DUBOIS, Pa. – Clearfield won its fourth straight District 9 Class 3A title with a hard-fought 20-14 win over Punxsutawney at Mansell Stadium in DuBois Friday night.
“It is definitely a great feeling,” Myles Caragein, Clearfield’s first-year head coach said. “But the feeling is the happiest for these kids. They had a great job. They had a great season. They kept fighting. I am just happy they got to be a D9 champion.”
Rewatch the game
In a quick-moving game that saw both team’s run games dominate the play, it was a fourth-down pass breakup by the Bison’s Carter Freeland with 1:52 to play that all but sealed the victory.
Clearfield (8-3) was leading 14-7 at the time, but Punxsutawney (7-4) had moved from its own 29 to the Clearfield 16-yard line with just under two minutes to play thanks in large part to a drive-opening 33-yard run by Landon Martz and a fourth-down 15-yard penalty on Clearfield for hitting a Punxy’s receiver while he was in the air.
Punxsutawney QB Maddox Hetrick tried a quick pass to Zach Preloid, but Freeland flew in and broke the play up to give Clearfield the ball back.
“Punxsy is a good team,” Caragein said. “They were definitely driving on us. We bent a little bit, but we didn’t break. Our kids kept fighting. They are resilient.”
With the Chucks still possessing two timeouts, Clearfield needed a first down to seal the victory.
The Bison got the first down and a ton more when Collins broke free down the near sideline for a 78-yard touchdown run to put Clearfield ahead 20-7 with 1:29 to play.
“I didn’t think there was going to be that big of a hole, so I ran with two arms (around the football),” Collins said on the Cole Orthodontic Associates postgame interview after being named the Allegheny Grille of Foxburg Player of the Game. “Then I saw a big hole, and I said, ‘Oh, we are running.’ Then I tripped a little bit. Then my buddy Carter Freeland is blocking for me, so I am just going to score.”
The game wasn’t quite over, as Punxsutawney was able to get a late touchdown on a 5-yard Hetrick to Beau Thomas touchdown pass with 29.4 seconds to play.
But the onside kick took a weird bounce backward and didn’t go the necessary 10 yards allowing Clearfield to kneel out the clock to start the celebration.
In a game that featured two 1,500-yard QBs in Punxsutawney’s Hetrick (1,735 yards) and Clearfield’s Will Domico (1,535), it was the running games that took center stage in the title game.
Led by Collins, who thanks to the late touchdown run, had a game-high 126 yards on 10 carries, Clearfield ran the ball 27 times for 308 yards.
“Our game plan was to try to run the ball, establish the run game on them,” Caragein said. “I think we did.”
Punxsutawney, meanwhile, paced by Martz’s 19 carries for 113 yards, finished with 38 totes for 137 yards.
“I think both teams tried to run the ball,” Caragein said. “That clock was just moving. I thought it was going to come down to which line was going to be dominant.”
But while the ground games were the story of the contest, so were missed opportunities.
Punxsutawney took the game-opening drive from its own 20-yard line and methodically moved inside the Clearfield 10-yard line where it faced a second-and-6.
But things quickly went array for the Chucks.
First, Jonathan Rowles sacked Hetrick for a 7-yard loss. Then, on a completed pass that would have moved the ball to the 5-yard line, Punxsutawney was called for a hold moving the ball back to the 27-yard line. The Chucks then got called for a false start pushing it back to the 32-yard line.
That eventually led to a fourth-down pass by Hetrick being intercepted by Collins at the 3-yard line with Collins returning it out to the 27-yard line. So despite running off 8:10 and running 15 plays, the Chucks had nothing to show for the opening possession.
Clearfield made its first possession count scoring on a 5-yard Carter Freeland run 51 seconds into the second quarter to take a 7-0 lead.
“We have been battled-tested,” Caragein said. “Look at our last four or five games. I mean, this whole season has been a lot of really good teams. We had some undefeated teams on the road. We had some tough positions and fought back and won. These kids are battle-tested tough kids. They are not going to give up.”
The Bison had a chance to add to that lead after forcing Punxsutawney to punt on its next possession, but Collins fumbled the ball at the Chucks’ 30-yard line, one of two lost fumbles inside Punxsutawney territory for Clearfield.
Punxsutawney then tied the game at seven on a 12-yard Hetrick to Noah Weaver touchdown pass with 1:11 to play in the half.
Clearfield tried a 45-yard Warren Dietrhick field goal as time ran out in the first half, but it was well off the mark sending both teams to the locker room tied at seven.
“(Coach) said this happens every week, we are always in a dog fight,” Collins said. “We know what it’s like. Just come out and keep fighting no matter what. Keep punching, and we will come out on top.”
The game remained that way until late in the third quarter when Domico scored on a 1-yard run with 1:46 to play in the quarter to push Clearfield back in front, 14-7, setting up the fourth-quarter dramatics.
“It feels amazing,” Collins said. “There has been so much hard work put into this the 11 weeks.”
Watch Collins’ full interview
CLEARFIELD 20, PUNXSUTAWNEY 14
Score by Quarter
Punxsutawney 0 7 0 7 – 14
Clearfield 0 7 7 6 – 20
Rushes-Yards: 38-137 27-308
Passing Yards: 109 56
Passing: Comp-Att-Int: 12-15-1 6-11-0
Totals Yards: 246 364
RUSHING – Punxsutawney: Mason Nesbitt 3-19, Landon Martz 19-113, Beau Thomas 13-38, Maddox Hetrick 1-negative 7, Team 2-negative 16. Clearfield: Brady Collins 10-126, Will Domico 6-89, Carter Chamberlain 5-47, Carter Freeland 3-37, Cayden Bell 2-10, Team 1-negative 1.
PASSING – Punxsutawney: Maddox Hetrick 12-for-15, 109 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception. Clearfield: Will Domico 6-for-11, 56 yards.
RECEIVING – Punxsutawney: Beau Thomas 7-40, Noah Weaver 4-56, Logan Moore 1-13. Clearfield: Cayden Bell 3-31, Carter Freeland 2-22, Carter Chamberlain 1-3.
INTERCEPTIONS – Punxsutawney: None. Clearfield: Collins