Bison eke past Dragons, 34-33|
Saturday, September 15, 2012
By Rich Murawski Assistant Sports Editor
HYDE - It was fitting that Clearfield kicker/punter Spencer Herrington was on the field for the final play of the Bison's football game with Central on Friday at the Bison Sports Complex.
Herrington booted a pair of field goals in the contest, including a 29-yarder with 3:58 to play that ended up being the game-winner as Clearfield trimmed Central, 34-33, in a battle of unbeatens in a key Mountain League matchup.
The sophomore kicker also punted six times for a 32.2 average, and his knuckler with six seconds left to play was easily covered by the Bison special teams as time ran out.
Clearfield head coach Tim Janocko is not known for sending out the field goal unit often, and he believes it may have been the first time in his tenure one of his players had two in one game.
"He does it in practice all the time," Janocko said of Herrington. "I had no reservations whatsoever to send him out there. We have a solid long snapper, a solid holder and that unit does a good job. We practice it almost every day. (Spencer) is following in the footsteps of his brother (Parker).
"And he punted well all night, too. He had a big game. But so many different kids made big plays, it's hard to single just one out. But you do want to single Spencer out for kicking those two field goals under pressure."
The first Herrington field goal was from 21 yards out and ended a turnover-plagued first half that saw the teams combine for four fumbles and three interceptions.
His kick gave Clearfield a 17-14 lead at the break.
But the teams held on to the ball in the second half and put on an offensive show.
There were 526 yards of total offense over the final 24 minutes of play with four touchdowns being scored in a span of 3:56 in the third quarter. The see-saw second half also featured six lead changes.
"There weren't any long drives," Central head coach Dave Baker said. "Mainly it was big plays. Both teams kept coming back. You have to hand it to them. They scored one more point than we did."
Central struck quickly in the second half to take the lead, traveling 57 yards in three plays with quarterback Aaron Cunningham hitting Bradi Moore for a 43-yard score to cap the drive.
The Scarlet Dragons missed the extra point - one of two failed PATs - making the score, 20-17.
It didn't take long for Clearfield to answer, as the Bison also needed just three plays to cover 57 yards.
Quarterback Christian Lezzer picked up the final 44 on a run through the center of the Dragon defense. After clearing the first level of defenders, Lezzer showed off his speed, outrunning three players to the end zone.
Herrington's PAT made the score 24-20 with 9:05 left in the third quarter.
The big plays kept on coming with Central taking its turn on the next possession.
With Moore lined up in the Wildcat formation, he took a snap from center and went just three yards from the Central 20 to the 23.
On the next play, Moore rolled out and hit a streaking Cunningham in stride down the sideline in front of the Central bench. Clearfield's Trey Jordan had tight coverage and tried to make a play on the ball, but Cunningham outjumped him and scampered 77 yards for the score.
"We had not seen that (from Central) before," Janocko said of the touchdown play. "But Trey had good coverage. It was just a great throw and a great catch."
Central booted the extra point to take a 27-24 lead - one that was short-lived.
The Bison continued the theme of one-upsmanship on their next series when Lezzer connected with Jordan on a 56-yard touchdown bomb that capped a 4-play, 71-yard drive.
Herrington's fourth extra point put the Bison back in front, 31-27.
Lezzer completed 10 of his 19 pass attempts for 165 yards and ran 28 times for 114 yards. Jordan grabbed four of Lezzer's passes for 101 yards - his second 100-yard receiving effort of the season.
"We made some big plays on offense," Janocko said. "We had some big runs and some big throws. Christian obviously had some big plays. Trey made some big plays. You hate to single out just a couple guys, though, because it was such a team effort."
The Bison defense came up with a big play on the next Central drive as Jordan picked off Cunningham at the Bison 15 and returned the ball 10 yards. It was Jordan's second interception of the game.
But after a quick first down, Clearfield's drive stalled and the Bison had to punt the ball from their own 40.
Herrington launched a 53-yard kick that pinned the Dragons at their own 7-yard line.
But a 28-yard Cunningham-to-Zach Croft connection got the Dragons out of the shadow of their own end zone, and three plays later Central was in the end zone.
And it was Cunningham on the receiving end of a Moore pass again. This time it covered 72 yards and gave Central a 33-31 advantage with 11:04 to go in the fourth quarter.
Cunningham did it all for the Dragons, completing seven of his 18 passes for 160 yards and two touchdowns, running for 29 yards and a score, catching the two touchdown passes for 149 yards and adding a key 34-yard punt return. He also intercepted a pass in the end zone to thwart a Clearfield scoring chance.
"He's a talent," Janocko said. "He has speed. We knew he had talent and their running back (Moore) ... those two together had speed and talent. But (Cunningham) is a playmaker."
Cunningham's big punt return came after the Central defense made the Bison go three-and-out on the next series.
His return gave the Dragons a first down at the Clearfield 28-yard line.
