HYDE — It’s often said star players show up in big games, and that was certainly the case Friday at the Bison Sports Complex as Clearfield junior Jake Lezzer put together a huge night on both sides of the ball in a 31-20 victory against rival DuBois.
Lezzer hauled in six catches — several of which were high-light reel worthy — for 159 yards and two touchdowns while also intercepting two passes on defense to help the Bison capture the Lezzer Lumber King of the Mountain Trophy for the second straight year since it was brought back as part of the rivalry.
Sophomore quarterback Oliver Billotte was on the other end of those big-time plays to Lezzer, as the Bison enjoyed a strong night in his first varsity start.
Billotte completed 9 of 12 passes for 204 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.
He also led the Bison in rushing with 12 carries for 48 yards.
And, Clearfield needed those big games from the duo as DuBois put up a vailant effort in a game that saw the Bison finish with a slim 367-340 edge in total yards.
DuBois had a pair of 100-yard receivers in Nick Dilullo (7-170) and Dale Kot (7-106), with Dilullo hauling in a pair of touchdown passes.
Senior quarterback Alex Kovalyak threw for 322 yards on 22 of 33 passing but also tossed three interceptions that proved to be costly in the end.
Those miscues, coupled with Lezzer’s play-making, proved to be the difference as Clearfield opened the season with a win against the Beavers for the third season in a row.
“That was a big win. DuBois is a good football team and is going to win a lot of games,” said Clearfield coach Tim Janocko. “We made some first game mistakes, and so did they, and those are things you need to iron out. Hopefully, we can build on this and get better.
“Jake Lezzer had a huge night with Oliver Billotte throwing to him. Those are things we expect out of Jake. I thought Oliver played very well at times, and there are some things he knows we need to work on. But, for a sophomore in his first start against DuBois, I thought he responded very well.”
Defense ruled the first quarter as the teams traded punts and turnovers on downs in the first four possessions.
DuBois was the first team to make some noise when Kot rumbled 47 yards on a screen pass to give the beavers the ball at the Bison 23 midway through the quarter.
Lezzer struck two plays later in the red zone though as he picked off a Kovalyak pass to halt the drive. The turnover sparked a quick six-play, 79-yard scoring drive for the Bison.
Billotte and Logan Firanski had runs of 12 and 22 yards on back-to-back plays before Billotte hit Karson Kline on a fade route in the end zone for a 30-yard scoring strike.
The first of Zach Hess’ four extra points made it 7-0 with 2;17 left in the opening quarter.
DuBois wasted little time answering back, as the Beavers needed less than three minutes to march 72 yards.
A 38-yard catch Dilullo jump-started the drivem while Adian Castro followed with an 18-yard jaunt.
Chase Husted added a 16-yard grab before Castro capped the march with a one-yard TD plunge on the second play of the second quarter. Nolan Bussell’s PAT evened things at 7-7.
Clearfield looked to counter, getting catches of 11 and 31 yards from Lezzer to get into the red zone at the DuBois 6.
However, disaster struck one play later as DuBois’ Nathan Barr picked off Billotte as the one-yard line.
The Bison promptly got the ball back as Matt Pallo made a nice leaping interception and returned it back to the DuBois 20.
A false start penalty on fourth-and-2 from the 12 plooked like it might stall the Clearfield drive.
That wasn’t the case, as Billotte threw a jump ball into the end zone after initially fumbling the snap. Lezzer outjumped two DuBois defenders on the 17-yard scoring play that put Clearfield up 14-7 with 5:00 left in the half.
DuBois’ offense then ate up the remainder of the clock in the half, methodically driving from its own46 down to the Bison 11. Zach Shilala (10 yards) and Kot (13 yards) each had key third-down catches to extend the drive.
A Clearfield sack coupled with a penalty stalled the drive with Bussell eventually missing a 33-yard field goal attempt wide right on the final play of the half as the Bison took a 14-7 advantage into the break.
The teams traded turnovers to open the second half, with Lezzer’s second pick of the game setting up a 23-yard field goal by Hess that extended the Bison lead to 17-7 with 6:40 left in the third.
DuBois once again had an answer to a Clearfield score, driving 66 yards on 1o plays. Kot had a crucial eight-yard grab on fourth-and-8 to just get a first down at the Bison 14.
Dilullo hauled in a nine-yard TD pass three plays later, with Bussell’s kick amking 17-14 late in the third quarter.
The see-saw battle continued from there, as Clearfield fire back with a scoring driver that spanned the end of the third and beginning of the fourth quarter.
Another impressive jump-ball catch by Lezzer, this one for 34 yards, set up a 12-yard touchdown scamper by Billotte to push the Bison lead back to 10 (24-14) just 1:28 into the fourth.
DuBois was pinned at its own 4-yard line on the ensuing kickoff but eventually got out of the shadow of its own goalpost when Dilullo hauled a pass on a crossing route to as two Bison defenders collided.
That left Dilullo all alone as the Beaver sprinted 82 yards to paydirt to make it 24-20 with 8:09 to play. Clearfield blocked the extra point.
Clearfield responded right back, with a big kickodd return by Brett Zattoni settling up a 42-yard scoring strike from Billotte to Lezzer that all but put the game away (31-20) with7:53 to play. Zattoni 13 carries for 42 yards.
“Our defense played an outstanding game,” said Janocko. “I thought Coach (Nate) Glunt had a great game plan. All the coaches did a good job tonight, and we put 31 points up. That’s huge.”
Clearfield (1-0) hosts Penns Valley next Friday night.