HYDE — Despite every no-contest prediction for the Friday night football sub-regional playoff, the Punxsy Chucks scored 0the most points in seven weeks against the undefeated Clearfield Bison to give the host all it could handle.
Clearfield, though, had the answer to the battle-tough Punxsy team to take away the hard-fought 38-18 victory.
Trailing 24-0 after one play in the second half, the Chucks gained their stride with the game's next two scoring drives.
Punxsy put its first points on the board off a six-yard Jamie Bush burst before Christian Falgout raced down the sideline for a 46-yard score to cut the margin to 24-12.
“Clearfield knew they were in a ball game when we were able to get the score back to 24-12,” noted Chucks head coach Alan Nichol.
The sub-region’s top seeded Bison (11-0) proved their mettel with an answer to the Chucks’ charge. Clearfield’s Tyler Stratton found daylight to the endzone from 18 yards to put the difference back to three scores, 31-12, before the 38-18 final tally.
“We just couldn’t keep the momentum going,” explained the Punxsy field general. “They have a good defense and we knew it would be a hard-fought game. Clearfield was able to make the plays in the end. You have to be pleased with our effort.”
Punxsy can be pleased with the fighting-to-the-end squad. The Chucks (5-6) completed a 2012 campaign where their six losses came all to playoff clubs with a combined 56-6 mark.
The Chucks’ 18-point total was only the fourth time this season the Bison’s defense has given up three scores. The amount also eclipses in itself the 15 combined points Clearfield had allowed for the past three weeks combined.
The Punxsy defense was the first unit to hold Clearfield’s offense under 40 points in four games and second time in six weeks.
Quarterback Garrett Zimmerman surpassed 100 yards passing for the first time in five games. He connected on nine of 18 attempts for 127 yards with one touchdown. The 127-yard effort pushed the senior signal-caller over 1,000 yards for the second year in a row with 1,023.
Wideout Clayton Dale was the top target with four grabs for 62 yards including the lone scoring strike covering 13 yards. Dakotah Byers pulled in two passes for 29 yards and Bush had two catches of his own for 28 yards. Alex Bevak recorded the other catch of eight yards.
On the ground, the Chucks ran for 196 tough yards behind their solid offensive line. Bush accounted for 87 yards on 24 carries with a six-yard score. The fullback finished the season with 910 yards in 10 games.
Falgout rumbled 76 yards on 12 totes including the 46-yard touchdown.
Senior Caesar Maruca covered 39 yards on two back-to-back carries as his part in helping to start the third quarter charge.
The night started encouraging on the opening offensive play for Punxsy. Zimmerman found Bush in the flat and saw the back go 22 yards to the home 41-yard line. The Bison defense stiffened where linebacker Christian Lezzer sacked Zimmerman on third-and-eight to end the Chucks’ drive.
Clearfield kept the swing going in its favor four plays later. After netting 10 yards on the first three plays, quarterback Lezzer dropped back to find a wide open Trey Jordan at midfield and the receiver raced the rest of the way untouched for the 73-yard touchdown. Following the Spencer Harrington extra point, the Bison lead 7-0 less than five minutes into the contest.
For a second possession in a row, the Chucks crossed the 50-yard line. Bush ran for 14 yards on his third carry in a row before adding a six-yarder into Bison territory to the 47 yard line.
Lezzer made his presence felt again with his second sack of Zimmerman, this time for a loss of 10 yards back to the Punxsy 47-yard line. After no gain on third-and-16, Falgout saw his punt blocked for the second time in as many weeks to give Clearfield a short field at the Punxsy 35-yard line.
Clearfield worked the ball to a first-and-goal at the 10 yard line five plays later. On third down, Zimmerman stuffed the Bison QB Lezzer for a seven-yard loss back at the 13-yard line. The loss forced Clearfield’s Herrington to boot a 31-yard field goal to extend the margin to 10-0 with 11:08 in the second frame.
“The blocked punt and long pass were tough with starting down 10-0,” pointed out Nichol. “I felt we settled down from that point and played well from there.”
Punxsy put together its third drive into the home side of the field on the next possession.
The offense drove 33 yards to the Clearfield 34-yard line after a five-yard face mask penalty. A third empty drive was the end result as Bush was stopped for a yard loss on fourth-and-one to give the Bison the ball.
Clearfield took the ball down to the Punxsy 36-yard line but decided to punt on fourth-and-eight. Bison punter Herrington did his job and pinned the Chucks on their own 12-yard line.
