An unwanted pattern is developing for the Clovis Wildcats:
Fall behind early and the Wildcats fall apart.
It happened in their season-opening 32-7 loss to Mayfield and again last week in a 33-13 loss to Highland.
“We get down on ourselves a little too easy,” Clovis senior offensive lineman Philip Salazar said. “We need to keep playing hard. But when we get down, it’s hard to concentrate.”
Clovis assistant coach Darren Kelley called it a disturbing trend.
“For us to be successful, we have to gain some confidence and execute our assignments,” Kelley said. “Physically, we’re fine. It’s the mental part that’s killing us.
“We’re not mentally tough enough yet. We still have a JV mentality.”
Pressed to find something positive in last week’s loss, Kelley thought for a while.
“We didn’t hit anybody hard enough to get injured.”
He was only half joking.
Highland scored on its first two possessions and pushed the lead 19-0 midway through the second quarter. Clovis scored on the final play of the half when Mark Young caught a John Props pass and slipped inside the pylon from 5 yards out.
But the Wildcats’ inability in the second half to come up with a key defensive stop or convert on third down foiled the comeback attempt.
“We didn’t play hard, we didn’t hit anybody, and we didn’t execute,” Kelley said.
“Right now, we don’t have a guy on defense who says I’m going to whip my guy’s butt and make a play, or a guy that says give me the ball and I’ll run over somebody.”
The good news is the Wildcats (1-2) face another struggling team in Valley (0-2) at 7 p.m. Saturday at Milne Stadium in Albuquerque.
Valley was victimized by big plays last week in a 28-9 loss to Albuquerque High. Albuquerque scored two touchdowns on special teams and another on defense.
The Vikings were hit hard by graduation and aren’t as big as they’ve been in the past, Kelley said.
“But, they’re a good enough team that they can beat you,” Kelley said.
For the fourth-straight week, the Wildcats face a team featuring a dangerous option quarterback.
Kelley said 5-11, 180 junior Eric Concini is the Vikings’ top offensive threat. Concini scored on a 53-yard run in last week’s loss. He also completed 5 of 13 passes for 51 yards and two interceptions.
Salazar said the Wildcats’ problems stem from poor practice habits.
“We’ve got to just take it a game at a time,” Salazar said. “It starts in practice. We have to work harder and be a little more intense. We have to get it fixed by district.”
Valley coach Vince Collins could not be reached for comment.