It was a victory decades in the making.
Somerset’s defense just made it seem a lot easier than it was supposed to be.
The Golden Eagles won their first district football championship in school history Friday night, holding Clearfield to 43 total yards of offense in a 27-0 shutout to capture the District 5-6-8-9 Class AAA championship at Richland High School.
“To hang those gold medals around their necks,” Somerset coach Bob Landis said, “that’s why you coach football.”
Landis’ defense, led by seniors Logan Eller and Colton Slayback, found themselves in the Bison backfield all night, tackling Clearfield players for a loss 11 times. Slayback had two sacks, while Eller had one, a forced fumble which he recovered in the first quarter.
“Eleven as one,” said Slayback. “We fly to the ball and hit hard.”
When asked if he thought if Somerset’s defense could limit Clearfield, a team which came into Friday’s game scoring 35 points per game and nearly 350 yards of offense, to just 43 yards, Landis’ response was simple.
“No. Never,” he said.
“That’s just phenomenal. It’s outstanding work by our defensive unit. They deserve all the credit.”
Somerset’s defense got better as the game progressed, holding Clearfield to -12 yards in the second half.
“It was surprising at first,” Eller said of the Golden Eagles’ defensive pressure. “Then we realized our defensive line was causing double teams, making it easier for the linebackers to get back there.
“We knew our defense would set the pace for our offense.”
Thanks to its defense, Somerset’s offense started in Clearfield territory four times in the first half, and junior running back Jake Heiple took full advantage.
Heiple ran 18 times for 158 yards and two touchdowns. His pair of 35-yard scores in the second quarter opened Somerset’s lead to 21-0 at halftime.
After Logan Eller opened the Somerset scoring with a 1-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, Heiple took a Dylan Barnes handoff at the Clearfield 35-yard line, danced through four Bison down linemen, and outran Clearfield’s linebackers and safeties to put Somerset up 14-0.
“I was just trying to be patient,” Heiple said of the run. “When I saw where it opened up, I took my chance.”
Heiple scored again on Somerset’s next drive, running off left tackle before running the final 20 yards down the sideline, sneaking across the pylon for the touchdown.
After receiving the second half kickoff, the Golden Eagles marched 65 yards in 11 plays, ending in Logan Eller’s second touchdown of the game, an 11-yard sweep to the right side of the line.
“We weren’t expecting such a pull-away at the end,” Eller said. “It’s just amazing.”
Friday was the fifth time Somerset played for a district title, losing the previous four in 1988, 1989 and 1990, as well as last year to Clearfield, 21-6.
“We worked our tails off at the beginning of the year to get to this point,” junior quarterback Dylan Barnes said. “This was probably one of the best games we’ve ever played.
Somerset will play in the Class AAA state tournament next Friday at a site to be determined against District 4 champion Selinsgrove. The Seals handed Jersey Shore its first loss of the season Friday, 6-2.