After three plays netting six yards, Punxsy punted the ball back to the home squad.
With 2:18 left in the first half, Lezzer took charge for Clearfield. Following an opening incompletion, the QB scrambled for 12 yards and covered 23 more yards on a draw down to the 13-yard line. Lezzer handed off the next two plays as Stratton plunged into the endzone from five yards for what would be the 17-0 halftime tally.
Lezzer started what would be a 39-point combined second 24 minutes of action.
On his own 34-yard line, the Clearfield QB fumbled the first play’s exchange, picked the ball off the turf and proceeded to take off down the Punxsy sideline 65 yards for the score. The one-play scoring drive gave the Bison what they thought would turn into a commanding lead of 24-0 only 20 seconds in the third quarter.
Punxsy, though, had other plans. The Chucks came to life. On the ensuing third play, Zimmerman hit Dale on a short five-yard over the middle pass which the wide out took 12 more yards for 17 total to the visiting 46-yard line. On third-and-one from the Clearfield 35-yard line, Maruca took the pigskin for his first time 33 yards into the home redzone to the 12-yard line.
Maruca ran for six more yards before Bush capped the drive by running over a Bison defender on his way for a six-yard score to get the Chucks on the board. Bush fell just shy of the endzone on the two-point conversion to keep it a 24-6 with 8:39 in the third frame.
Both teams punted on the next two offensive possessions.
With 5:35 in the third quarter, Clearfield took over on its 31-yard line. After 20 yards on the first three plays, Lezzer cut through the line for four yards before being hit by a Punxsy defender to pop the ball into the air where Zak Bevak snagged it for the Chucks on the home 46-yard line.
Punxsy turned the turnover into instant points. Falgout took the pitch and received a key block 15 yards downfield from Byers to spring him for a 46-yard touchdown. The two-point conversion pass was just overthrown to keep it 24-12 at 3:53 still in the third.
“We spread out the offense and the wide receivers did a nice job (to get Punxsy back in the game),” said Nichol. “Clearfield was keying on Bush so we opened up everything. We threw the ball well enough to get things in our favor. The Falgout run gave us a lot of momentum.”
Unfortunately, the Chucks were unable to keep the momentum in their favor.
Clearfield had its answer right away. Starting on the home 47-yard line, Stratton and Lezzer alternated carries. Stratton started the five rushes and finished them with an 18-yard scoring run on a drive taking only 2:10 from the clock. With the fourth successful point after, Clearfield pushed the margin to 31-12.
On the next home possession, the Bison held a first-and-goal from the Chucks two-yard line after a 32-yard run from Seth Ford. Following a home timeout, Lezzer did not handle the snap exchange right and fumbled the ball into the endzone where Punxsy recovered.
Punxsy put together a third scoring drive of the half off the turnover. From their 20-yard line, the Chucks drove the field.
Zimmerman connected with Byers for 18 yards as the biggest chunk of the 14-play sustained drive. The QB completed the drive as well by hitting Dale on a 13-yard slant to end the six-minute, 24-second possession. For the third time, the two-point conversion failed for a 31-18 score with 1:24 remaining.
The Chucks attempted an onside kick but saw it fall to a Bison player. With three Punxsy timeouts on the board, Clearfield called Lezzer’s number on the first play and saw him brake into the open field 52 yards for the game-clinching score and would be 38-18 final.
On the night, Clearfield outgained Punxsy 459 to 323 yards.
Along with two sacks on defense, Lezzer rushed 22 times for 227 yards and two long touchdowns of 65 and 52 yards.
He also completed two of nine pass attempts for 80 yards to give him 307 yards of total offense.
Stratton made it two 100-yard ball carriers with 102 yards on 14 rushes. Ford added 50 yards on four attempts.
Despite the defeat, Punxsy can be very proud of its gridiron warriors.
“We have a real group of young men. They work hard and are true gentlemen,” proudly finished Nichol. “They represent Punxsy well and tonight was no different.”
“They are real gentlemen especially the seniors who will carry themselves well through life. They are men of honor.”
Playing in what was their final game, the 15 senior Chucks 'men of honor' were Dylan Lettie, Garrett Zimmerman, Caesar Maruca, Alex Bevak, Trevor Peace, Jamie Bush, Will Harmon, Daniel McLain, Jordan London, Brandon Wingert, Devin Williams, Zach Minich, Derek Malburg, Josh Smith and Brandon Snyder.