Clovis defensive coordinator Darren Kelley talks to the Clovis Wildcat defense Thursday during practice. (Staff photo: Eric Kluth)
By Rick White: CNJ managing editor
Jim Bradley and the Mayfield Trojans are feeling a little claustrophobic.
With rain and drizzle blanketing the eastern part of the state for the better part of a week, the Trojans were unable to practice outside early this week, the veteran Mayfield coach said. But Bradley doesn’t seem too concerned about lack of quality practice time before Saturday’s Class 5A state playoff game at Clovis.
“The mind is more important than the body,” Bradley said.
The Trojans (10-1) are being forced to make the 600-mile round trip to Clovis for the opening round of the playoffs after losing to cross-town rival Las Cruces High 31-10 last week in a game that decided the District 3-5A title.
“We have no problem playing on the road,” Bradley said. “The problem was we didn’t play well last week against our cross-town rivals.”
The trip to Clovis is one Bradley and the Trojans have made before, most recently in August when Mayfield beat up on Wildcats 35-0 in the season-opener for both teams.
It’s a loss the Wildcats (7-3) remember well.
“They’ve been made aware several times that we got beat 35-0 with a running clock,” said Clovis assistant coach Darren Kelley, who expects a different game on Saturday.
“No. 1, we’ve gotten a lot better since then. And No. 2, after watching the film of that game, we know how much better we’ve got to play and how much harder we’ve got to play,” Kelley said.
The Wildcats (7-3), making their 23rd playoff appearance in 27 years under coach Eric Roanhaus, take a six-game winning streak into the game.
In the first meeting, Mayfield simply overpowered the Wildcats with its running game.
Clovis junior strong safety Devin Sweet doesn’t see that happening again.
“I feel a lot better about our defense,” Sweet said. “The key is for us to turn the play into the linebackers so they can make the plays.
“Whoever hits the hardest and wants it the most is going to win the game.
The Trojans, who have finished as the state runnerup the last three seasons, are bolstered by the return of two-way standout Seth McKinney.
One of three Trojans who have rushed for more than 500 yards, McKinney was held out of last week’s game with a bone bruise on his knee, Bradley said.
“We knew we were going to the playoffs and we didn’t want to get him hurt,” Bradley said. “It wasn’t worth it.”
Even though Mayfield has beaten Clovis three straights times during the regular season, Bradley said overconfidence shouldn’t be a problem.
“Not after the way we got our tails waxed last week,” Bradley said.
at Clovis (7-3)
When: 2 p.m. Saturday
Last week: Mayfield lost to Las Cruces 31-10. Clovis beat Cibola 21-6.
Last meeting: 2004, Mayfield beat Clovis 35-0 in first game of season.
At stake: A spot in next week’s semifinal against either Highland or Rio Rancho.
Mayfield players to watch: Ryan Hooker, 5-11, 170, Sr., QB; Seth McKinney, 6-1, 201, Sr., RB-DE; John Stadjuhar, 6-0, 221, Sr., TE-DE.
Noteable: Clovis is 3-2 against teams in the Class 5A playoffs.
By the numbers: Senior DE Jason Burns leads the Wildcats in tackles with 89, including 57 solo. Junior LB Jonathan Sweet has 103 yards in fumble-return yardage … Eight Wildcats have scored touchdowns, led by RBs Phillip Williams with 16 and Tanner Fickling with 5. … Senior K Travis Reid is 3 for 5 on field goals and 21 for 23 on extra-points.
Forecast: The National Weather Service is calling for a slight chance of showers on Saturday with the high around 50 degrees.