Cats preparing for scrimmage with Cruces

Junior Diondre Hunter warms up with the rest of the Clovis High varsity football team on Friday. The Wildcats are preparing for a preseason scrimmage on Friday against Las Cruces High at Tularosa. (CNJ staff photo: Andy DeLisle)

By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer

Clovis High’s football coaches weren’t too sure they liked what they saw during Thursday’s first day of practice in full pads.

On Friday and Saturday, though, the Wildcats’ performance improved noticeably, CHS assistant coach Darren Kelley said.

“We’re better now than we were when we started (on Monday),” Kelley said. “The negative is there was no way to go but up.

“We’re still a long way from game speed, but we’re getting better.”

The Cats are preparing for their annual preseason scrimmage at 4 p.m. Friday against Las Cruces High. The Bulldawgs normally host it every other year at Alamogordo, but because of a field conflict there this year’s contest has been moved to nearby Tularosa.

Las Cruces High had a rare down season in 2005, going 3-8 and losing 42-6 to CHS in the first round of the 5A playoffs. But Kelley said the Bulldawgs have provided Clovis with a good preseason test since the teams started getting together in preseason in the mid-90s.

“The thing about Cruces is they’ll be very well-coached,” Kelley said. “The nice thing about scrimmaging them is they’ll make you better and show you where you’re weaknesses are.”

Junior defensive back Jaden Isler agreed that the team’s play improved on Saturday over the previous couple of days.

“We didn’t hit at all on Thursday, but we’ve made an effort to get better every day,” said Isler, who saw most of his varsity action last year on special teams. “We just had to get some fire under us.

“We’re young, but we’ve been picking it up quick. Everyone’s really starting to learn their positions.”

With a host of players to replace from last year’s 12-2 squad which reached the state Class 5A finals, the Cats expected some growing pains.

“They’re trying to learn everything and going twice as fast as ever before,” Kelley said of the varsity newcomers. “The goal between now and the (start of the) season is to find out who can play and where.

“They’ve got to realize the intensity is what they control. I’d rather have a kid that goes hard and makes a mistake as opposed to someone who doesn’t go hard.”

Kelley said junior split end-defensive back Bryce Hill, junior guard Dominique Chairez and senior tight end Michael Lewis have played well in early practices.

The Cats open the season against the team which handed them their only losses last season, Las Cruces Mayfield, in a 7 p.m. kickoff on Aug. 25 at Leon Williams Stadium.

Isler said he’s looking forward to the scrimmage.

“We’re going to see where we’re at,” he said. “Hopefully, we’re as far a long as we need to be.”

Two potential starters, junior offensive tackle Daniel Segovia (high blood pressure) and senior defensive lineman Chris Riviers (torn knee cartilage), have been sidelined the past few days but could return soon, Kelley said, adding that Riviers will be fitted with a knee brace in the next few days.