SPRING MILLS — Clearfield opened the season with a convincing 27-0 victory over Penns Valley Friday evening in a game played with very few fans in attendance due to COVID-19 restrictions — and all of those fans were for the host Rams.
"There are definitely some things that we need to do to get better," Clearfield head coach Tim Janocko said. "But we came down here, we had no fans, nothing, just us. It's a good win for our kids. Penns Valley's a good football team.
"Our kids played physical. They played hard."
Bison quarterback Oliver Billotte threw for 207 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 57 yards and two more scores to lead the offensive charge.
Billotte found both Jake Lezzer and Karson Kline early and often. Lezzer caught eight passes for 113 yards, while Kline hauled in five balls for 60 yards and two touchdowns.
“I thought Karson Kline had a huge game tonight,” Clearfield head coach Tim Janocko said. “Nate Natoli had some big catches. Jake had some big catches. Both backs ran hard. It was a total team effort."
In addition to Kline’s nice offensive performance, he also made a big play on special teams that stomped out what could have been a momentum-changing play in the second quarter.
After Billotte had given the Bison a 14-0 lead with a 7-yard run with 5:07 left in the first half, Penns Valley’s Alex Hammer faked a reverse on the ensuing kickoff, fooling the Clearfield coverage, and raced down the sideline toward paydirt.
Kline stuck with the play and was able to run Hammer down, forcing him to fumble at the 1-yard line. The ball went through the end zone for a touchback, thwarting a Ram TD and giving the Bison the ball at their own 20.
“That was a huge play,” Janocko said. “You never give up. You always hustle. Karson had a big game all around.”
Clearfield pretty much kept the Rams in check other than a few special teams returns.
Penns Valley QB Aidan Brinker completed just eight of his 17 pass attempts for 44 yards and led the team in rushing with 43 yards on 13 carries, getting caught in the backfield four times. The Bison defense forced nine negative plays in the game and held the Rams to just 106 total yards.
Clearfield opened the scoring with a 9-play, 55-yard drive in the first quarter that culminated with a Billotte 1-yard sneak with 6:40 left.
Billotte finished off a 14-play, 80-yard drive in the second quarter with a 7-yard score. He completed five passes for 46 yards in the series, including a 15-yard strike to Nate Natoli that converted a fourth down.
The visitors punched it in the end zone one more time before the half when Billotte connected with Kline for an 11-yard TD pass on a fade with just seven seconds left before the break.
Mark McGonigal helped put the Bison in position for the late score with a 26-yard scamper, and Billotte hit Lezzer for a 32-yard pass a couple plays later before capping the drive with his first TD through the air.
After a scoreless third quarter, Clearfield found the end zone one more time in the fourth.
Billotte hit Kline in the corner for a 9-yard TD pass on a fourth-and-7 play that saw the Bison receiver make an acrobatic grab with a Ram defender in his hip pocket. Billotte completed 17 of his 30 pass attempts for 207 yards.
"We picked up blitzes," Janocko said. "They blitzed the heck out of us, and we picked them up. And once we picked them up, we were able to throw the ball. It was a good job by our offensive line."
Graeson Graves’ PAT was blocked, which set the final at 27-0.
McGonigal ran 12 times for 55 yards, Jason Plubell carried 10 times for 19 yards and Jose Alban toted the ball for 18 yards on four carries. Natoli had three receptions for 38 yards.
Clearfield had 21 first downs to just eight for Penns Valley. The Rams committed five penalties for 45 yards, while the Bison were whistled seven times for 35 yards.
"There was rust," Janocko said. "We didn't have two-a-days. We didn't have passing league all summer. I thought we got the rust dusted off and I thought we threw the ball very, very well and sustained some drives.
"We just need to go day-by-day and week-by-week and get better."
The Bison are back in action Sept. 18 when they host Tyrone.
PENNS VALLEY 0
Score by Quarters
C—Oliver Billotte 1 run, (Graeson Graves kick), 6:40.
C—O. Billotte 7 run, (Graves kick), 5:07.
C—Karson Kline 11 pass from O. Billotte, (Graves kick), 0:07.
C—Kline 9 pass from O. Billotte, (kick blocked), 5:20.
Clearfield—Oliver Billotte 12-57, Mark McGonigal 12-55, Jason Plubell 10-19, Jose Alban 4-18, Jake Lezzer 1-2. Braedon Firanski 1-0.
Penns Valley—Aidan Brinker 13-43, Seth Baney 7-25, Tanner Ilgen 3-8.
Clearfield—Oliver Billotte 17-of-30, 207 yds., 2 TD.
Penns Valley—Aidan Brinker 8-of-17, 44 yds.
Clearfield—Jake Lezzer 8-113, Karson Kline 5-60, Nate Natoli 3-38, Jason Plubell 1-(-4)
Penns Valley—Mason Lieb 3-15, Stephen Ripka 3-(-5), Gage Ripka 1-15, Alex Hammer 1-11.