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Bobcats’ Fine Season Ends In District Final (11/19/19)

(Photo courtesy of Smith Photography) 2019 Clarion Bobcats Football Team

The Clarion Area Bobcats’ 2019 season came to an end on Saturday (November 16th), with a 56-35 loss to the Ridgway Elkers, in the District Nine Class-AA title game, at E.J. Mansell Stadium in DuBois. The Bobcats finished the season at 10-2, with their only losses being to the Elkers.

Ridgway opened the scoring at 8:30 of the first quarter on a 31-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Paul Gresco to Austin Green, on the right side of the endzone. With Gresko’s point after kick, the Elkers led 7-0.

The Cats answered, fifty-five seconds later when Cal German hit Austin Newcomb, in stride in the down the middle at the Ridgway thirty-five. Newcomb took it the rest of the way for a 69-yard touchdown pass. Beau Verdill was successful on the point after, knotting the score at 7-all.

With a Gabe Watts 1-yard scoring run, with 1:46 left in the first and the point after, the Elkers led 14-7.

The second quarter saw the Bobcats score twenty-one unanswered points.

German hit Cutter Boggess with a 22-yard touchdown pass, in the right front of the end zone, at 10:10. Verdill’s PAT tied the score at 14-all. Bogess scored again, on a 10-yard run, through the middle of the line. The point after was good and the Cats led 21-14, at 5:32.

Boggess recovered a Ridgway fumble at the Clarion ten, with 1:26 left in the half. On the next play, Colton Zacherl took a handoff to the left and with a couple of good moves, he took the ball out out to the Elker forty-eight. Then, with thirty-nine seconds on the clock, German hit Hunter Craddock, down the left side at the ten, who took it in for a 45-yard score. Verdill was successful again and the Cats held a 28-14 lead heading into the locker room.

Ridgway recovered a fumble on the second half kickoff, at the Clarion thirty-five. Two plays later, Jake Wickett ran in from 32-yards out. Gresco’s kick was good and the Cats’ lead was cut to 28-21, at 11:27 of the third. Gresco hit Green with an 11-yard touchdown pass, at 8:16. The kick was good tying the score at 28-all.

Matt Dush scored on a 38-yard run at 2:49; the kick was good, giving the Elkers a 35-28 lead.

Dush intercepted a pass at the Bobcat 24-yard line at 2:30. A Gresco to Green 26-yard scoring pass and the point after moved Ridgway’s lead to 42-28.

Cowan returned an interception to mid-field with 1:21 left in the quarter.

Gresco hit Dush with a 42-yard touchdown, eleven seconds into the final stanza, and was good on the point after, giving Ridgway a 49-28 lead.

German hit Newcomb in the middle of the field at the Ridgway forty-eight and Necomb ran the rest of the way, for a 58-yard score at 8:02. Verdill’s kick cut the Ridgway lead to 49-35. But Gresco hit Wickett with a 24-yard touchdown at 4:11. Gresco’s kick set the 56-35 final.

Some key Bobcat stats: Newcomb ran 8 times for 67 yards and caught 4 passes for 130 yards. He finished the season with 1,276 rushing yards and his career with 4,230 yards, including a District Nine single season record 2,267 yards for Clarion-Limestone last season.

Zacherl had 67 yards on 8 carries. Boggess had 5 carries for 33 yards and 4 catches for 47 yards.

German was 12-for-23 for 255 yards, with 4 touchdowns. He finished the season with 2,342 yards, passing John Katis during the game for first place in single season passing yards, for the Bobcats. He also moved into second place in all-time career passing yards with 2,665.

Ethan Burford had 4 catches for 40 yards, finishing the season with 1,179 yards. Craddock had 1 catch for 45 yards.

Coach Wiser commented on how this co-op came together as a team and many of the individuals, organizations etc. who helped this year and throughout the years. “First of all, this has been a dream of mine for a number of years; I know I’ve said that a number of times. Bringing the Clarion community together, I’ve got to thank North Clarion and Clarion-Limestone, and our board and the administrators at all three schools. And Joe Carrico for taking a lead role from our school. In my perspective he did a lot to bring this together.

“The community, stood behind the co-op. I think this is the future for the safety and the quality of the program. This year we had a quality Varsity program. We had a quality Junior Varsity program. Our Junior High program is top quality. Those guys did a good job with the Seventh and Eighth Grade program and the Ninth Grade program.

