CLEARFIELD - Central quarterback Austin Cunningham simply did it all Friday night for the Scarlet Dragons in their matchup with Clearfield at the Bison Sports Complex.
Cunningham completed seven of his 18 passes for 160 yards and two touchdowns, ran for 29 yards and a score, caught two touchdown passes for 149 yards and added a key 34-yard punt return. He also intercepted a pass in the end zone to thwart a Clearfield scoring chance.
Unfortunately for the Dragons it wasn't quite enough as the host Bison came away with a key, 34-33, Mountain League victory.
"He had a great game," Central head coach Dave Baker said. "I thought all our guys played well. I thought our linemen played really hard in there and made a good effort against their guys. But I thought that Cunningham was amazing."
Cunningham put the Dragons on the board just 1:41 into the contest, scoring from a yard out after Central recovered a Clearfield fumble on the opening kickoff.
He added a 34-yard touchdown pass to Bradi Moore in the second quarter that gave Central a 14-7 lead, and connected with Moore again early in the second half for a 43-yard score that put the visitors in front, 20-17.
Moore caught five passed for 115 yards, but was stopped for (-13) yards on 10 rushing attempts. Austin Conrath led the Dragons in rushing yardage with 79 yards on eight carries.
Moore and Cunningham hooked up two more times in the second half in the seesaw affair, but this time it was Cunningham on the receiving end.
With Moore calling the signals in the Wildcat formation, he rolled out and hit a streaking Cunningham in stride against tight man coverage for touchdown tosses of 77 and 72 yards.
"He's a talent," Clearfield head coach Tim Janocko said of Cunningham. "He has speed. We knew he had talent and their running back [Moore] those two together had speed and talent. But [Cunningham] is a playmaker."
Each Cunningham score was in response to long Clearfield touchdowns, the second coming with 11:04 left in the fourth quarter that gave the Dragons a 33-31 advantage.
The teams combined to score four touchdowns in span of 3:54 in the third quarter and the lead changed hands six times in the second half and a total of nine times in the game.
"There weren't any long drives," Baker said. "Mainly it was big plays. Both teams kept coming back. You have to hand it to them. They scored one more point than we did.
"Both teams played real hard, and both teams played very well."
Clearfield quarterback Christian Lezzer scored three rushing touchdowns for the Bison and added a 56-yard touchdown pass to Trey Jordan. Lezzer rushed 28 times for 114 yards and completed 10 of his 19 pass attempts for 165 yards. Jordan picked up 101 yards on five catches.
The Bison took a 17-14 lead on the last play of the first half on Spencer Herrington's 21-yard field goal.
The teams combined for just 221 yards of offense in the first 24 minutes while committing seven turnovers between them.
Central lost three fumbles and Cunningham threw an interception.
One of the fumbles stalled a Dragon possession at the Bison 29, and another led to a short 30-yard drive for Clearfield that ended in a Lezzer 2-yard touchdown run.
But the second half was all offense as Central amassed 315 yards, while Clearfield picked up 211.
Herrington booted his second field goal of the game for Clearfield with 3:58 left in the contest to give Clearfield the 34-33 lead, and ultimately the win.
Central moved the ball from its own 27 to the Bison 36 on the next series, but Cunningham was dropped for a 4-yard loss on first down and then had three passes fall incomplete as the Dragons turned the ball over on downs with less than two minutes remaining.
"A lot of their guys were fast," Baker said. "They made plays. They made defensive plays by running us down from behind."
The Bison ran out the clock with the final play being a Herrington punt.
"It was just a great high school football game," Janocko said. "What an atmosphere. We had a packed house with two good football teams going at each other. It was a clean game, and well-coached. I thought Central's coaches did a great job."
Clearfield improved to 3-0 with the win, while the Scarlet Dragons dipped to 2-1.
Central hosts Penns Valley on Friday.
Score By Quarters
Central 6 8 13 6-33
Clearfield7 10 14 3-34
CE-Cunningham 1 run (conversion failed), 10:19.
CL-Lezzer 11 run (Herrington kick), 4:31.
CE-Moore 34 pass from Cunningham (Frederick pass from Hamm), 10:29.
CL-Lezzer 2 run (Herrington kick), 3:49.
CL-Herrington 21 FG, 0:00.
CE-Moore 43 pass from Cunningham (kick failed), 10:19.
CL-Lezzer 44 run (Herrington kick), 9:05.
CE-Cunningham 77 pass from Moore (Helsel kick), 8:15.
CL-Jordan 56 pass from Lezzer (Herrington kick), 6:25.
CE-Cunningham 72 pass from Moore (kick failed), 11:04.
CL-Herrington 29 FG, 3:58.
Rushing: Central-Conrath 8-79, Cunningham 17-29, Slick 3-6, Moore 10-(-13). Clearfield-Lezzer 28-114, Stratton 8-61, Woomer 2-(-3).
Passing: Central-Cunningam 7-18-2-160, Moore 2-2-0-149. Clearfield-Lezzer 10-19-2-165, Team 0-1-0-0.
Receiving: Central-Moore 5-115, Cunningham 2-149, Croft 1-28, Kreider 1-17. Clearfield-Jordan 4-101, Lord 3-37, Stratton 2-11, Graham 1-16.
Interceptions: Central-Cunningham, Kreider. Clearfield-Jordan 2.
Total First Downs1516