Clovis sophomore Devin Hanson breaks free from the grasp of Tascosa’s Randy Box during the first half of Friday’s game at Leon Williams Stadium. Photo by Eric Kluth
By Eric Butler
It’s been a short, strange season for the Clovis High football team so far.
At least the Wildcats, after a 31-7 defeat of visiting Tascosa Friday night, have reason to believe it’s now heading in the right direction.
Following four weeks of alternating lopsided losses and lopsided wins, Clovis (3-2) grabbed control early against the visiting Rebels and then took advantage of mistake-prone Tascosa (1-4).
Junior running back Phillip Williams was the main weapon for the Cats in an opening-possession, 75-yard scoring drive. Williams, who finished with 109 yards on the ground, got 50 in that first drive alone culminating in his touchdown plunge from the 1.
It was Williams’ second game back in the lineup after he suffered a preseason injury to an elbow.
“There’s more rhythm now because I got used to practicing,” said Williams, who added that he wasn’t expecting Clovis to finish off an Amarillo opponent with such a decisive score. “We’re a little bit surprised, but we have faith in our team. We’re pulling it together.”
Tascosa, on its first possession, quickly gave the host team a golden opportunity. The Wildcats’ Mark Young picked up a Rebels fumble at the Tascosa 49-yard line and sprinted to the 15.
Four plays later, Clovis back Mark Repogle ran in from the 4 for a 14-0 lead.
The Rebels coughed up three fumbles in the contest. After falling behind, they were forced to go to an almost-exclusive passing attack and gave up five interceptions to the Clovis secondary.
“They had a great opening drive, but we had those turnovers,” Rebels coach Ron Rogers said. “You cannot make mistakes against an (Clovis coach) Eric Roanhaus team and expect to win. They play good defense and they’re opportunistic in scoring, and they did just that.”
After a 26-yard field goal from Jason Seefeld gave Clovis a 17-0 lead midway through the second quarter, Tascosa seemed to rally. The Rebels drove 43 yards to the Wildcats’ 22 in only four plays.
But the visitors again turned the ball over after a missed snap to quarterback, and Clovis took over at its own 25. The Cats, though, were unable to move the ball and Tascosa prepared to receive a Clovis punt with just less than four minutes left in the half.
The Wildcats, however, had a surprise for the Rebels.
In punt formation, up-man Jeff Epps — who played quarterback for Clovis last year — took the snap instead of kicker Mario Caswell. Epps patiently waited for receiver Ben Teconchuk to break clear of the line of scrimmage and passed to him on a 67-yard touchdown play.
“Coach Roanhaus doesn’t run a whole lot of fakes, but it was something we saw on film that they brought 10 guys every time (to try to block punts),” Clovis defensive coordinator Darren Kelley said. “We talked about it and put it in.”
The successful fake punt resulted in a 24-0 lead for Clovis, which has outscored its opponents 68-0 before intermission over the last two weeks. Last Saturday in Albuquerque, the Wildcats scored all of their points in the first two quarters of a 42-0 blowout of Valley.
Tascosa was first to score in the second half when Rebels receiver Watt Matthews, on a reverse, ran in from the Clovis 10-yard line to cut the lead to 24-7 three minutes into the fourth quarter.
Tascosa then successfully recovered an onside kick to put some pressure on the Wildcats’ defense. Starting at the Clovis 45, the Rebels’ drive — typical on this night — ended with a turnover when Angelo Sandoval picked off a Hunter Callahan pass with 8:05 remaining.
Clovis, aided by two Tascosa facemask penalties, responded with a 65-yard drive to put the game away. The Wildcats’ final touchdown came when Williams scored from two yards out.
Along with Sandoval’s interception, Clovis defenders Mark Young and Carlos Gallo (with two) also picked off Tascosa passes.
Gallo, a senior, was certainly happy with the interceptions, although he believes that there’s still room for improvement for the Wildcats’ defense.
“I feel pretty good, but we can do better,” Gallo said. “We could have shut them out.”