NUMINE — Logan McClafferty’s history suggests he has no business being on a football field.
Unfortunately for the Blairsville Bobcats, he was on Jack E. Boyer Field on Friday night and gave the West Shamokin Wolves a leg up on the Bobcats in a 13-6 win.
The Bobcats committed five turnovers, and the Wolves won their first game of the season to avoid their worst start since going 0-4 in 2014. McClafferty rushed for 98 yards and scored both Wolves touchdowns before leaving the game late in the fourth quarter with a lower leg injury.
McClafferty, a junior fullback, is no stranger to leg injuries.
“I actually haven’t played for two years,” McClafferty said. “I broke my femur two years ago last Monday. (Last year) I tore my labrum in my leg. I had to get surgery and I was out for the year. So this is my first year back.”
Both injuries were non-football related. All things considered, West Shamokin coach Jon McCullough knows the Wolves are fortunate to have McClafferty.
“He’s a dirt-bike racer, a very good one, competitively,” McCullough said. “He’s wrecked it a couple times where he’s injured his leg. He’s had a lot of (injuries) … collar bone, and different things like that. The kid is tough as nails. I call him the Bionic Man.”
McClafferty rushed for 17 fewer yards than Blairsville’s Sincere McFarlin, but fumbles continued to be a problem for the sophomore tailback. McFarlin lost two fumbles in the first half, giving him five lost fumbles in last three weeks, and he also muffed a kickoff return. McFarlin continues to run the ball well, with 494 yards in four games, but he’s not carrying it well.
“We’re telling him after every play to get (the ball) up, and it’s not,” Blairsville coach Rick Artley said. “He has a tendency to run like he’s running a sprint, and that’s not what a running back has to do. He has to have it high and tight and protect the ball. It’s just not happening. It’s something he has to work on.”
West Shamokin needed to work on turnovers as well. The Wolves lost nine possessions in the first three weeks, and they lost the first possession of this game on the opening kickoff. Jaiden Haswell fumbled the return and Blairsville’s Hank Skirboll recovered on the Wolves 46.
Blairsville enjoyed excellent field position, but the Bobcats were stopped at the 4 on downs after 13 plays. The Bobcats started again at the Wolves 30 after a strong defensive stand, but McFarlin fumbled after gaining 15 yards on the first play.
Finally, after another strong defensive series, the Bobcats began again at their own 49 and put together a 10-play scoring drive. Quarterback Zak Artley capped it with a 3-yard pass to slot receiver Isaac Witmer, who reached back to pull the ball in with his right hand.
McFarlin fumbled again on Blairsville’s next possession. This time the Wolves took advantage of the short field with a five-play, 26-yard drive, capped on a 2-yard dive by McClafferty. Ezeck Olinger’s kick gave West Shamokin a 7-6 lead with 5:19 left in the second quarter.
McFarlin mishandled the ensuing kickoff at the Blairsville 10, but the Bobcats escaped damage when Skirboll stepped in a front of a Bo Swartz pass intended for Haswell at the 8. The interception was the first of two for Skirboll.
“When you turn the ball over five times in a game, you’re not going to win,” Rick Artley said. “But for our defense to give up only 13 points is unbelievable. We created some turnovers after we had turned the ball over in our own end. Hank had a couple interceptions. We did some great things defensively, but offensively, you can’t win turning the ball over five times.”
Blairsville outgained West Shamokin, 266 yards to only 184. The turnovers negated that advantage, but four holding penalties played a role as well.
One of those holds blunted Blairsville’s last possession of the third quarter, and the Bobcats faced fourth-and-5 at West Shamokin 45 to start the fourth. Rather than punt and push the Wolves deep into their own end, Blairsville decided to go for it, but Zak Artley’s pass for McFarlin was too high.
“Our defense had done such as nice job, and we had stopped them all night long,” Rick Artley said. “Maybe we could have changed the field position a little bit, but our punting game hasn’t been that great on average. We did have the wind, so we might have got a little extra out of it … but I just felt confident in our defense (if we didn’t pick up the first down). … We could have changed the field position at that point, but I am always going to go offensively. That’s my mindset.”
The Wolves took over and gave the ball to McClafferty for eight straight handoffs to the Blairsville 13 before freshman Dylan Wolfe gained eight yards on a jet sweep. The Wolves went back to McClafferty on the next four snaps and he took it over the right side on a 1-yard dive.
Olinger’s extra-point kick missed, leaving the Wolves’ lead at just seven points, but interceptions by Wolfe and Jon Hill ended Blairsville’s last two possessions.
Blairsville’s Cage Kinney, a sophomore wideout, made his varsity debut with two catches for 93 yards.