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Clarion Tosses 24-0 Shutout at Lock Haven

Written by: on Sunday, September 20th, 2009

CLARION — Saturday’s clash between Lock Haven and Clarion at Memorial Stadium took 60 minutes of clock time to complete, but as the game unfolded, it took less than 11 minutes to determine the winner.

Taking advantage of big plays and LHU mistakes, the Golden Eagles ripped off 17 unanswered points in the opening period before blanking the Bald Eagles 24-0 in PSAC-West action.

Clarion set the tone right from the opening kickoff as Alfonso Hoggard returned the opening kickoff to the LHU 2-yard line where Mark Ames made a touchdown-saving tackle.

Two plays later, Hoggard carried the mail into the end zone for the game’s first score. Robert Mamula’s PAT made it 7-0 Clarion less than two minutes into the game.

“I thought our special teams let us down early and that put us behind the clock a little bit, especially in terms of field position,” said LHU coach John Klacik. “We gave them a couple of easy scores early. I thought our defense came in played hard after the kick return to try and hold them to three (instead of six), but you can’t have that happen early in the game like that.”

As for Clarion, coach Jay Foster felt that his guys did a good job of taking advantage of what was given to them.

“We felt there were some things we could take advantage of, not only offensively, but defensively as well,” said Foster. “That first kick worked out just like we thought it might. He (Hoggard) got a couple of blocks and he is an exciting kid to watch. He has been an All-American as a return man. When you get up early, you get a little bit of confidence in yourself and tonight, we were able to do that.”

Foster also felt that field position, especially in the first half, played a big role in what his offense was able to do.

“That (good field position) started with the very first kickoff,” noted Foster. “We were fortunate to get the big return and we also had good coverage on our kicks. It doesn’t matter what level you are playing at, field position many times plays a big role in how successful you are.”

Penalties also hurt the Bald Eagles as several times in the opening half, they would come up with a big play, only to find a yellow flag on the ground.

“We had a couple of penalties early that really hurt us,” he said. “It just seemed every time we had a play for a nice gain, there would be flag on the ground. You can‘t do that and win ball games.”

The Bald Eagles went three-and-out on their first possession, and Clarion responded to the defensive stand by moving 57 yards on eight plays, quarterback Tyler Huether hitting Jacques Robinson with a 3-yard scoring pass. Mamula’s kick made it 14-0 Clarion with 7:14 remaining in the opening period.

Again the Bald Eagles had no success in moving the chains and when the LHU punter fell down while trying to handle the snap, Clarion took over on the LHU 9-yard line.

The Bald Eagle defensive unit stiffened at that point, but the result was another three points for Clarion as Mamula nailed a 26-yard field goal.

Trailing by the 17-0 margin, LHU had an opportunity to regain some of the momentum in the game when the Bald Eagles came up with big pass plays from quarterback Jarret Kratzer to Jay Hartman for 39 yards and to Ian Smith for 13 yards, setting up a first-and-goal from the Clarion 2-yard stripe.

However, as fate would have it for the Bald Eagles, they couldn’t punch it in on four tries and whatever momentum they gained with the big plays went by the wayside.

“Not getting in there before the half hurt us,” said Klacik. “We had it inside the five and didn’t punch it in. We thought that if we would have scored at that point, we could have put a little pressure on them. We have a young center and quarterback each playing in their third collegiate game and they kind of bobbled the snap that kind of hurt us. But they’ll learn from that.”

Foster also felt that the defensive stand was huge in allowing his club to build the confidence factor and keep the momentum.

“That goal line stand was critical for us because if they score, it is a 17-7 ball game and I am having flashbacks to last year when we jumped out to an early lead against them and then we turned the ball over to them and they started to make a couple of plays. Last year they had a first-and-goal inside the five and punched it in that started to change the momentum of the game. This time, we were able to come up with the plays to keep them out of the end zone and not only was a big boost for us, but it was also a big letdown for them.”

Hoggard led all rushers in the game with 114 yards on 18 carries and at 5-foot-4, 150 pounds, he is tough to defend because he seems to hide behind his big linemen until he finds a crease.

“Not only is he small, but he is a strong,” noted Klacik. “He is a strong player, a strong, tough runner. He got through early a couple of times, but overall, I thought our guys did a pretty good job against him.”

Although the Eagle defensive unit played much stronger in the second half, with the offense not able to generate any consistent drive resulting in points, Clarion scored the final points of the game when Hoggard ripped of a 57-yard TD jaunt three minutes into the third period to set what would be the final.

“I think our biggest problem is that we need to find some type of consistency,” Klacik said. “I don’t think there is a lack of effort and our guys are playing hard. We show flashes that we can play with anybody, but we just have to find a way to be consistent. You have to make those plays all the time and we have to get good at that.”

With the loss, the Bald Eagles are 0-3 overall and 0-2 in the conference, while Clarion evens its mark at 2-2 overall, 1-0 in conference play. LHU welcomes Mercyhurst to Jack Stadium Saturday in Bald Eagle Homecoming 2009. Kickoff for that contest is set for 2 p.m.

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