The District 6-9 Class AAA regional championship game between Clearfield and Johnstown literally went down to the final second.
Beau Swales scored on a 1-yard run to give Clearfield the lead with 22 seconds remaining, and Johnstown's last-ditch effort to pull out the win fell incomplete near the goal line as time expired, giving the Bisons a 29-23 come-from-behind victory Saturday afternoon at Mansion Park.
"We beat a great football team," Clearfield coach Tim Janocko said. "They have great athletes and do a great job with their schemes, but we fought the entire game and played with the heart of a champion."
Clearfield, which beat Johnstown in the title game last year as well, advanced to the PIAA playoffs. The Bisons play District 4 champ Shamokin next weekend. Johnstown's season ended at 9-2.
Trailing 23-21, Clearfield (11-1) took over on offense at its own 42-yard line with 4:53 to play. The Bisons ran the ball right at the Johnstown defense, giving Swales the ball one play after another.
Swales carried the ball 10 times on the 13-play drive, which culminated with his 1-yard run on a dive play over the right guard and right tackle on third-and-goal.
"We were out of timeouts. We called two plays. It was going to be the same play both times," Janocko said. "[Swales] is a special player. He was a little tentative in the first quarter, but he came back strong. The more you give him the ball, the better he gets."
Swales finished with 162 yards on 29 carries, after carrying the ball just eight times for 46 yards in the first half.
Johnstown jumped out to a 20-7 lead in the first quarter and was driving for another score when Trojans quarterback Gervon Simon fumbled inside the Clearfield 20. The Bisons recovered.
"If we score there, it's game over," Johnstown coach Tony Penna Jr. said. "We committed some crucial penalties and had too many turnovers to win a championship game."
Earlier in the drive, Johnstown leading rusher Tim Odum left the game with a leg injury. He did not return.
"When we lost our tailback, that hurt us a lot," Penna Jr. said.
Johnstown rushed for 116 yards in the first half and just 31 yards in the second half.
On the ensuing possession, Clearfield converted a fourth-and-1 at its own 29 and drove into Johnstown territory.
After the two teams exchanged turnovers on back-to-back plays, Curtis Frye found tight end Robert Myers wide open over the middle for a 19-yard score that pulled Clearfield to within 20-14 late in the half.
The Bisons then took a 21-20 lead on the opening drive of the second half. Swales exploded through the middle of the Johnstown defense for a 49-yard run to set up the score. Three plays later, Frye scored on a 3-yard run.
The Trojans reclaimed the lead when Julian Ter Horst kicked a 25-yard field goal on Johnstown's ensuing possession.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Clearfield7 7 7 8 - 29
Johnstown20 0 3 0 - 23
C-Lezzer 26 run (Herrington kick), 7:29.
J-Simon 1 run (Ter Horst kick), 3:23.
J-Andrews 38 pass from Simon (kick failed), 3:04.
J-Watson 20 pass from Simon (Ter Horst kick), :03.
C-Myers 19 pass from Frye (Herrington kick), 2:41.
C-Frye 3 run (Herrington kick), 9:16.
J-Ter Horst 25 field goal, 5:22.
C-Swales 1 run (Swales run), :22.
RUSHING: Clearfield-Swales 29-162, Frye 17-42, Lezzer 9-37. Johnstown-Odum 10-41, Simon 11-31, Watson 2-11, Williams 2-3, Vuckovich 8-32, Minter 3-30, TEAM 1-(-1).
PASSING: Clearfield-Frye 3-8-1-31, Lezzer 1-1. Johnstown-Simon 11-21-2-189.
RECEIVING: Clearfield-Swales 1-0, Myers 1-19, Frye 1-3, Lezzer 1-12. Johnstown-Watson 4-76, Williams 1-15, Andrews 3-57, Minter 3-41.
INTERCEPTIONS: Clearfield-Timko, Graham. Johnstown-Minter.