Resilient Clovis defensive effort not enough

By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer

LAS CRUCES — If you looked only at the stats — 19-4 in first downs, 289-62 in total offense, 61-30 in plays from scrimmage, all favoring Mayfield — you’d figure it was a blowout.

But the Clovis High Wildcats nearly got Friday’s season opener at Field of Dreams into overtime, and had that happened it would have been anybody’s game.

The Trojans parlayed a 30-yard punt return by junior Gabe Trujillo into a 31-yard, seven-play drive capped by Trujillo’s 1-yard run with less than three minutes left for a 7-0 victory.
Despite never advancing the ball into Mayfield territory, the Cats were able to keep the game scoreless by shutting down three deep scoring bids by the Trojans — one ending on downs just before halftime, and the others on botched field goal attempts in the second half.

“Defensively, we came up with some big plays, but we’ve got to do that the whole game,” senior quarterback-free safety Devin Sweet said. “When you don’t get the ball into your opponent’s territory the whole game, it’s hard.”

Assistant coach Darren Kelley said the Cats didn’t have a good week of preparation.

“It just came down to being physical; they outhit us,” he said. “Part of it is our (young) guys have to step up to varsity football.”

Veteran Mayfield coach Jim Bradley was disturbed by his team’s inability to score in the red zone, but blamed some of it on the youth factor.

“They’re guys that are 16 or 17 years old,” he said.

The Trojans held the ball for 10 or more plays on each of their first four possessions, but couldn’t get out of their own way most of the time once they got close.

“Those things kill us,” Bradley said of penalties and other breakdowns. “We only got one holding penalty … but the little things killed us.”

Clovis collected four sacks in the second quarter, including two by senior end Chris Finch and back-to-back sacks on Mayfield’s late-half drive — by senior linebacker Jon Sweet and senior defensive end Richard Alvarez after the Trojans reached the Cats’ 3 with a first down.

After a Mayfield timeout and a 5-yard equipment penalty on the Trojans, Jon Sweet slipped in on a blitz and sent quarterback David Bustillos to the turf for a 6-yard loss.

“We called a ‘dog stunt,’” he explained. “They picked up (fellow linebacker) Cade (Wheeler), and I was able to time it perfect.

“We did what we’re known for, and that’s ‘bring the hat.’ But we didn’t bring it enough tonight.”

Clovis’ only sustained drive reached midfield early in the second quarter before stalling, in part with a delay of game penalty. But the Cats’ best chance to score probably came with just seven minutes left in the game when Devin Sweet’s deep pass bounced in and out of the hands of senior wide receiver Rishard Matthews, who was open near the Mayfield 40.

“When we have a chance to make a play, we’ve got to be able to make it,” Kelley said. “You never know when that chance will come.”

Both Sweets agreed that the team didn’t have a good week of practice.

“Our defense was on the field way too much,” Devin Sweet said. “We played hard at times, but you’ve got to play hard the whole game.

“We knew they were going to be tough, but we didn’t have a good week of practice. There’s no doubt (Mayfield is) a good ballclub, but we’ve just got to come out and play better.”

Kelley said the Cats lost senior middle linebacker Jordan Moore to a shoulder separation in the second quarter, adding that Moore could be out three or four weeks.

Clovis plays its home opener on Friday against Pampa, Texas, at Leon Williams Stadium.

“The only way we’re going to get better is by working hard,” Kelley said. “If you don’t work hard, you’re not going to win.”