HYDE– Hoping to forget the wounds suffered just a week prior, the Clearfield Bison returned home for a surprising, and quick, finish to their regular season. A home finale at the Bison Sports Complex meant that the second home game of the season also was Homecoming for the red and black. Hoping to make it a welcoming night, the Bison welcomed in the Huntingdon Bearcats on a brisk Friday night.
On a night that saw Rylee Biancuzzo wear the crown as the 2020 Homecoming queen, Clearfield decided to provide a gift to her, and the crowd that came out. Defensively, the Bison forced six turnovers, turning three of them into points, locking down the Bearcats in a 42-14 dominant showcase.
“I feel happy for the kids. We’ve only had two games here this season, the first one being senior night, then Homecoming, and the kids performed well. We bounced back from a tough loss,” Bison head coach Tim Janocko said afterwards. “Tonight we polished some things up, and hopefully we can get better and be ready for playoffs.”
Both squads did not start off firing at one another with a lot of power, as the first three drives of the game, two for the Bearcats and one for the Bison, all went three-and-out, either because of incomplete passes or failure to gain yardage on the ground. But, the second Bison possession saw things break open quickly. After gaining a first down thanks to Jason Plubell, the next handoff went to Mark McGonigal, who pushed into the secondary and went full-power to the end zone on a 42-yard rumble for the opening score. Graeson Graves added the extra point to make the score 7-0.
That would be as close as the Bearcats would get, as things would not improve, and then began sinking for the visitors.
Following a three-and-out once again, Clearfield got momentum going on the next drive on a deep pass down the Bearcat sideline from Oliver Billotte that landed right in the hands of Jake Lezzer for 45 yards to set up 1st and Goal inside the five. That catch would be the lone one for Lezzer on the night, but it would be enough to get the job done. One play later, Plubell punched his way into the end zone to increase the lead, and Graves made it 14-0 with just over four minutes remaining in the first quarter.
Huntindon found a bit of momentum after the touchdown, achieving a first down for the first time in the game, but were again forced to punt, and even then things went awry as the rugby-punt attempt would not go off, and the loss of yardage left a short field for the Bison.
Billotte only needed one play to take advantage of the short field, as it was a Billotte-to-Billotte connection with Oliver connecting with Ian for 21 yards and another six points. The extra point would make the lead 21-0 entering the second quarter. For Oliver Billotte, after struggling to connect on his first three passes, he would finish the night going 5-for-8 and 135 yards.
“He was fired up in the beginning, but once he got settled down, he got in a groove,” Janocko said of his quarterback.
The Bearcats tried to come back on the following drive, but quarterback Darin Harman found himself on the bad end of a pass as he would be intercepted by Nathan Natoli near midfield, once again giving Clearfield a shorter field to work with. The ensuing four-play drive ended with McGonigal bulldozing into the end zone a second time with just over 10 minutes before halftime. The eventual 28-0 lead was turning into one that would be insurmountable for the opposition.
Still, the Bearcats were not giving up, and again worked their way close to midfield, but Harman again was flushed from the pocket and an errant throw would wind up in the lap of the Bison defense, this time thanks Isaac Samsel making the interception. His ensuing return set up Clearfield at the Bearcat 12.
Billotte did the rest as he tossed to Karson Kline for the fifth touchdown of the half, his second passing. Graves was true once again, and with the 35-point gap, the running clock was in effect for the second half.
As if that was not bad enough, the first play after the touchdown saw Huntingdon running back Braylan Ronk do a direct-snap halfback pass that instead wound up being aired out too high, giving the Bison secondary a chance to utilize the rebound drill more seen in basketball, and eventually seeing Natoli snag his second pick of the night.
Billotte decided to have an encore as he would throw his third touchdown pass one play later, this time to Logan Firanski, and the point after made it 42-0, a score that remained heading into halftime. With that score, the first-team offense, and defense, were done for the night and it was the jayvee squad that would ride the way to the finish in the second half.
“A lot of different kids made plays tonight,” Janocko said. “I was really happy with our corners and secondary.”
Clearfield’s second-team offense opened the second half with a 14-play drive that, thanks to the running clock, took nearly 10 minutes of playing time. Unfortunately, the Bison would turn it over on downs inside the Huntingdon 10 after backup quarterback Will Domico saw his fourth down pass fall to the turf.
