BROCKWAY, Pa. – Getting a pair of pick-6s and a big touchdown late in the first half, Clearfield rolled to a 41-30, not-as-close-as-it-looks, victory over St. Marys in the District 9 Class 3A title game Saturday afternoon at Varischetti Field in Brockway.
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“It has been (a) crazy (year),” Clearfield’s long-time head coach Tim Janocko, who won his 14th District 9 to go with a pair of Subregional titles, said. “We battled through so much – two weeks of quarantines where we didn’t play two games and then we lost a heartbreaker on the last play down at Central (Martinsburg). So, we’ve been through a lot. These kids are resilient. They played hard today, and they played well.”
The interception returns for scores came in the second quarter from Nate Natoli (16 yards) and in the fourth quarter from Shane Coudriet (26 yards), and the Bison scored a touchdown with just 6.9 seconds left in the first half when Logan Firanski somehow, someway got behind the St. Marys secondary for a 55-yard touchdown pass from Oliver Billotte giving Clearfield a 31-10 halftime lead.
“Big plays,” Janocko said. “A lot of kids made a lot of big plays. St. Mays played well, but, all in all, we just made a lot of big plays.”
While not a backbreaker, Natoli’s interception of St. Marys quarterback Christian Coudriet, one of four picks thrown by the Dutch signal-caller gave Clearfield (4-1) a three-score lead, 24-7, late in the second quarter, and Shane Coudriet’s pick-6 with 3:49 to play was the nail in the coffin giving the Bison an insurmountable 41-16 lead with 3:49 to play (St. Marys scored two pretty meaningless touchdowns in a span of 28 seconds late in the contest).
“Our secondary played a heck of a game,” Janocko said.
While Natoli’s pick-6 wasn’t the backbreaker, the Firanski touchdown at the end of the first half probably was.
After Natoli had returned his interception untouched for the 17-point lead, St. Marys answered with a 16-play drive that resulted in a 23-yard field goal by Vinny Nunes that got the Dutch back within two touchdowns, 24-10, with 14.7 seconds left in the half.
That seemed big considering St. Marys was receiving the second-half touchdown.
But a squib kick by the Dutch was returned out to the Clearfield 45-yard line by Mark McGonigal, and the Bison elected to take a shot deep, which paid off.
Firanski was so far behind the St. Marys defense, he actually had time to turn around, wait for the football to get to him and then outrun the defenders to the end zone.
“We thought if we got up over the 40 we were going to take a crack if we got a decent return, and we did,” Janocko said. “I don’t know if they blew a coverage or whatever, but Logan Firanski has a lot of speed. He got open, and Oliver put it on him. I thought it was huge. It puts us up three touchdowns going into halftime.”
If that didn’t break St. Marys, what happened at the start of the second half probably did.
The Dutch came out of halftime determined to still get back into the game and mounted a 9-play, 69-yard drive that resulted in them looking at first-and-goal from the Clearfield 5-yard line.
But Karson Kline stepped in front of a Christian Coudriet pass at the goal line to end the drive.
That drive pretty much summed up the St. Marys’ frustration in the third quarter, as its other drive took up 10 plays and saw the Dutch reach the Clearfield 21-yard line before a sack by Hayden Kovalick on first down was followed by Isaac Samsel blowing up a screen for a 2-yard loss on second down, and Samsel, Zane Inguagiato, and Nick Domico forcing an intentional grounding on fourth down.
“I think it is a credit to Myles Caragein our defensive line coach and Nate (Glunt) our DC (defensive coordinator), Janocko said. “They had a lot of different schemes going on, and we brought people from different places. I thought that helped.”
Those two drives as well as an 8-play, 65-yard drive following the Shane Coudriet interception return for a touchdown that finally ended in a score for St. Marys, were a big reason the Dutch ran 48 second-half plays for 293 yards compared to 19 plays for 49 yards for Clearfield after halftime with two of those plays being knees at the end of the game.
“In the second half, we just kind of sat on the ball, I’ll be honest with you,” Janocko said. “We didn’t throw the ball as much because we knew we were up three touchdowns. We let our defense play.”
St. Marys’ touchdown after the Shane Coudriet pick-6 came on a 7-yard Christian Coudriet to Bryce Walker scoring pass – the second time the duo hooked up for a score in the game – with 1:21 to play.
Then the Dutch made things look even a little closer when Nunes recovered his one onside kick, and it led to a 23-yard Christian Coudriet to Mitchell Reiter touchdown pass with 53 seconds left.
This time – and for the second time in the game – Clearfield recovered the onside kick with Domico catching a line drive right at midfield.
“It had to be a fun game to watch, that’s for sure,” Janocko said before adding “For the fans.”
Billotte had a strong game for the Bison scoring twice on the ground on runs of 5 and 14 yards in the first half and throwing the late first-half touchdown pass. He finished the day 11 of 19 passing for 209 yards, the touchdown and one interception while rushing for a team-best 42 yards on nine carries.
