Defense keeps Cats in game early

Clovis’ Randy Cerda , left, and Michael Cohen sack Mayfield quarterback David Bustillos during the first half. (Staff photo: Jesse Wolfersberger)

By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer

LAS CRUCES — Quietly, the Clovis High defense kept the Wildcats in Saturday’s Class 5A state championship game early against top-ranked Mayfield at Field of Dreams.

With the Clovis offense struggling, the second-ranked Cats held Mayfield to just one first down and 32 yards over the first 22 minutes.

But they couldn’t hold off the Trojans in the second half and Mayfield (14-0) took the title, its first since 1998, with a 17-7 victory.

“The kids played hard,” Clovis defensive coordinator Darren Kelley said. “They did everything we asked them to do. We just weren’t able to make some big plays when we needed to.”

Mayfield answered a CHS scoring drive following the second-half kickoff with a long drive of its own, taking a 10-7 lead late in the third period on the first of senior quarterback David Bustillos’ two second-half touchdown pass.

The Trojans went 65 yards in 11 plays — none longer than 9 yards except for Bustillos’ 12-yard scoring pass to Hutchinson — and compiled five first downs.

Clovis’ secondary did a good job in coverage throughout the first half, allowing the front line to put considerable pressure on Bustillos.

“We wanted to keep him in the pocket,” said senior nose guard Randy Cerda, who had 2 1/2 of Clovis’ four sacks in the game and also recovered a fumble by Bustillos in the final moments. “They just came out (in the second half) the same as we did and took the ball down and scored. I thought that was kind of the turning point.”

For a little while, the Cats (12-2) took some of the steam out of the Mayfield crowd when senior fullback Tanner Fickling scored on a 10-yard run midway through the third quarter to put the Cats ahead 7-3.

“We had a chance to make some plays there and stop them, and we didn’t,” Kelley said.

Mayfield put the game away with a 92-yard drive in just two plays early in the fourth period — a 15-yard keeper by Bustillos and a 77-yard pass play from Bustillos to running back Oran Gonzales, who broke a tackle near the Mayfield 45 and sprinted in.

“Our defense played hard,” Clovis coach Eric Roanhaus said. “We just made a few more mistakes than they did.”
Though disappointed with the loss, Cerda said the Cats should look at the bigger picture of how far they came during the season.

“I heard we weren’t supposed to make the playoffs this year and then we came out and went 12-1 (before Saturday),” Cerda said. “I think we accomplished a lot. We didn’t do enough (in the finals), but it wasn’t a blowout.”