HYDE — Penns Valley held an explosive Clearfield offense scoreless for one quarter, won the turnover battle and found a way to move the ball through the air, connecting on a pair of touchdown passes.
But the inability to take advantage of the Bison turnovers and a couple ill-timed penalties that wiped out first downs and stalled drives ultimately spelled doom for the Rams, who fell 37-15 Friday night at the Bison Sports Complex.
On its initial drive, Clearfield worked the ball inside the Ram 15-yard line, but Bison quarterback Christian Lezzer had a pass bounce out of his receiver’s hands and into the waiting arms of Sean Beamesderfer at the 7-yard line.
Penns Valley picked up a first down, but had to punt the ball away to Lezzer, who was stripped and Ram Hunter Ilgen pounced on it to set his team up in Bison territory at the 47.
Unfortunately for the Rams, they were forced to punt after three plays.
The snap was too high for Tobias to handle, and after chasing the ball down he was able to boot it away. But Clearfield took over at its 49-yard line and went on a 51-yard drive that Tyler Stratton capped with a 5-yard run on the first play of the second quarter.
Clearfield is a very good football team, and we knew that coming in,” Penns Valley head coach Marty Tobias said. “We told our kids we would have to play nearly flawless, and we didn’t. Now, we created some opportunities early with a couple turnovers and that kept it close through the first quarter.
“To get out of that first quarter the way we did, we were feeling better about ourselves. I think that helped our kids confidence. Granted, we knew it was an uphill battle, but the kids were confident with the game plan that we had. We didn’t execute it as well as we needed to. We made our fair share of mistakes and that hurt us. We missed out on a couple of opportunities because of that.”
Clearfield scored again later in the quarter on a Lezzer 1-yard run to give Clearfield a 14-0 advantage.
Penns Valley drove to the Bison 40 on its next possession as Cameron Tobias revved up the passing game, hitting 4-of-6 for 23 yards on the drive. But a fourth down pass fell incomplete when Stratton drilled Taylor Collison to knock away the ball.
The Bison took over at their 40 with 1:54 left and executed their 2-minute drill, moving to the Ram 19 before Penns Valley halted their momentum.
Clearfield kicker Spencer Herrington booted a 36-yard field goal to send Clearfield into the half with a 17-0 lead, but Tobias and the Rams were quite pleased with that.
“For us to hold them to a field goal at the end of the half and keep it close at 17-0, we felt in the locker room that if we could hold them that we had enough confidence that we could come out and score,” Tobias said. “We did, but it was after they scored.”
Penns Valley did stop the Bison on their initial possession, forcing a fumble and recovering it at their own 32.
But the Rams went three and out and had to give the ball back to the Bison, who marched 86 yards on the following drive to take a 24-0 lead.
The Rams answered with their own scoring drive, going 59 yards in six plays.
Tobias connected with Liam Benfer for a 27-yard gain on a third and 24, and followed that with a 30-yard scoring strike to Beamesderfer with 4:45 left in the third.
Tobias connected on 11 of his 17 pass attempts for 115 yards and the score.
“Credit Penns Valley. I knew they would be tough,” Bison head coach Tim Janocko said. “That’s a team that has won six of their last seven games coming into tonight. This wasn’t a fluke.
“I knew they would be better. I knew they were going to be good. They have a veteran quarterback, who can do a lot of different things. They didn’t surprise me at all.”
Clearfield took any momentum gained back from the Rams on the next series, going 63 yards on 10 plays. Lezzer and Stratton alternated carries on the drive, which was all running plays before Lezzer scored his third touchdown of the game with 48 seconds left in the third.
The Bison rushed for 405 yards on 49 carries. Lezzer picked up 161 on 17 runs, while Stratton had 148 on 17 totes. Seth Caldwell added 92 — all in a fourth quarter drive he capped with a 14-yard score.
“They have a fantastic line up front and the push they get makes (Lezzer) that much better … and the other skill guys,” Tobias said. “Everyone talks about their skill guys, but it’s their line that makes everything go.”
Penns Valley got one more score when Ben Alexander hit Corby Woodring for a 26-yard touchdown with 46 seconds left to play.
“I’m very proud of the way the kids played. I’m very proud of the team.” Tobias said. “The score is not indicative of what went on here.
“I think we had a lot of unsung heroes. We’re a team. I’m proud of the fact we play as a team. That’s what’s important to me.”
Penns Valley dipped to 1-1 with the loss, while the Bison improved to 2-0.
The Rams host Bald Eagle Area on Friday. Clearfield travels to Central.