Week 1: Clearfield vs. Fort Hill (MD)

The 112th year of Clearfield Bison football opens up Friday as the team welcomes the Fort Hill Sentinels from Cumberland, Maryland.  The game will mark the 5th time Clearfield has played an out-of-state team, all of which have occurred since 1996:

1996: Clearfield 21, Riverdale Baptist (MD) 14

2012: Clearfield 35, St. Joan of Arc (Ontario) 20

2013: Clearfield 45, St. Joan of Arc (Ontario) 7

2014: Keyser (WV) 43, Clearfield 30

Today’s preview will include a look back at Clearfield’s first game against a team from outside of Pennsylvania, the 1996 meeting with Riverdale Baptist.

Riverdale Baptist – a school similar in size to Clearfield located in Upper Marlboro, Maryland – traveled to the Bison Sports Complex on September 27, 1996.  The Crusaders entered the game at 2-3, while the Bison were 3-1.

Clearfield was led by running back Justin Ingram, who carried the ball 29 times for 205 yards and two touchdowns as the Bison racked up 46 rushing attempts in an era when the team was well-known for its prolific passing.  However, Riverdale Baptist nearly won the game despite gaining only 142 yards on 46 plays.  Ahead by 7 in the final quarter, Clearfield lost possession on a fumble at its own 30 yard line and, following a pass play to the 4 yard line, Riverdale Baptist appeared primed to tie the game.  From the September 28, 1996 issue of The Progress:

The Crusaders tried three runs up the middle, but the Bisons gave ground grudgingly to set up a fourth-and-goal inside the Clearfield 1.

On fourth down, [Riverdale Baptist quarterback Terry] Gore rolled to his right and appeared to get to the corner.  But Clearfield cornerback Adam Hertlein came seemingly from nowhere to knock Gore out of bounds, mere inches from the end zone with 6:36 to play.

“The goal line stand is definitely going to be a bright spot in our history,” said [Clearfield coach Tim] Janocko.  “It’s that big.  It means a lot to our kids.  It’s a goal line stand that’s going to be talked about a long time around here.”

So, here we are, nearly 19 years later, talking about that goal line stand.  Hertlein, who was then just a sophomore, went on to become one of the leading receivers in school history, ranking fifth all-time in career receptions (86), yards (1,498), and receiving touchdowns (16).  Ingram rushed for 1,001 yards in 1996 and went on to play linebacker at Penn State.  Bison quarterback Dennis Yohe is second in school history in career passing attempts (572) and threw for 3,608 yards as a Bison (fourth all-time) while also finishing in the top ten in career tackles (196).  He later played football at IUP.

The 1996 Bison went 6-5 and fell to Altoona in the state playoffs, while also becoming the last Clearfield team to lose to Curwensville.  However, the team featured a number of younger players who would lay the foundation for Clearfield’s 8-3 1997 squad and the 11-1 team in 1998.

This Friday’s game will be the first one Clearfield has played against a team from Maryland since the Riverdale Baptist game, and Fort Hill figures to present a significant challenge.  The Sentinels have won 28 consecutive games and two straight state championships.  Last season, Fort Hill beat Keyser (WV), 28-20, the week after the Golden Tornado beat Clearfield, 43-30.  The Sentinels, who have won four state championships, can be found online here.  They are also on Twitter @FH_Football.

Look for more coverage in this week’s issues of The Progress, and if you can’t make your way up to the Hill in Hyde City, be sure to listen to Pennsylvania’s greatest high school football radio broadcast with Pat Pallo and Fred Redden.  GO BISON.

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