Huntingdon finally got on the scoreboard after taking over possession early in the fourth quarter thanks to a 16-yard run by Miles Baney. The two-point conversion failed, leaving the 42-6 score with just over nine minutes remaining.
The Bearcats scored again when Harman tossed his only touchdown pass of the game to Tyson Cook at the midway point of the fourth quarter. Cook also caught the two-point conversion to set the final score at 42-14, but it was the final drive for the Bearcats that actually had one of the more exciting plays of the night.
After being forced to punt once again, Graves saw his second consecutive punt get blocked right back in his face, and Huntingdon pounced to the point where they actually recovered at the Bison 1-yard line. Huntingdon called timeout, giving their second team offense a chance to get on the field and see what they could accomplish.
But, with the coaches and starting defense roaring their encouragement, the Bison defense not only stuffed the rush attempt by Kyle Barrett for a loss, but they also managed to strip him of the ball and recover the fumble. The sideline was overjoyed with the goal line stand, and one play later the Bison took a knee to secure the victory.
With everything the Bison, and overall the entire PIAA has faced this season, Janocko said he and his team were just happy to be playing, and even with a short regular season, he said that they were taking things one day at a time, and were happy to be in the playoffs. After seeing two games cancelled due to a positive test result, and now seeing the remaining two games of the regular season erased due to District 9 playoffs, Janocko felt that “adapt” was the right word to describe the 2020 campaign.
“I think you’re right, that’s a good way to put it. We just have to adapt to what has been placed on our table and go from there,” he said.
Game photos can be seen at the Bison football website.
Clearfield’s post-season will begin next weekend, but not on the usual Friday night. Instead, the District 9 Class AAA championship will take place on Saturday afternoon, a 1 p.m. kickoff at Frank Varischetti Field in Brockway, against the St. Marys Flying Dutch.
All varsity players will be allowed to purchase up to three tickets for the game for family. Tickets are $6 and will be available to purchase at the main office at the high school this coming Monday and Tuesday, October 19 and 20. However, ticket sales will end at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, with no exceptions.
SCORE BY QUARTER
Huntingdon 0 0 0 14 – 14
Clearfield 21 21 0 0 – 42
BISON: 42-yard run by McGonigal (Graves kick), 7:21
BISON: 2-yard run by Plubell (Graves kick), 4:27
BISON: 21-yard pass from O. Billotte to I. Billotte (Graves kick), 2:10
BISON: 2-yard run by McGonigal (Graves kick), 10:14
BISON: 12-yard pass from O. Billotte to Kline (Graves kick), 6:57
BISON: 28-yard pass from O. Billotte to L. Firanski (Graves kick), 6:24
BEARCATS: 16-yard run by Baney (Ronk run failed), 9:18
BEARCATS: 22-yard pass from Harman to Cook (Harman pass to Cook), 5:55
First Downs: 7/8
Rush Yards: 116/157
Pass Yards: 47/145
Total Yards: 163/302
Time of Possession: 24:10/23:50
Huntingdon: Ronk-15 carries, 28 yards; Baney-8 carries, 20 yards, TD; Cook-4 carries, 54 yards; Brown-2 carries, 15 yards; Barnett-1 carry, (-1) yards.
Clearfield: B. Firanski-13 carries, 43 yards; Domico-8 carries, 11 yards; McGonigal-6 carries, 61 yards, 2 TD; Plubell-4 carries, 28 yards, TD; O. Billotte-2 carries, 13 yards; Alban-1 carry, 8 yards; Crutchfield-1 carry, 11 yards; Team-1 carry, 0 yards.
Huntingdon: Harman-3 for 11, 47 yards, TD, 3 INT; Ronk-0 for 5, 1 INT.
Clearfield: O. Billotte-5 for 8, 135 yards, 3 TD; Domico-1 for 4, 10 yards.
Huntingdon: Cook-1 catch, 22 yards, TD; Eagle-1 catch, 14 yards; Brown-1 catch, 11 yards.
Clearfield: Kline-2 catches, 50 yards, TD; Lezzer-1 carry, 45 yards; L. Firanski-1 carry, 28 yards, TD; I. Billotte-1 catch, 15 yards, TD; Paul-Cook-1 catch, 10 yards.