When Clearfield’s Corey Shimmel broke off an 80-yard touchdown run with 4:45 left in regulation Friday night at the Bison Sports Complex, the running clock was set in motion as the Mercy Rule was invoked.
But despite what ended up as a 41-6 loss for the Bellefonte football team, Red Raider head coach Shanon Manning was extremely encouraged by the effort put forth by his young squad.
“That game was not 41-6,” Manning said. “That could have very easily been a 20-20 football game with a lot riding those last five minutes. But we have to look to make those plays (we didn’t), and we will.
“We played with a lot of young guys out there that haven’t played any varsity football, and they stepped up and played very, very well. I was proud of all of them.”
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The Bison led 20-0 at the half, but Bellefonte’s Austin Jackson scored from 71 yards out on the first play from scrimmage in the third quarter to get the visitors back in the ball game. The snap on the extra point went over the holder’s head, keeping the score at 20-6.
“They caught us in a play,” Clearfield head coach Tim Janocko said. “We knew sooner or later (Jackson) would get something, because he runs so well. Bellefonte is a team on the rise. They are definitely a much-improved team, and they are going to be better in the near future.”
Jackson led the Raiders with 130 yards on just 12 carries.
The Bellefonte defense then held the Bison on their next possession, stopping Erik Sellers for no gain on fourth and-1 from the Clearfield 38, setting the Raider offense up in prime real estate.
But a huge offensive pass interference call set Bellefonte too far behind the chains and the Raiders were forced to punt the ball back to the Bison, who drove 80 yards in seven plays to regain their three-touchdown lead, 27-6.
The Raiders also had a drive stopped at the Clearfield 3-yard line early in the fourth quarter after overcoming another costly penalty deep in Bison territory.
“It bogged down (in the red zone) and that’s where your execution shows up,” Manning said. “You have to be pinpoint with your execution when you’re down there. That’s where we’re still hurting a little bit. Our execution has to get better.
“We have a little bit of continuity issues, but that’s something we’ll get straightened out. These are all correctable things I saw tonight. I feel like we lost a football game tonight, but we definitely got better.”
Clearfield scored on its initial drive, going 80 yards on seven plays with Sellers scoring from five yards out to give the Bison a 7-0 lead with 9:15 left in the first quarter.
Sellers led Clearfield with 171 yards and four touchdowns on 17 carries. Seth Caldwell added 116 on 18 totes and Shimmel ran three times for 97 as the Bison amassed 439 yards on the ground.
Bellefonte surprised Clearfield with a Wildcat package on the ensuing drive, as Barrion Banks reeled off a 30-yard run to help the Raiders get into Bison territory.
Banks rushed eight times for 55 yards in his first action on offense this season.
“We knew the last couple weeks we were going to start repping Barry,” Manning said. “That’s something we discussed. Last week we got him in some special teams this week we wanted to start working him in at quarterback, and that’s just an experiment growing. He’s a good football player. He’s been working hard and does a great job. He leads by example, and we appreciate that.”
Bellefonte was unable to convert a fourth down play on the drive, and Clearfield took over but only made it to midfield before the Raiders forced a punt.
Bellefonte forced punts on consecutive Bison possessions, but one play after getting the ball back at its own 33, quarterback Mark Armstrong threw an interception that was returned 40 yards for a touchdown by Ryan, giving the hosts a 14-0 lead with 10:00 left in the second quarter.
“That hurt,” Manning said. “We have to clean that stuff up, and we’ve been working on it. We have a ninth-grade center, a sophomore quarterback, a lot of young kids. We’re constantly working. We’re going to push hard.”
Sellers scored from 16 yards out just before the half to give the Bison a 20-0 lead. He also had a 53-yard scamper early in the fourth quarter that pushed the Clearfield advantage to 34-6.
Clearfield had 20 first downs to 11 for Bellefonte and won the total yardage battle, 446-282.
“It’s ‘a credit to our kids, because Bellefonte is much improved,” Janocko said. “They did some things that they have not shown before, and they had some success with it. It was a credit to our defense to hold them to six points.”
Bellefonte fell to 1-5 with the loss.
The Raiders travel to Penns Valley on Friday. It will be the fourth straight road game for Bellefonte, which finishes the regular season with three at home.
“I grew up there. It’s nice,” Manning said. “It’s nice to go back there and get the opportunity to play. If we build off what we did this week, we’ll be a much better football team. I’m impressed with the kids. I hate that the score ended up what it was, because it’s not indicative of the football game that we played tonight.”
Clearfield (4-2) travels to Tyrone.