His 5-yard scoring run gave Clearfield a 7-0 lead, and then he made it 17-7 with a 14-yard run midway through the second quarter less than a minute before the Natoli pick-six.
A 19-yard scoring pass from Christian Coudriet to Walker on St. Marys’ first possession had tied the game at seven, but Graeson Graves hit a 23-yard field goal early in the second quarter to put Clearfield ahead for good, 10-7.
Graves then hit another field goal, this one from 28 yards away, 58 seconds into the fourth quarter to make it 34-10 before Logan Mosier caught a 9-yard scoring pass from Coudriet at the 4:47 mark to make it 34-16.
The Mosier score started a wild final 4:47 that saw a total of four touchdowns – three by the Dutch – scored.
Christian Coudriet had a mixed-bag day for St. Marys throwing for 321 yards and four touchdowns but also throwing four interceptions while going 35 of 56 passing.
Reiter had nine grabs for 123 yards with Walker catching nine for 69 yards and Mosier eight for 60 yards. Jacob Kline ran for over 100 yards – 131 – on 19 carries with 120 of those yards coming after halftime. Kline also caught three passes for 35 yards.
Samsel had a strong game on defense for Clearfield adding an interception to his sack and his second-half pressure.
Clearfield will play District 5 champion Bedford – which was declared the D5 champion rather than having to play for the title – in a subregional game at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 30, at Clearfield High School.
St. Marys (5-1) might not have seen its season end. With the COVID-19 rules in place this year, teams that lose in the postseason before the end of the playing calendar can elect to continue to play games. The Dutch do have a scheduled game with Coudersport, a loser to Redbank Valley in the District 9 Class 1A semifinals Saturday, on the schedule, and athletic director Terry Straub indicated before the game that St. Marys would possibly be interested in playing that game or another game if they were to lose the game – something he wasn’t predicting nor hoping for.
NOTES – Jancocko is now 279-110 as a head coach and is the all-time winningest coach in District 9 history … Despite the loss, it has been a heck of a turnaround for St. Marys, which was winless in both 2017 and 2018 before Chris Dworek took over the program last year and led the Dutch to a 6-5 record before helping St. Marys go unbeaten in the IU9 Large School bubble this season … It was not a good weekend for the IU9 Large School bubble. In addition to St. Marys losing Saturday, Ridgway, which had won four straight D9 titles, including two in a row in Class 2A, lost big to Brookville in the Class 2A semifinals Friday. Also, the two non-playoff teams – Bradford and Kane – lost to smaller schools – Port Allegany and Otto-Eldred respectively – Friday night.
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CLEARFIELD 41, ST. MARYS 30
Score by Quarters
Clearfield 7 24 0 10 – 41
St. Marys 7 3 0 20 – 30
C – Oliver Billotte 5 run (Graeson Graves kick), 9:15
S – Bryce Walker 19 pass from Christian Coudriet (Vinny Nunes kick), 5:56
C – Graves 23 field goal, 9:17
C – Billotte 14 run (Graves kick), 5:28
C – Nate Natoli 16 interception return, 4:37
S – Nunes 23 field goal, 0:14.7
C – Logan Firanski 55 pass from Billotte (Graves kick), 0:6.9
C – Graves 28 field goal, 11:02
S – Logan Mosier 9 pass from Christian Coudriet (Pass intercepted), 4:47
C – Shane Coudriet 26 interception return (Graves kick), 3:49
S – Walker 7 pass from Christian Coudriet (Nunes kick), 1:21
S – Mitchell Reiter 23 pass from Christian Coudriet (Nunes kick), 0:53
Rushing: Clearfield – Jason Plubell 8-22, Oliver Billotte 9-42, Jake Lezzer 0-9, Mark McGonigal 7-15, Jose Alban 1-negative 2, Ian Billotte 1-3, Team 2-0. St. Marys – Jacob Kline 19-131, Christian Coudriet 4-negative 17, James Davis 1-negative 2. Team 1-0.
Passing: Clearfield – Oliver Billotte 11-for-19, 209 yards, 1 touchdown, 1 interception. St. Marys – Christian Coudriet 35-for-56, 321 yards, 4 touchdowns, 4 interceptions.
Receiving: Clearfield – Nick Domico 3-64, Jake Lezzer 4-40, Ian Billotte 1-5, Karson line 2-45, Logan Firanski 1-55. St. Marys – Mitchell Reiter 9-123, Jacob Kline 3-35, Bryce Walker 9-69, Logan Mosier 8-60, Michael Fitzergald 5-36, James Davis 1-negative 2.
Interceptions: Clearfield – Nate Natoli, Isaac Samsel, Karson Kline, Shane Coudriet. St. Marys – Terry Williams.