Clovis’ Travis Reid got the Wildcats on the socreboard with a field goal in the first quarter against Highland Saturday at Milne Stadium in Albuquerque. Albuquerque Journal photo by Greg Sorber.
By John Eisel: CNJ sports writer
ALBUBUERQUE — It may have taken a few more games than fans and players would have liked, but the Wildcats have C’s for their helmets.
The Wildcats earned the traditional “C” after running over Highland 31-7 Saturday night.
“We’ve been trying to get those since day one,” senior running back Phillip Williams said of the ‘C’ decals that go on after the team wins and plays well in the win.
With gaping holes provided by the Clovis offensive line, Williams and Tanner Fickling combined for 158 yards rushing and both scored two touchdowns.
Clovis (1-2) pounded the ball up the middle all night long, and typically only a Wildcat penalty could stop them.
“As soon as we get him blocked, there’s no stopping us,” Phillips said, giving credit for his performance to the offensive line.
After going four-and-out on their first drive, Clovis scored on their next three possessions, resulting in a Travis Reid 30-yard field goal and two Williams touchdowns.
Williams’ first touchdown was a 54-yard pass from quarterback John Props. After running up the middle through the first quarter, Williams ran by his defender and was 10 yards behind him when the ball landed in his arms.
The score midway through the second quarter gave Clovis a 10-7 lead it wouldn’t relinquish.
“It was in the air forever,” said Williams, who was worried for a moment the ball would be thrown a little high.
Just before the end of the half, Clovis tried spreading the ball out in a hurry-up offense. After two incompletions, Props threw a pass that was batted up in the air like a volleyball and picked off by Anthony Fairbanks. Clovis didn’t commit another turnover in the game.
Fickling put the game away late in the third quarter on a 2-yard plunge, putting the Wildcats up 24-7. He duplicated the feat in the fourth quarter, but he was just finishing the job. Matt Ulibarri took a punt near midfield, veered left and went streaking down the field before crashing into an Hornets defender just shy of the goal line to set up the score.
Behind Quinten Burrell’s 91 yards on 10 carries, Highland mustered a few big plays on the night. Burrell had four runs of at least 13 yards, but the Hornets’ only touchdown drive was aided by a 15-yard unnecessary roughness call and a few missed tackles.
“For the most part the kids did what they were asked to do, and that allowed us to shut them down,” defensive coordinator Darren Kelley said. “I think the kids figured out they can hit someone and it’s not going to hurt.”
The Wildcats defense typically limited Highland to short yardage on first down, forcing the running-based offense to have to throw the ball. That proved a boon for Clovis, as Highland quarterbacks went 2 for 10 for 9 yards.
Ulibarri and Elliott Hita each picked off passes while junior Devin Sweet nearly intercepted another. Ulibarri’s interception squelched Highland’s drive toward the end of the first half, while Hita’s led to Williams’ second touchdown of the game.
Highland’s offense was clipped even before the game started. Highland was without three starting seniors — running back Ben Marshall, lineman Phillip Harrison and quarterback Ian Clark.
“It’s a huge factor,” Kelley said, comparing it to Clovis’ injury-plagued 2003. “There’s a reason that they were starting, because they were good athletes.”
Kelley and Williams said the victory will help confidence and team morale.
“We needed the win,” Kelley said.
Clovis 31, Highland 7
Clovis 3 14 7 7 — 31
Highland 0 7 0 0 — 7
Clo — Travis Reid 30-yard FG, 1:28
Hig — Quinten Burrell 14-yard run (Lucas Lagatutta kick), 9:58.
Clo — Williams 54-yard pass from Props (Reid kick), 7:28
Clo — Williams 8-yard run (Reid kick), 3:08
Clo — Tanner Fickling 2-yard run (Reid kick), 3:24
Clo — Tanner Fickling 2-yard run (Reid kick), 2:18
Rushing 41-231 32-144
Passing yards 102 9
Total yards 333 147
Passing 4-10-1 2-10-2
Turnovers 1 2
Penalties/yards 7/55 8/65
Punts/average 3/45 7/47.1
Rushing — Clovis, Phillip Williams 18-87, Tanner Fickling 11-71, John Props 4-20, Terrance Walker 3-35, Nick Welsh 2-12, Tim Perkins 3-6. Highland, Jerrell Miller 7-11, Channing Tiasee 11-37, Quinten Burrell 9-91, Tim Medina 1-(-1), Triston Barrett (1-6)
Passing — Clovis, Props 4-10-1-102. Highland, Barrett 2-9-2-9, Medina 0-1-0-0
Receiving — Clovis, Williams 2-66, Jacob Jones 2-36. Highland, Anthony Fairbanks 1-10.