HYDE — The Clearfield football team turned the ball over twice, had one punt blocked and a bad snap on another lead to a Huntingdon touchdown and averaged just 3.1 yards per carry on offense Friday evening at the Bison Sports Complex.
But the Bison got a 46-yard fumble return from Nick Domico in the fourth quarter and held off the Bearcats 28-16 to improve to 4-0 on the season.
“We were sloppy in different areas, but Huntingdon played a lot better than they have been playing too,” Clearfield head coach Tim Janocko said. “You have a team backed up like that with nothing to lose and they came out and played hard. So credit to them.
“But credit to our kids too. Our kids didn’t play as well as they’ve been playing. It happens. But we still came out with the win, and we’re 4-0. Good teams find a way to overcome bad days. You’re going to have bad days.”
Clearfield came up with the first big play of the game when he recovered a Bearcat fumble at the Huntingdon 32 on the third play of the game.
But the Bison were unable to cash in and turned the ball over on downs at the Bearcat 9.
After forcing Huntingdon to punt, Clearfield took over at its 33 but went backwards as Nick Buckley sacked Bison quarterback for a 10-yard loss.
A low snap on the ensuing Bison punt resulted in a block and an apparent Bearcat touchdown on the return, but a block in the back nullified the score.
Heitsenrether and Myers dropped Huntingdon quarterback Nick Troha for losses on back-to-back plays and forced a Bearcat punt, pinning the Bison at their 8-yard line.
Billotte was nearly dropped for a safety on the next play, but he was able to get to the 1-yard line and then connected with Jake Lezzer for a 38-yard gain on the next play.
That keyed a 92-yard drive that ended with Mark McGonigal finding the end zone on a 9-yard run with 14 seconds left in the first quarter.
Zach Hess’ extra point was wide and the Bison led 6-0 after one.
Huntingdon responded with an 8-play drive that stalled at the Bison 26. The Bearcats attempted a 42-yard field goal, but it was wide left.
After Clearfield took over at its 20, it was unable to move the ball and had to punt. But the snap bounced to the punter, who was unable to get a handle on it and Huntingdon’s Derrick Fultz recovered it in the end zone, giving the Bearcats a 7-6 lead after the PAT.
Clearfield answered with a 5-play, 63-yard drive, getting a pair of Billotte to Lezzer 12-yard pass plays, and a Brett Zattoni 11-yard run before Jason Plubell busted one up the middle for a 36-yard TD jaunt.
Billotte connected with Domico for the 2-point conversion to make it 14-7 with 5:40 left in the half.
After a Huntingdon punt, Clearfield took over at midfield and marched to the Bearcat 29. But Huntingdon’s Andrew Miller jumped a route to Lezzer, intercepted the ball and returned it 55 yards to the Bison 19.
Lezzer returned the favor a play later, picking Troha off in the end zone on a pass intended for Miller.
Huntingdon got the ball back one last time before the break and was able to get into field goal range for Giovan Scaccia, who hit a 20-yard chip shot to make it 14-10 at the half.
Clearfield looked to take control out of the break, going on a 14-play, 66-yard drive that culminated with an 18-yard TD pass from Billotte to Matt Pallo.
Pallo also had a 15-yard reception on a third down to keep the drive alive, while Zattoni, who was injured last week but available only if needed, had four runs for 15 tough yards.
Zattoni also busted off a 28-yarder on the final drive of the game that pretty much sealed the deal for the Bison. He led the team in rushing with 59 yards on seven carries.
“He was available,” Janocko said. “We were trying not to use him, but he was cleared by the doctor to use as needed. And he had some big runs for us.”
Following a Bearcat punt, Miller made another big play on defense, grabbing his second interception to set Huntingdon up at its own 40.
Eleven plays later on the third snap of the fourth quarter, Troha hit Fultz for a 4-yard score on third and goal to make the score 21-16.
Huntingdon went for 2, but Troha’s pass was incomplete.
Clearfield took over with 11 minutes left on the clock and moved the ball to the Bearcat 35, but Billotte’s throw to Lezzer on fourth down was long and Huntingdon took over at its own 35 with 8:01 on the clock facing a 5-point deficit.
Billotte was 12-of-31 on the day for 165 yards, while throwing one TD and two interceptions. He hit Lezzer eight times for 104 yards. Seven of Lezzer’s eight catches went for first downs.
“We made some plays, but we dropped some balls too that could have made a difference early in the game,” Janocko said. “But that happens. No one’s perfect. Our kids still sucked it up.”
Huntingdon got to its 48 on a 13-yard Fultz run, but then was stopped for a 3-yard loss and for no gain on the next two plays.
That set up a third and 12 play at the Bearcat 46.
Huntingdon tried to run a double pass, intentionally throwing the initial backwards pass into the ground to make it look like an incomplete pass.
But after Fultz picked it up and tried to play it off as incomplete before starting to run with it in front of the Bison bench, he was caught by Ian Billotte and Domico and fumbled the ball.
Domico scooped it up and dashed 46 yards down the sideline to give Clearfield a 28-16 lead with 6:15 to go.
“Nick had a big game,” Janocko said.
The Bearcats had one last drive and moved the ball from their 44 to the Bison 28, but Myers stopped Troha on a draw play on fourth down to end the threat. The Bison defensive line also dropped Chandler Lauer for an 8-yard loss a play earlier to set up the fourth and 10.
“I have to credit our defensive line,” Janocko said. “Allan Myers and Ian Heitsenrether and Quentin Bloom and everyone else really made some plays and got after the quarterback when we needed them too.”
Zattoni busted off his 28-yard run two plays later and Billotte took three knees to end it.
Clearfield improved to 4-0 with the win, 3-0 in Mountain League play. The Bison travel to Central Mountain next week.
“We just have to keep working,” Janocko said. “We’ll go back and watch film and keep working on the things we were successful on. Every week is a tussle.”
EXTRA POINTS: Clearfield had 287 yards total yards, while Huntingdon totaled 153, only 28 though the air ... Plubell rushed for 54 yards on seven carries ... Troha led the Bearcats with 62 yards rushing on 13 totes ... Huntingdon fumbled four times, losing two. Kimberly Wilsoncroft was crowned Homecoming Queen at halftime.