TYRONE - Tyrone spent the first half trying to wrap up and bring down Clearfield's Christian Lezzer, a 6-foot-1, 207-pound junior running quarterback who never seems to get tackled by just one defender.
Down 14-0 in the second half, Tyrone coach Steve Guthoff turned to James Oliver, the area's leading rusher who had only 24 yards on seven carries in the first half. The result was Oliver churning out 101 of his 125 yards in the half and fourth-quarter touchdowns runs of 3 and 2 yards.
The Golden Eagles' furious comeback, which included a better defensive effort against Lezzer, left them down by one point, 14-13, after Oliver's second score with 3:38 left in the chilly homecoming game at Gray-Veterans Memorial Field.
Photo for the Mirror by Manning Photography
Tyrone’s Nathaniel Soellner (2) tries to bring down Clearfield quarterback Christian Lezzer.
Junior Seth Umholtz, a two-way lineman, attempted the extra point, but his low line-drive kick missed the mark, bursting the Golden Eagles' balloon. Lezzer, who ran 34 times for 150 yards, converted a fourth-and-2 from his own 42 with a bullish, leg-churning 2-yard run with 1:15 left to preserve a 14-13 win for the Bison.
As the officials were bringing the chains out to measure, it appeared at least a couple of the Eagles already knew it was first down, dropping into a crouch. It was a tough way to lose after they had struggled so mightily to make a comeback.
"It showed the quality and the character of the football team," Guthoff said. "Don't get me wrong. We're disappointed that we lost the game tonight, but I'm proud of our guys for how we played in the second half."
"At the end of the game, Lezzer looked at me and said 'I can get 2 yards,' " Clearfield coach Tim Janocko said. "Okay, let's get 2 yards. We debated [punting], but the kids in the huddle said we can get 2 yards. If you want to win a championship, you have to be able to get 2 yards."
What was being debated after the game by departing fans and will be debated the rest of the week was whether the Eagles should have kicked the PAT or went for two points.
"I was really debating," Guthoff said. "I thought we had the momentum. We found our run game, and I was comfortable going into overtime. We had stopped them on the three drives before that, so I said we'll kick and play overtime."
The Eagles only had one first down and 36 total yards in the first half as they tried to mix the run and the pass. But, after a false start penalty on fourth-and-1, ended the first Tyrone drive in the second, the Eagles stopped Lezzer on fourth-and-1 when he fumbled. Clearfield fumbled six times, losing only one.
Tyrone then went 70 yards on six Oliver rushing plays, including his 3-yard TD run. Umholtz booted the PAT to make the score 14-7.
The Bison were held to three plays and out on the next series, and the Eagles went on a 12-play, 60-yard drive, including 11 running plays by Oliver, who bulled over defensive back Seth Beardsley at the goal line on the 2-yarder.
"He's a heck of a back," Janocko said. "You can only contain him for so long. They got in a groove."
After the missed PAT, Lezzer, who had TD runs of 32 and 2 yards in the first half, ran six straight times, making two first downs, including the rugby scrum-like run at the end to break Tyrone's heart. Lezzer gained 90 yards in the first half and 60 in the second.
"He's a big, strong kid," Guthoff said. "One thing we had on our board all week was we've got to get to him, we've got to get more than one person [to tackle him]. We'll see when we look at the film, but my first impression is we didn't do a bad job. He's a heck of a football player.
"The officiating has been good all year, but teams always get away with that aiding from behind, even though it's an emphasis. I've never seen it called. We told our guys if we made that stop, we were going to put it in. We were going to win the game."
Notes: Lezzer completed 4-of-6 passes for 52 yards. ... Tyrone's Jacob Belinda recovered a fumble in the second half. ... Clearfield outgained Tyrone, 241-155. ... Alyssa Hamer was named the homecoming queen.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Clearfield7 7 0 0 - 14
Tyrone0 0 0 13 - 13
C-Lezzer 32 run (Herrington kick), 7:59.
C-Lezzer 2 run (Herrington kick), 8:35.
T-Oliver 3 run (Umholtz kick), 11:17.
T-Oliver 2 run (kick failed), 3:38.
RUSHING: Clearfield-Lezzer 34-150, Stratton 14-50, TEAM 1-(-1), Woomer 1-(-10). Tyrone-Oliver 27-125, Wagner 3-16, A. Hunter 1(-1).
PASSING: Clearfield-Lezzer 4-6-0-52. Tyrone-Wagner 1-7-0-15.
RECEIVING: Clearfield-Lord 3-45, Jordan 1-17. Tyrone-Zook 1-15.
INTERCEPTIONS: Clearfield-none. Tyrone-none.