CLEARFIELD — From 1990 to 2007, the Clearfield High football team qualified for the state playoffs in all but one season.
In that span, the Falcons won a state championship, went to a state semifinal and were consistently winning.
Success in the win column since then has largely eluded Clearfield, save for a couple of seasons when the Falcons missed the playoffs by just one game.
But go ahead and ask head coach Andre Dyson who’s going to win Region 1. He’ll say Clearfield.
That’s his focus. He doesn’t know, or care quite frankly, what anyone else is doing, what plays other teams run, etc.
That is, he says, how the mentality of the team should be.
The Falcons have several returning starters in key positions, plus several more players who didn’t start but played starter minutes, plus an infusion of juniors who instrumented a ton of success for Clearfield’s sophomore team last year.
What’s missing from the Clearfield program, which went 1-8 and 0-6 in Region 1 last year, is a winning mentality.
The addition of those juniors — some of whom played a little bit at the varsity level — may just help change that outlook.
“We usually get a lot of kids that are used to losing, so once you lose a lot, you kind of get used to losing and you kind of accept it, so you don’t know how to fight. Where you get a group of kids that are used to winning and want to win, hopefully that’ll elevate the older kids,” Dyson said.
Clearfield returns two of its top three leading tacklers from a season ago in linebacker Austin Call (74 tackles, five tackles-for-loss, three sacks) and defensive lineman Grayson Banks (47 tackles, three TFLs, two sacks).
Bransen Simper is likely taking the reins at quarterback, receiver Gage Dicus earned a lot of praise from Call over the summer and Omari Zuniga figures to get a lot of quality time at running back.
Simper, Dicus and Zuniga are all juniors who didn’t necessarily start but got their feet wet (it was the coaches’ choice to rotate them in, along with many other younger players, here and there) without diving in all the way last year.
“Since I’ve been here, you can never take away experience ... for the kids it’s like, ‘Oh, Friday night,’ and they panic. After they’ve seen it and done it, the game slows down,” Dyson said.
It’s one thing to have experience at most positions coming back, but only if those players took the losses to heart and learned from them.
It’s another thing to translate all of that into wins a year later.
“(We) gotta start with the little things, mainly because once you get the little things, then you can get the other things working out for you,” Banks said.
Clearfield committed 23 turnovers last year, gave up numerous big plays on defense and committed costly penalties at bad times.
Another key for success is being consistent, Call says.
“We’ve just got to get in our playbook and not be such a roller-coaster team: be way good one day and awful the next. We just have to find out how to stay at our peak,” Call said.
LONG TIME, NO SEE: Clearfield will face West in its season opener, the first meeting between the schools since 1975. The Falcons end the season against Bear River, a team they haven’t faced since 1970.
HISTORICAL OMENS: 2018 was the third season since 1970 that Clearfield has gone 1-8, the other two being 1974 and 1981. Both times, the Falcons had a .500 or better record and made the playoffs the following season (1975 and 1982).
DROUGHT WILL END: Because of the all-comers state tournament format, Clearfield will be in the main draw of the state tournament this October for the first time since 2005.
2018 SEASON: 1-8, 0-6 in Region 1, missed the playoffs. Clearfield scored a total of six points its first three region games last year, then scored 80 in its final three region games.
2019 OPPOSITION RECORD: 50-54 (.481). To start Region 1 play, Clearfield will face all four Region 1 playoff teams from last season, all in a row. That might be the definition of an unforgiving start.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Austin Call (LB), Grayson Banks (DE/TE), Bransen Simper (QB), Gage Dicus (WR/DB), Omari Zuniga (RB), Jaxon Hansen (OL/DL), James Belford (RB).
STRENGTHS: Experience all around.
WEAKNESSES: Needing a winning mentality.
RETURNING STARTERS: 14 (7 offense, 7 defense). In reality, this number is almost like have 20-21 starters coming back because so many players rotated into games last year.
BASE OFFENSE/DEFENSE: Spread/4-3 but show a lot of 4-2-5 as well.
BY THE NUMBERS
30: Tackles-for-loss made by the defense last season in nine games, 14 of which were sacks.
171-77: The total margin the Falcons were outscored by in the first half last season.
2005: Clearfield’s last appearance in the main bracket of the state playoffs.
Aug 16: at West, 7 p.m.
Aug. 23: Hunter, 7 p.m.
Aug. 30: Weber*, 7 p.m.
Sept. 6: at Davis*, 7 p.m.
Sept. 13: at Fremont*, 7 p.m.
Sept. 20: Northridge*, 7 p.m.
Sept. 27: at Layton*, 7 p.m.
Oct. 4: Roy*, 7 p.m.
Oct. 11: Syracuse*, 7 p.m.
Wed., Oct. 16: at Bear River, 7 p.m.
*Region 1 game