Let’s see now, last week’s wide receiver was this week’s quarterback, a tight end moved to tackle on offense and from linebacker to defensive tackle on defense. And the moves went on as the Bald Eagle Area lineup underwent more changes than a fire drill as injuries ravaged the roster. But if necessity was the mother of invention it was also the mother of the Eagles’ 25-22 upset win over Clearfield here Friday night.
Derek Henry moved from catching passes to throwing them after starting BEA quarterback Jaden Jones and his brother, Jordan, were both sidelined with injuries. All he did was connect on 6-of-8 attempts for 96 yards and a touchdown and run for 111 yards on 18 carries and a score.
Dylan Bisel, who was a tight end a week ago, moved inside to tackle on offense and then stepped across the neutral zone to put his hand in the dirt. He was a pain in the Bison offense all night, harassing quarterback Isaac Rumery as the BEA defense throttled several Clearfield drives.
“He’s got a lot of heart,” Eagles coach Jesse Nagle said of Bisel. “It’s not easy to ask a receiver to move inside and play tackle and to go from linebacker to defensive end to tackle.”
And then there was Gage McClenahan, who stayed put position-wise — which meant he was all over the field, scoring three times, once on a pass from Henry, once returning an interception 22 yards and then circling the right end after picking up a snap which sailed over Henry’s head, turning a busted play into a score.
But it was Henry who was the key to the Eagles (4-4).
“We needed a leader in there with Jaden and Jordan out,” an elated Nagle said. “We knew Derek had a lot of heart, that he would fight and fight and fight.
“We put him in there in the second half last week, and he was just throwing the ball up. He said he couldn’t see over the line, so that’s why he was throwing it up. This week we wanted him to run the ball between 20 and 25 times. We changed the offense to get him out of the pocket.”
Added Henry: “I’d run this offense a little bit during the summer. I knew it a little bit. But this is awesome. I don’t know if I’ve ever been this happy before.”
Clearfield scored first with a 13-yard pass from Rumery to Jacob Lezzer late in the first quarter and Jakob Sorbera kicked the PAT.
McClenahan got the first of his scores when he picked off a tipped Rumery pass and ran it back for a score at the 8:18 mark of the second quarter. The PAT kick was blocked to give Clearfield the 7-6 advantage.
What Nagle thought might have been a lethal blow came with 18 seconds left in the half when Taye Lynch caught a jump ball in the end zone between two BEA defenders and Sorbera made it 14-6.
“I thought, ‘Oh no, are we going to do this again?’ ” he said. “But we have a bunch of young kids who are sick and tired of losing, and they decided they were not going to give up again. I called the leaders aside and told them they had to make everyone believe. And they did.”
In the third period the Eagles struck again when McClenahan ran a wheel route and got behind the Bison secondary, and Henry hit him in stride for the score. But the kick failed and BEA trailed, 14-12, at the 5:46 mark.
A 14-yard punt gave BEA the ball on the Clearfield 30 and, six plays later, Henry scored from the 1. The run for the PAT was stopped, leaving BEA up 18-14 with 2:08 to go in the quarter.
The Eagle defense stopped Clearfield on fourth-and-1 at the Eagle 4 and the next time Clearfield got the ball it had moved to the BEA 15 where Garrett Rigg sacked Rumery, forcing a fumble which Kael Gardner scooped up and took 70 yards for a score. A penalty wiped out the touchdown, but the Eagles put the ball in play at the BEA 39.
A pair of penalties moved the ball to the Clearfield 25 and then Henry got loose for 19 yards to the 6 and, two plays later, McClenahan grabbed the loose ball and darted into the end zone. Charlotte Harris kicked the PAT with 3:55 left in the game.
“McClenahan is special,” Nagle said. “I want the ball in his hands. We brought him up last year as a freshman, and people asked me if he was ready. Heck, he was probably ready when he was in seventh grade.”
Clearfield drove for a score on its next possession, scoring when Rumery and Lezzer combined for a 28-yard strike and Rumery threw to Spencer Graham to make it 25-22.
But when BEA got the ball back with 1:41 left, Henry broke loose for 40 yards to the Bison 16 to ice the game.
“He did a nice job,” Clearfield coach Tim Janocko said of Henry. “He runs the ball well. But we turned the ball over too many times. We got down inside the 20 a lot of times and lost the ball. That was the story of the game.”