Bald Eagle Area coach Ron Hoover knew Clearfield had plenty of speed at the skill positions.
It was the speed that most us don’t see that left him impressed after the Bison ruined the Eagles’ Senior Night celebration with a 49-14 romp at Alumni Stadium.
Clearfield’s offensive and defensive lines dominated the contest. The offensive line opened up holes that allowed Clearfield backs to rush for 258 yards on 40 carries and protected quarterback Cody Spaid, who threw for three scores. The defensive line shut down the Eagles ground game, holding them to 66 yards on 28 carries.
“The backs were really good, but their linemen really came off the ball,” said Hoover, whose squad dropped to 2-6 on the season. “They got into bodies really fast. That was the most impressive thing I saw from them. ... We knew they were pretty quick on tape, but their guys could all really scoot.”
Clearfield, which has rebounded from a 1-2 start to win five straight, took control from the start. The Eagles fumbled on the second play from scrimmage and Ryan Lezzer recovered at the 24. Five straight running plays netted those 24 yards as Erik Sellers scored from two yards out just 2:36 into the game for a 7-0 lead.
“Last week we eliminated turnovers and we played pretty well,” said Hoover of a 32-12 victory over Huntingdon. “Just right away, the momentum changed. The fumble puts us down early.”
Clearfield went to the air for its scoring for the rest of the half.
Spaid needed just two plays to go 53 yards on the next Bison possession. The final 34 came when he hit wide open tight end Nick Kovalick down the middle for a score. A high snap led to a missed pass on the extra point to make the score 13-0.
BEA (2-6) tried to get back into it with a little trickery on its next possession. Quarterback Jason Jones, also the team’s punter, tried a fake and threw a perfect strike down the middle that was dropped as Clearfield’s punt returner came up to make a hit.
“We thought we’d get one of them,” Hoover said. “We were just inches away. Clearfield is a very aggressive team and we tried to utilize that and make a big play. Last week, the onside kick worked and this week the fake punt didn’t. The kids executed it well, but we just missed it.”
Spaid made the Eagles pay for the gamble in a 48-yard drive. On first down from the BEA 36, he lofted a beautiful strike to Lezzer down the right sideline for a touchdown. Spencer Herrington’s extra point made it 20-0 with a minute left in the first quarter.
“I just had to read off the safety and throw it to the other guy,” said Spaid of the coverage he faced from the Eagles. “The wide receivers made incredible catches and I’m lucky to have them.”
BEA took advantage of a 19-yard punt to get on the board in the second quarter with a a 44-yard drive. Jones made a nice play to cap it, first looking left to throw, then scrambling to the right for a 14-yard touchdown run. Jared Ishler’s extra point made it 20-7 with 5:35 left before the half.
The Eagles appeared to have Clearfield stopped, but a critical penalty of having too many players on the field as the Bison lined up to punt extended the drive. Spaid capped the 77-yard march with a 12-yard scoring strike to Josh Sobera. Sellers’ two-point conversion pass to Seth Caldwell made it 28-7 with 52 second left before the half.
Spaid completed 5 of 6 in the half for 104 yards and three scores.
“He threw the ball real well,” Clearfield coach Tim Janocko said of the 6-foot-6 junior, who alternates at quarterback with Sellers. “He had a good night. This was the kind of night we needed to have out of him. We took advantage of some things and I thought he put the ball on the money.”
Clearfield dashed any hopes of a BEA comeback by taking the second-half kickoff and driving 65 yards in 13 plays. Sellers capped the march with a one-yard sneak to make it 35-7.
Backup tailback/running back Corey Shimmel got the running clock going by scoring from eight yards out on the first play of the fourth quarter to make it 42-7.
Following a Shimmel fumble, BEA added one more score as Jones threw a 17-yard strike to Cody Scholl.
Shimmel made up for the fumble on his next carry, a 72-yard jaunt through the BEA defense for the game’s final touchdown.
Clearfield’s defense, led by lineman Dustin Maines and Sellers at linebacker, did an excellent job bottling up BEA tailback Mitchell Struble, who had rushed for 252 yards against Huntingdon. Struble was held to 29 yards on 17 carries.
“He’s a good player,” Janocko said. “We bottled him up pretty good.”
Shimmel (96), Sellers (80) and Caldwell (76) all had solid nights on the ground for the Bison. Spaid finished 7 for 9 for 131 yards.
“Bald Eagle Area has improved quite a bit,” said Janocko, whose team knocked off unbeaten Tyrone last week. “That’s a credit to Ron and his staff. You can see they’ve definitely gotten better. They moved the ball on us in the first half, but we were fortunate enough to make some big plays.”
Hoover met with his seniors after the game, some of whom were emotional after their final game on the Alumni Stadium turf.
“I was really proud of how they played tonight, but I also reminded them that we aren’t done,” Hoover said. “We still have two games left. They have two more games to make a statement and they’re going to do that.”
BEA travels to unbeaten Jersey Shore next Friday.