MILL HALL - One week after pulling in his first three interceptions of the season, Central Mountain's Tyler Pavalko felt his fourth slip through his finger tips in the final minutes of the first quarter.
As the ball escaped the grip of Pavalko, Clearfield's Jake Wingate was there to grab it for the Bisons' first touchdown of the game.
The play was the perfect metaphor for the game, as Central Mountain failed to capitalize off a strong defensive performance, dropping the contest, 49-13, to Clearfield.
Bryce Bitner drops back to pass for Central Mountain Friday night vs. Clearfield.
"Our defense did a good job of taking them out of their game plan," Central Mountain coach Vinnie Kishbaugh said. "We felt like if we loaded the gaps on them, and contained (Christian) Lezzer, we would be in this game. We did a great job in the first half, an other than that long ball, our defense did a good job in taking them out of their game plan."
The first quarter touchdown was inches away from giving Tyler Pavalko another interception. And, with a first half defensive performance that forced two 4-and-outs, along with two more 3-and-out possessions, Central Mountain (1-4) might as well have been inches away from making things interesting.
With the running attack being kept in check, Lezzer displayed his ability to throw the ball, completing passes of 14 and 28 yards on Clearfield (5-0) final drive of the first half.
"We are coming along with our passing game," Clearfield coach Tim Janocko said. "It was good to see Lezzer makes some plays, because Central Mountain did a good job of putting a lot of people in the box to take the run away."
Central Mountain's defense, led by a strong effort on the defensive line, forced Clearfield's offense into a four-and-out on its first series and a punt on its second.
The Bison, who entered Friday's contest with points in 15 of the 16 quarters it played this year, struggled to move the ball until Lezzer's 29-yard strike to Jake Wingate opened the scoring.
"We need to be able to put together 48 minutes," Kishbaugh said.
Through its first four games, Clearfield finished with combined ten 100-yard rushers. Lezzer has been a big part of that, topping the 100-yard mark in all four games, including rushing for more than 200 yards once.
Lezzer continued that pace, posting 81 rushing yards in the first half. He went on to finish his night with 138 yards with a touchdown on 20 attempts.
Even with his rushing abilities, Lezzer's best play came when he converted a third and seven with a 14-yard pass to Seth Ford. Lezzer also hit Tyler Stratton for a 28-yard pickup, eventually completing the 58-yard drive with an 11-yard run for Clearfield's second touchdown on the night.
After holding a 14-0 lead to halftime, Clearfield opened the third quarter with a three-play, 57-yard drive capped by Stratton, who rushed in his fifth touchdown of the season from eight yards out.
"It was demoralizing," Kishbaugh said. "You talk to the kids about not giving up big plays, and we didn't do that."
Stratton highlighted the third quarter, which the Bison used to scored 21 unanswered points.
All three third quarter touchdowns came courtesy of Stratton, who finished with 90 yards on 21 carries.
"We had to make a couple of adjustments and keep our poise," Janocko said. "It was big we scored right before halftime, because that gave us a lot of momentum."
Central Mountain did everything it could to get Tyler Pavalko involved in the game. That included lining up in the wildcat formation for a few plays in the third quarter.
Pavalko finished with 22 yards on the ground and caught a pass for 16 yards.
Central Mountain welcomed in former athletes, inducting the group into its Central Mountain Athletic Hall of Fame. The athletes were Brian Brill (wrestling), Lindsay Gould (soccer), Andy Rosamilia (tennis and soccer), and Joe Walker (basketball).