“But going forward, I think everybody needs to understand, smaller class sizes. But going beyond that, it’s been neat, the support of the community in getting these kids the things that they need. That’s been in big part because of the various clubs in the community, from the American Legion to the Eagles to the Moose Club to the Fryburg Sportsmens Club, so many different groups. I laid out four of those social organizations, but obviously a lot of businesses have been supporting us for years and continue to do so.”

And about the players on this year’s squad, “More importantly, Here’s kids who’ve played together and done things together, all the rest of their lives, growing up. I don’t know if it was chemistry, the kids we had; that did play a large role in it. They came together like they’d been together all their lives.

“We never thought of them as C-L, North Clarion or Clarion. These were members of our Clarion Football Team.

“I always start at the beginning of the year. I’m always hesitant about putting my hand on something and saying, “Hey, they’re going to be a great team or whatever. I always put that one asterisk on it; that it’s the chemistry. They’ve got to like each other. They’ve got to be willing to work hard for each other and sacrifice for each other. That’s the really neat thing about coaching football, being in football most of my life is to watch the unselfishness.

“I think of players who by rights could have been tailbacks, could have been in the paper every week, but they became offensive linemen and did such a great job. And the list goes on of so many different kids over the years that I think that they made that personal sacrifice to do what was good for the football team. And that I think was pretty evident this year. They were willing to step up.

“Austin was a good part of Clarion-Limestone’s offense last year. But he came in a willing participant, in sharing the diversity that Dave (Eggleton) presented. And the offense was really pretty good.”

Coach Wiser mentioned several folks who have helped with the program through the years. “I’ve been lucky enough to be surrounded by a lot of good people, that the kids have gotten to share from. Doc Armstrong has been with us for years taking care of the team. And we had an awesome Booster Club this year, that really provided some great things for these kids.

“I’ve benefited immensely over the years, having Kevin and Vance Slike as equipment managers, and the whole family really, helping out so that we can just get ready to play the game. They are so organized, they do the background things. Kevin showed up today in his El Fonzo outfit. He’s always been pretty undefeated when he wore that outfit, so I thought we had the game tonight. But it will always be one of those losses…

“I’m sad to see it end this year. I thought we had a super great week of practice and unfortunately, I thought we had a great first half… But to become champion and win it all (we were runners-up) it takes some really special efforts and I thought our kids did everything they needed to do to be ready this week.

“That’s (Ridgway) a quality football team over there. They’ll meet a quality team next week in Wilmington and then whoever ends up going up against Southern Columbia, God Bless ‘Em. It’ll be interesting.”

(Photo courtesy of Smith Photography) 2019 Bobcat Coaching Staff – Front (L-R) Kevin “Fonzie” Slike, Camron Kirkland, Head Coach Larry Wiser, Dave Eggleton. Back (L-R) Dave Louder, Doug Knepp, Lee Weber.

About his assistant coaches, family members and others, Coach Wiser said, “I don’t want to be remiss in talking about my staff. It was a pleasure working with these six guys (Dave Eggleton, Lee Weber, Dave Louder, Mitch Knepp and Cam Kirkland and Kevin Slike).They are hard working. And the Junior High staff. They were at most of the games, doing what they could, to support us on the sidelines. That was nice. Mike Ferguson was up in the booth helping Dave (Louder) pass on to us about what was going on, on the field. Todd Matthews and Randy (Cathcart) were on the sidelines supporting us. Jess (Quinn) has been there, to help us too.

“The wives of all our coaches give up a lot. We were at the school almost all day, with films, breakfast and so forth. The Boosters fed us. And during the week, with practices during the evening, the hours the coaches put in.

“It’s rewarding in a lot of ways, but sometimes coaches’ families have to suffer a little bit.

“I’ve been fortunate to have a loving relationship with my son (Ryan Wiser). I can’t tell you how much I care about that kid. What he feels, the love for this program, is a great example. People have been really, really good at involving him (Shari Campbell with the Volleyball program and others).

“But it’s one of those things so many people factor in for making this happen. We’ve always kind of strove for excellence around here. And hopefully we’ll keep it going.”

(Thanks to Smith photography for the photographs. Congratulations to Bobcat players, coaches, parents, and the community on a fine season!!!!)