhere, and the third punt of the night was in store. Clearfield started their third drive of the night again on the Huskies’ side of the field, and it was again Zattoni making the defense pay. His 28-yard run on 1st and 10 put Clearfield up by two scores with just under three minutes left to go in the first quarter.
Bishop Carroll got on the board on the next possession, utilizing both the passing attack and the rushing game to push down the field. In the end, Jake Zazvrskey punched the ball in from two yards away, then proceeded to pass for the two-point conversion to pull the Huskies to within six, 14-8, entering the second quarter.
That was as close as the Huskies would get.
Clearfield’s second quarter of play was their best all-around quarter of the season, as they would find three ways to score and put the game away.
It started with Zattoni capping off a 149-yard rushing night with his third touchdown of the game from five yards away. That score came at the 9:52 mark before halftime. The next Bishop Carroll possession not only went nowhere, but it backtracked.
The first play saw Zazvrskey fumble the ball, and the Huskies recovered, but 13 yards in reverse, going from their own 33 to the 20. A false start moved them back to their 15, and faced with 2nd and 28, they had to pass. But, the Bison defense was rumbling over the Huskies line like a stampede, and ultimately caught Zazvrskey in the end zone for their first safety of the 2019 season. Now at 23-8, the Bison received the free kick and took the ball just past midfield.
It took one play for the near maximum amount of points to be added. Looking to his left, Billotte hurled a perfect back-shoulder pass to Matt Pallo, who reeled it in for the first passing and receiving touchdown of the night. In a matter of 16 seconds, Clearfield added nine points. Add in the previous touchdown, and Clearfield scored 16 unanswered points in just over one minute. With 8:20 remaining, and a 30-8 lead, one would think this night would be about running the clock and getting a chance for others to gain experience.
That would come, but the Bison defense was still making its case, as another three-and-out meant another punt. But this time, Hunter Dumm barely got the ball off his foot before the Bison special teams got their hands up to block the ball. The recovery put Clearfield in the red zone, and Billotte did the rest.
After having to recover a bad snap on first down, he connected on nearly an identical route to Pallo for his second touchdown of the night, and another Hess kick made it 37-8 with still half a quarter to play.
Clearfield’s final score of the half again came thanks to Billotte’s arm, but this time it was Nick Domico capturing the 39-yard pass for the touchdown, and with one more extra point, it guaranteed a running clock for the entire second half.
Billotte did not see action in the second half, finishing 4-for-6, three being touchdown passes, and 134 yards.
Janocko knew his team would be a bit rusty due to the week off, but with the circumstances outside of his control, his team had to recoup. He also acknowledged that Bishop Carroll was coming off a week where they didn’t play, so both teams were dealt similar hands.
“It was a little rough for us, and I’m sure it was rough for them. Anytime you have a week off, it’s not good,” he said. “But, you play the hand you’re dealt.”
Clearfield’s second half was focused on the ground game thanks to the running clock, and also gave the reserves an opportunity to get some playing experience. It would pay off in the third quarter as Mark McGonigal rumbled his way into the end zone for his lone touchdown on the night. Graeson Graves then came out to get his feet wet on an extra point as he is the heir to Hess after this year, pushing the score to 51-8 entering the final quarter of play.
Bishop Carroll got back on the scoreboard with five minutes remaining in the game when Dumm found a gap in the Bison line for a four-yard rushing score. The missed two-point try set the final as Clearfield ran the final five minutes off the clock.
Clearfield (8-2) now looks ahead to the post-season, and initially it appeared that the Bison would get another week off as it seemed only two teams were heading into the District 6-9 4A bracket. However, that has changed as the Juniata Indians (4-6) have agreed to play in the sub-regional semi-final against the Bison. Clearfield has earned the No. 2 seed, as Bellefonte holds the No. 1 seed.
“That’s big for us. We get a home playoff game, which is important to us. Now, we want to play as long as we can,” Janocko said afterwards.
Bellefonte will have the bye in the opening round of the District 6-9 subregional bracket. Clearfield will play host to Juniata next Friday night with a 7 p.m. start. The winner will face Bellefonte on either Nov. 8 or 9 at a neutral location.
SCORE BY QUARTER
Clearfield 14 30 7 0 – 51
Bishop Carroll 8 0 0 6 – 14
BISON: Zattoni 17-yard run (Hess kick), 9:15
BISON: Zattoni 28-yard run (Hess kick), 2:55
HUSKIES: Zazvrskey 2-yard run (Zazvrskey pass to Rodkey), 0:17
BISON: Zattoni 5-yard run (Hess kick)
BISON: Zazvrskey sacked in end zone for Safety, 8:36
BISON: Billotte 49-yard pass to Pallo (Hess kick), 8:20
BISON: Billotte 33-yard pass to Pallo (Hess kick), 6:11
BISON: Billotte 39-yard pass to Domico (Hess kick), 3:39
BISON: McGonigal 7-yard run (Graves kick), 1:32
HUSKIES: Dumm 4-yard run (Farabaugh pass Failed), 4:58
First Downs: 16/10
Rush Yards: 274/29
Pass Yards: 134/103
Total Yards: 408/132
Clearfield: Zattoni-11 carries, 149 yards, 3 TD; McGonigal-8 carries, 53 yards, TD; Freeland-5 carries, 9 yards; Plubell-4 carries, 35 yards; Alban-4 carries, 14 yards; Billotte-3 carries, (-2) yards; Irwin-1 carry, (-4) yards; Team-1 carry, (-4) yards.
Bishop Carroll: Zazvrskey-10 carries, (-11) yards, TD; M. Farabaugh-10 carries, 9 yards; Dumm-6 carries, 44 yards, TD; Team-2 carries, (-23) yards; B. Farabaugh-1 carry, 10 yards; George-1 carry, 0 yards.
Clearfield: Billotte-4 for 6, 134 yards, 3 TD.
Bishop Carroll: Zazvrskey-3 for 9, 57 yards, INT; Dumm-3 for 8, 17 yards, INT.
Clearfield: Pallo-2 catches, 82 yards, 2 TD; Domico-1 catch, 39 yards, TD; Kline-1 catch, 13 yards.
Bishop Carroll: M. Farabaugh-2 catches, 22 yards; Zazvrskey-2 catches, 7 yards; Dumm-1 catch, 35 yards; Bohrer-1 catch, 10 yards.