Despite nearly doubling visiting Bald Eagle Area in offensive plays (75-40) and holding a slight edge in total yards (345-336), the Clearfield football team came out on the wrong end of a 36-28 score Friday night at the Bison Sports Complex.
Clearfield led 14-0 in the first quarter and 28-15 late in the second, but the Eagles scored the final 21 points of the game, holding the Bison scoreless in the second half.
“We missed our opportunities in the second half,” Clearfield head coach Tim Janocko said. “It was a good football game. Two good teams.
“They made a play, we didn’t make a play. Two plays can change a whole game sometimes.”
The Bison held a 28-22 lead at the break, but BEA received the second half kickoff and got a charge from Kaden Bittinger, who returned it 38 yards to the BEA 47.
It only took the Eagles four plays to navigate the 53 yards with Jaden Jones carrying the final 11 for the score. Peter Vancise booted the PAT to give BEA its first lead of the night, 29-28, with 10:55 to play in the third.
On the ensuing drive, Clearfield marched from its own 35 to the BEA 7, but on third-and-goal Oliver Billotte was intercepted by Bittinger at the 1-yard drive to thwart the Bison. The drive covered 58 yards on 17 plays and nearly bled out the rest of the third quarter clock.
The Clearfield defense was able to force a punt by the Eagles, who shanked it for just 23 yards, giving the Bison pristine field position at the BEA 28-yard line.
But after converting a fourth down to move to the 15, disaster struck the Bison on the next set of downs.
Billotte was unable to handle a shotgun snap and had to fall on the ball at the 24. Clearfield was unable to make up the lost yardage and turned it over on downs at the 24.
Four plays later, Tommy Snyder burst through a hole up the middle and raced 47 yards to give Bald Eagle Area a 36-28 lead with 6:59 left to play.
Clearfield started its next drive at the 39 and methodically moved down the field.
Billotte hit Logan Firanski for 9-yard gains on consecutive first down plays and he added a pair of 7-yard runs in the series, the second converting a fourth-and-2 from the BEA 24. Firanski had five receptions for 47 yards in the game.
But once again, the Clearfield drive stalled in the red zone and Billotte’s fourth down pass was knocked away by a Bald Eagle defender.
All that was left for the Eagles to do was kneel on the ball twice and they escaped the Bison Sports Complex with the 8-point victory.
Clearfield ran 38 plays in the second half, 32 of them snapping on Bald Eagle Area’s side of the field and 15 from the Red Zone, but it couldn’t make the play it needed to find the end zone.
The Bison had little trouble making plays in the first half, going on four long scoring drives to build leads of 14-0 and 28-15.
They took the opening series 65 yards in 11 plays, using a fast pace to keep the Eagles on their heels.
Billotte completed passes of 9 and 11 yards to Matt Pallo and Karson Kline, respectively, and four different ball carriers ran 9 times for 45 yards. Billotte’s 1-yard sneak at 7:21 and the first of four Zach Hess extra points made it 7-0.
The Bison got the ball back two plays later when Allan Myers jumped on a loose football after a bad exchange.
Billotte hit Ian Billotte for a 27-yard gain on third down then found Pallo in the end zone for a 30-yard score four plays later on fourth down. Pallo made a diving one-handed grab to put the Bison up 14-0.
But BEA responded with a 9-play, 67-yard scoring drive that was helped along by a 15-yard pass interference penalty on the Bison.
Jones found Mathew Reese on fourth-and-11 for an 18-yard TD to get the Eagles back in the game. Jones was 3-of-5 for 50 yards in the drive.
Clearfield came right back with a 68-yard drive that featured Billotte going 4-for-4 for 64 yards and finishing things off with another 1-yard rushing touchdown.
Billotte completed 20 of his 30 passes for 204 yards, spreading the ball around to seven different receivers in the absence of an injured Jake Lezzer. Pallo caught seven of those passes for 80 yards to lead the receiving core.
“It was a good performance by them and a good performance by our whole offense,” Janocko said. “We put a lot of points on the board against a good football team. I’m proud of the way our kids are playing this year. We have a nice football team.”
Once again the Eagles answered.
This time Jones hit Bittinger for an 11-yard scoring strike and then Bittinger completed a pass to Stevens for a surprise 2-point conversion after lining up for the PAT.
Bittinger also had a 53-yard reception in the drive.
Clearfield went back in front on a 12-yard Brett Zattoni run at 2:22 after getting helped along by a pair of personal foul penalties.
Zattoni ended his night with 102 yards on 25 carries.
The 2:22 was more than enough time for Jones to lead BEA back down the field for an important score.
He found Reese for a 17-yard touchdown with just 29 seconds left in the half to make the score 28-22 and give BEA the opportunity to take the lead on the first series of the second half.
Jones was 11-of-15 for 204 yards and 3 TD passes, while rushing 13 times for 70 yards and a score.
“He made plays,” Janocko said. “He’s a good player and they’re a good team. They’re going to make some noise in playoffs.”
BEA improved to 7-1, while the Bison slipped to 6-2.
Clearfield returns to action Oct. 18 at Philipsburg-Osceola.