Wildcats’ d-line faces another challenge

Clovis senior defensive end Chris Finch is second on the team in tackles. (CNJ staff photo: Chris Finch)

By Jesse Wolfersberger: CNJ staff writer

Clovis senior defensive end Chris Finch has a simple technique for motivating the Wildcats defensive line.

“Just keep screaming,” said the 6-foot-5, 250-pound Finch. “That seems to work. Keep getting them pumped up. Keep the intensity up. Keep everyone ready.”

Finch, who is second on the team in tackles, is part of a Clovis defensive line that wreaked havoc last week in a 41-6 win over Goddard.

The Wildcats held Goddard to 13 yards rushing and sacked the Rockets quarterback Jesus Baca five times.

“They did a great job stopping number 11 (Baca),” Clovis assistant coach Darren Kelley said. “They are doing a great job of taking care of their responsibility. They aren’t trying to be the person that makes the play.”

Kelley said Finch, Richard Alvarez, Randy Cerda, Michael Cohen, Mel Grassel and Chase Denton have improved their quality of play over the course of this season.

Clovis (5-1) is allowing 241.7 yards and nine points a game.

“We’ve all basically played together for three years,” said Alvarez, a senior defensive end. “So we know how each other work, what each of us can and can’t do.

The Wildcats face another dangerous No. 11 today in Sandia junior Derris Jackson.

“That’s their stud,” Kelley said of the 5-9, 220-pound Jackson, who also excels at linebacker. “They are going to put him at quarterback. They are going to put him at receiver. They are going to put him at running back. We have to be able to stop him. He’s the whole key to stopping them defensively.

“It’s just a matter of knowing where he is. He’s going to get the ball no matter where he’s at.”

Going into Friday, again, Finch’s strategy is simple.

“Hit ’em,” Finch said. “This will be good experience for us because they run a lot. Hopefully this will be a good game for the front line.”

Sandia coach Kevin Barker said the Clovis defensive and offensive lines are a cause for concern for his team.

“They have some of the most impressive lines in the state,” Barker said.

“It means a lot for (the opposing coach) to say that,” Finch said. “It means we have earned some respect.”

Barker’s flattering impressions of the Wildcats do not end with the line.

“I think they are loaded,” Barker said. “I think this is their best team since their last state championship. To me, they are the best team in the state.”

The Matadors (3-2) are coming to Leon Williams Stadium for the first time under Barker.

“I’m excited to play in that environment,” Barker said. “I hope the stands are packed.

“My team has never played somewhere like that. You have to take them and put them in that environment to see how they respond, so next time they know what to expect.”

Finch said playing at home helps the team play better.

“This whole town pretty much revolves around football,” Finch said. “If you perform wrong you are letting down your team, your coaches, and the whole town.”

Game Day
Sandia at Clovis
7:30 p.m. today
Leon Williams Stadium
Sandia 3-2, Clovis 5-1.
Coaches: Sandia, Kevin Barker; Clovis, Eric Roanhaus.
Last meeting: 2004, Clovis defeated Sandia 30-0.
Sandia players to watch: Michael Scarlett, 6-2, 160, Jr., WR-DB; Derris Jackson, 5-9, 220, Jr., RB-QB-LB; Jonathan Washington, 6-4, 245, Jr., OL-DL; Jared Brown, 6-0, 170, Sr., RB-S.
Keys to the game: Barker said his team will have their hands full with Clovis’ offensive weapons. Junior wide receiver Rishard Matthews has caught 12 passes for 259 yards and five touchdowns in the last two weeks, senior Devin Sweet looks like different quarterback from his early season struggles, and junior running back Brian Mead is rushing for 120 rushing yards a game.
By the numbers: Matthews has scored nine touchdowns this season, including six receiving, two rushing and on a punt return.
Quotable: “We need to get started quick. We play a lot better when we start quick.” — Clovis assistant Darren Kelley.