WINGATE — All week the Bald Eagle Area football team tried its hardest to replicate what do-it-all Clearfield phenom Christian Lezzer would show them on Friday night.
It was a nearly impossible task. And when Friday rolled around, Lezzer and the Bisons rolled over the Eagles. Clearfield (8-0) scored on its first seven possessions to trounce Bald Eagle Area 49-8. Lezzer helped set up Clearfield’s first three scores with big plays down the field.
“He’s just one of those special athletes you don’t see very often,” BEA coach Jack Tobias said. “He’s not just an athletic kid, he’s a big, strong physical kid too. He plays very well and it’s very hard to replicate that in practice. We don’t have anybody that looks like that and anybody close to that is playing on our first team.”
Lezzer, a junior, lived up to his billing. He took off down the right sideline for a 41-yard gain on the first play of the game. The longest run of the night from any player set up a 13-yard touchdown run from Tyler Stratton on the next play. After forcing the first of eight BEA punts, the Bison turned the ball back over to Lezzer and he threw deep for 75 yards to Trey Jordan three plays into what would turn out to be a quick drive to give Clearfield possession inside the BEA five-yard-line.
Stratton plowed in again for a short score.
Another BEA punt preceeded a third straight Clearfield scoring drive. After getting flagged for holding at midfield, the Clearfield offense appeared to have stalled, but with a flick of his wrist, Lezzer uncorked another deep ball, this one to Dylan Graham for a gain of 36 yards. A 19-yard run from Lezzer then set up Stratton who scored easily from two yards out to give Clearfield a 21-0 lead just nine minutes into the game.
“He’s a special player and he had a great year last year as a sophomore,” Clearfield coach Tim Janocko said. “We’ve watched him come on and he just continues to get better every week.”
Lezzer got on the board himself with a one-yard run to begin the second quarter then hit Jordan down the seam for an 84-yard passing score to trigger the running-clock mercy rule with 9:46 to play in the first half.
The Eagles (5-3), who got speedy running back Dion Barnard back from injury, only managed two first downs and forced Clearfield into just two third down situations in the first half. Barnard played a few defensive snaps and did not carry the football.
Instead, Dakota Bartley handled much of the load for BEA. Bartley managed to rip off two 22-yard runs in the first half but was held in check by an aggressive Clearfield defense for much of the night.
The Bison notched four sacks and four tackles for lost yardage.
“We played really good defense,” Janocko said. “They had a couple of times where they made a run here and there, but pretty much we swarmed all night. I thought we went to the ball really well.”
Lezzer scored on an 11-yard run in the second quarter before reserve running back Seth Ford capped Clearfield’s scoring with 18 seconds to play in the first half.
Moving the ball in small increments on offense — converting just one of nine third downs — and not able to stop Lezzer on defense, BEA was relegated to making plays on special teams.
Bryan Greene, who made three touchdown-saving tackles on big Clearfield gains, continuously cut around Clearfield’s kickoff coverage unit. Greene muffed the initial kickoff, but was stellar afterward, setting his team up past the 35 six times.
Punter Tony Riley had to be on his game and he responded well. Riley, constantly faced with pressure on punts, narrowly had four punts blocked but still managed a 32-yard average. Riley’s best punt came early in the second with the Eagles trailing 35-0. Riley booted a ball from his own territory all the way to the Clearfield one-yard-line where Greene downed the ball.
But the Eagles’ defense couldn’t capitalize and yielded a 34-yard gain to Stratton on the next play.
“When you’re going against a team and you’ve got a guy like Lezzer there, he’s just Mr. Everything and he does a great job,” Tobias said. “It’s tough because you’ve got to stop him and then you’ve got guys on the outside who can run. They’re a great football team. They’re 8-0 for a reason.”