But after three plays netted seven yards, Central went for it on fourth-and-3 and Bison Corey Stiver stopped Cunningham for a 1-yard gain to give Clearfield the ball back at its 20 with 7:09 left in the game.
Stiver made several big plays in the game, including recovering two Central fumbles in the first half.
"Corey Stiver had an excellent game. He battled. He and our defensive line kept coming."
Lezzer hit Jordan for a 20-yard gain on the first play of the series, and Tyler Stratton ripped off a 33-yard run on the next play.
Two Lezzer runs moved the ball to the Central 12-yard line, but the drive stalled out and Herrington came in to boot his 29-yarder with 3:58 to play.
One final Central possession ended when Dylan Graham knocked the ball away from a Dragon receiver on a fourth down play from the Bison 40.
"Dylan's a battler," Janocko said. "He's a kid who competes every day. He doesn't always get the headlines, but we've known for years what kind of battler Dylan is. He came up with some big plays tonight."
Stratton put the Dragons in a hole when he dropped Cunningham for a 4-yard loss on a first down play from the Clearfield 36.
After a four-touchdown performance last week against Penns Valley, Stratton starred on defense in Week 3 with big hit after big hit.
"He was hitting real well tonight, and he also had a couple big catches on a drive that resulted in a touchdown," Janocko said. "But I thought he played real well defensively."
Clearfield fumbled the opening kickoff and Central scored just 1:41 into the game on a Cunningham 1-yard run.
Lezzer scored on touchdown runs of 2 and 11 yards in the first half, and Central added a 34-yard Cunningham-to-Moore touchdown connection. The touchdown came on fourth-and-11, and Moore caught the pass after a Bison defender nearly picked it off, but instead deflected it into the arms of the waiting Dragon.
"When that happened I thought, ‘oh boy, we're snakebit tonight,' " Janocko said. "First we had the opening kickoff that we fumbled and then we play great defense on a fourth down and we bat the ball and it ended up almost looking like the Franco Harris Immaculate Reception."
Clearfield's final drive of the first half took less than a minute as Lezzer completed consecutive passes of 12 and 17 yards to Shawn Lord before hitting Jordan on a 19-yarder to set up Herrington's first field goal.
"It was just a great high school football game," Janocko said. "What an atmosphere. We had a packed house with two good football teams going at each other. It was a clean game, and well-coached. I thought Central's coaches did a great job.
"I'm really happy for our kids because they battled through some adversity. But that is what high school football teaches you."
Clearfield improved to 3-0 with the win.
The Bison travel to Huntingdon on Friday.
EXTRA POINTS: Clearfield School District honored the late Dr. Greg Sheffo during pregame ceremonies for his role as team physician over the years. His mother Jean, and brother Mark were on hand to accept plaques from the high school and the Clearfield Center for Children's Care ... The Clearfield youth football teams were also recognized before the game ... Stratton rushed for 61 yards on eight carries and had two receptions for 11 yards ... Lord caught three balls for 37 yards.
Score By Quarters
Central 6 8 13 6-33
Clearfield 7 10 14 3-34
CE-Cunningham 1 run, (conversion failed), 10:19.
CL-Lezzer 11 run, (Herrington kick), 4:31.
CE-Moore 34 pass from Cunningham, (Frederick pass from Hamm), 10:29.
CL-Lezzer 2 run, (Herrington kick), 3:49.
CL-Herrington 21 FG, 0:00.
CE-Moore 43 pass from Cunningham, (kick failed), 10:19.
CL-Lezzer 44 run, (Herrington kick), 9:05.
CE-Cunningham 77 pass from Moore, (Helsel kick), 8:15.
CL-Jordan 56 pass from Lezzer, (Herrington kick), 6:25.
CE-Cunningham 72 pass from Moore, (kick failed), 11:04.
CL-Herrington 29 FG, 3:58.
Total First Downs 15 16
Rushes-Yards 38-101 38-172
Comp-Att-Int 9-20-2 10-20-2
Passing Yards 309 165
Total Plays-Yards 58-410 58-337
Fumbles-Lost 3-3 2-1
Punts-Avg 2-35.5 6-32.2
Penalties-Yards 5-25 3-25
Central-Conrath 8-79, Cunningham 17-29, Slick 3-6, Moore 10-(-13).
Clearfield-Lezzer 28-114, Stratton 8-61, Woomer 2-(-3).
Central-Cunningham 7-of-18, 160 yds., 2 TD, 2 Int.; Moore 2-of-2, 149 yds., 2 TD.
Clearfield-Lezzer 10-of-19, 165 yds., 1 TD, 2 Int.; Team 0-of-1.
Central-Moore 5-115, Cunningham 2-149, Croft 1-28, Kreider 1-17.
Clearfield-Jordan 4-101, Lord 3-37, Stratton 2-11, Graham 1-16.