Clearfield set to faceoff with University Prep|
Thursday, November 15, 2012
By Jon Christoff Sports Writer
CLARION - The Clearfield football team is familiar to the win-or-go-home mentality that comes with competing in the playoffs.
Head coach Tim Janocko's squad has competed against some of the best the state has to offer in Class AAA - including an eventual state champion in Allentown Central Catholic in 2010 - and the Bison need just one more win to advance into the first round of the PIAA state playoffs.
In order to clear that hurdle, all Clearfield has to do is beat Pittsburgh City League runner-up University Prep on Saturday at Clarion University.
Easier said than done.
"They're very athletic," said Janocko of the Wildcats, "especially at wide receiver, and their quarterback is outstanding. They throw the ball quite a bit and they're athletic. Their thing is throwing the football. They run some no back and a lot of trips open, quad open, motion to trips. It's all spread, all shotgun.
"I'd say the closest (team we've played this year) would be to the team from Canada, Saint Joan of Arc. In the past, they'd be a lot like the two Johnstown teams we've played the last two years."
The Bison defeated the Trojans in the District 6-9 sub-regional, which changed this year to include the city league (District 8) and District 5.
University Prep - which is a combination of three former city league schools - reached the District 5-6-8-9 regional with last weekend's win over Somerset.
The Wildcats' high-flying offense was on display, as quarterback Akil Young threw for 460 yards and 6 touchdowns. Young completed 29 of 44 his attempts and had 309 of his passing yards in the opening half.
University Prep held on for a 47-38 win.
"He's capable of running," Janocko said of Young, "but he's more of a pocket passer. He's very accurate and he has a good arm."
The Wildcats had just one rushing touchdown last week against the Eagles, courtesy of Ryan Daniels, but most of the damage this season has come through the air.
University Prep (7-3) averages 30.1 points per game and has only been held to fewer than 35 points on three occasions - all of which were losses - in 10 games.
The Aquinas Institute (N.Y.) and Perry (twice) are responsible for the Wildcats' three losses. Conversely, on the defensive side of the ball, University Prep has yielded just 14.1 points per contest.
The Wildcats allowed 48 in an opening game loss to Aquinas and 38 in last weekend's win, while no other opponent has scored more than 15.
"They played two close games with Perry - one in the regular season and one in the City League Championship - and the games were decided by 6 points or less," said Janocko of the Wildcats' defense. "They're capable of playing shutdown defense and they're fast to the ball. On the other hand, Somerset scored some points on them, too, so it's hard to gauge (how we match up)."
While points have been hard to come by against the Wildcats for opponents this season, Janocko is optimistic that his balanced attack that averages 44 points per game will have some success on Saturday at Clarion University's Memorial Stadium.
Somerset featured a balance attack in last weekend's defeat, as its quarterback threw for nearly 200 yards while its top gainer on the ground churned out 166 yards on just 15 carries.
Bison quarterback Christian Lezzer has 1,400 yards on the ground to go with over 1,200 through the air. Lezzer has tossed 17 touchdowns on just 82 attempts with Trey Jordan being the main beneficiary.
Jordan is third in Progressland with 27 receptions for an area-best 937 yards, while Tyler Stratton has added 144 carries for another 1,240 yards.
"We have to stay away from turnovers and continue to take shots in passing game when we have them," Janocko said. "It comes down to our offensive and defensive line. Those are the guys that win and lose for us. We have great skill kids that make plays, no question, but to get that opportunity comes from the offensive line and the defensive line.
"The defensive line has to get to Akil Young, and the offensive line has to create opportunities for our backs and wide receivers."
In the days leading up to this weekend's sub-regional championship, Janocko has brought up last season's crushing loss to Shamokin on the last play of the game.
His Bison know all too well what the outcome will be if they don't perform up to their lofty standards from here on out.
"I think so," Janocko said if experience at this stage makes a difference. "There's no question. We've been here quite a bit and we want to advance. The kids are having fun and it's a special time of the season.
"Our season ended last year on last play of the game. We want to try to advance from that. These guys are forging their own path."
Kickoff is slated for 1 p.m.