By Eric Butler: CNJ correspondent
LBUQUERQUE — Matt Ulibarri jubilantly ran to the Clovis sideline, Diondre Hunter — with football in tow — ran right to the La Cueva sideline and, with less than 10 seconds to play, one of New Mexico’s longest prep football winning streaks was history.
Ulibarri’s blocked field goal sealed a 10-7 victory for Clovis Saturday night at Wilson Stadium to end La Cueva’s 28-game victory run that stretched over two-plus seasons.
Clovis was also the last team to beat the Bears before the streak began — in the 2002 state quarterfinals.
“I came in untouched. I just came in as hard as I could because I gave up that big play that put them down on the goal line,” said Ulibarri, a senior cornerback.
In a last-ditch drive, La Cueva (2-1) moved from its 34 to the Clovis 18 when Bears’ quarterback Alex Lackey hit receiver Matt Frame with a 48-yard pass. Ulibarri tackled Frame to stop the play, but it wasn’t enough for the Wildcats’ senior.
The Bears’ lined up kicker Ryan Hightower for a 30-yard field goal attempt as the clock ticked down to 10.
Ulibarri swept in from the left for a solid block. As he joyously headed toward the Clovis sideline, the free ball was picked up by Hunter who ran back to the La Cueva 45 — right down the La Cueva side of the field.
With seven seconds left, Clovis quarterback Devin Sweet took a knee to run out the clock.
“We wanted to continue the way we left off last year,” said La Cueva coach Fred Romero, whose team has won the last two Class 5A championships. “We knew this day would come, but we just didn’t want it to come this soon.”
Clovis (3-1) started the scoring when sophomore Robert North kicked a 48-yard field goal with 4:22 left in the first quarter.
But La Cueva, with the aid of two Clovis unsportsmanlike penalties, mounted a 44-yard drive late in the first half to go up 7-3. However, it took the Bears seven plays to go the final 15 yards before Mike Frame went into the end zone from the 3-yard line.
After a scoreless second quarter, Clovis’ offense showed the flipside to one of football’s enduring truths.
While La Cueva’s offense undoubtedly wore down the Wildcats’ defense on a drive that started at the Bears’ 12-yard line, several key offensive players for the ‘Cats got much-needed rest.
After that drive ended in Hightower’s first 30-yard attempt, revived junior running back Brian Mead became the go-to back for a Clovis drive that began at its 20. Nine times in the 80-yard drive, Mead got the call — including a 1-yard touchdown run on a fourth-and-goal with 1:30 left in the game.
The drive was also marked by a clutch 15-yard pass from Sweet to Rishard Matthews to convert a fourth-and-8 situation at the La Cueva 33.
“My ankle was hurting and it helped a lot to get the pressure off the ankle,” said Mead, who had rested on a bench during La Cueva’s fruitless long drive. “I felt a lot fresher, a lot fresher. And I got a lot of water and everything. It was frustrating though to watch while the defense was out there — I lost my voice yelling over there.”
Mead finished with 105 yards — 54 on the game-winning drive for Clovis.
“It feels great, especially after they beat us twice last year,” Mead said. “We real pumped up to win this one.”
Clovis 10, La Cueva 7
Clovis 3 0 0 7 — 10
La Cueva 0 7 0 0 — 7
C — Robert North 48-yard FG
LC — Mike Frame 3-yard run (Ryan Hightower kick)
C — Brian Mead 1-yard run (North kick)
First downs 10 11
Rushes-yards 31-126 41-163
Passing yards 30 56
Total yards 156 219
Comp-att-int 3-10-1 3-11-0
Punting 2-38.5 4-38.5
Fumbles-lost 0-0 1-0
Penalties-yards 6-55 8-78
Records — Clovis 3-1, La Cueva 2-1.