Michael Cohen and Taylor Muse tackle Mayfield quarterback Mathew Sandoval in Clovis’ 21-13 loss on Friday at Leon Williams Stadium. (Staff photo: Andy DeLisle)
By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer
If the Mayfield Trojans are going to defend their Class 5A state football championship, it figures that Chris Hutchinson will be a major factor.
A key member of Mayfield’s run to the title last season, the senior wide receiver-defensive back scored on an interception and an 11-yard run in the third quarter to rally the Trojans to a season-opening 21-13 victory over Clovis High on Friday night at Leon Williams Stadium in a rematch of last year’s final.
“We call him ‘Clutch Hutch,’” said Mayfield coach Michael Bradley, in his first game as head coach after replacing his legendary father Jim at the helm. “He’s not real fast, but he always makes the big play.”
It is the fifth straight season Mayfield has beaten Clovis in the teams’ first game of the regular season.
The Wildcats stopped two Mayfield scoring bids during the first half and carried a 7-0 lead into the break on a 28-yard pass from junior Jordan Mendoza to senior Rishard Matthews late in the opening stanza. But the game turned on the first series of the third quarter.
Facing third-and-13, Hutchinson grabbed Mendoza’s overthrown pass intended for Matthews in the left flat and sprinted 28 yards for the tying score. It came one came after Matthews turned a short pass from Mendoza into a 43-yard gain, only to have it called back for illegal procedure.
Once they broke through, the Trojans began to take control. After forcing a Clovis punt, Mayfield went 79 yards in 11 plays for the go-ahead score, an 11-yard run by Hutchinson out of the slotback position.
Senior Brian Mead’s 56-yard run on the first play following the kickoff set up Matthews’ one-yard TD plunge from the halfback position in a Wishbone formation late in the period, but Robert North’s PAT kick was ruled wide right to keep the Trojans in front by a point.
Mayfield put the game away with an 80-yard, 10-play drive following the kickoff, capped by junior Enrique Herrera’s 7-yard run with 9:32 to go.
Junior quarterback Matt Sandoval led Mayfield’s attack with 128 yards rushing — including 89 in the second half — and made several key first downs with his legs in the late going.
“We didn’t turn Sandoval loose — he turned himself loose in the second half,” Michael Bradley said. “Once you get into a rhythm, he’s tough to stop. He’s a running back playing quarterback.”
The Trojans controlled the ball much of the game, running off 65 plays from scrimmage to 38 for the Cats. Mayfield finished witha 342-232 edge in total yardage.
Junior Manuel Robles finished with 95 yards on just five carries for the Cats, including three totes of more than 20 yards. Mead added 87 yards on 17 attempts.
“We were undisciplined and didn’t execute what was called,” CHS assistant coach Darren Kelley said. “But we’ll get better. “Everything that they hurt us with was a result of lack of discipline and concentration on our part.”
After their early score, the Cats appeared to be in position for more when Hutchinson fumbled a fair catch on a North punt, with Cade Wheeler recovering for Clovis at the Mayfield 45.
But an inadvertent whistle by an official nullified the play, forcing a rekick. North’s next try traveled only 11 yards, setting up the Trojans at the Clovis 34, but the Cats turned them away with a fourth-and-goal stop inside the one.
Late in the half, Mayfield’s Nathan Enriquez fumbled when hit by Wheeler on a sweep and Clovis’ Jaden Isler recovered at the Trojans’ 32. A desperation 48-yard field goal try by North into the wind fell about five yards short in the closing seconds of the half.
“We’ve got to be able to move the ball when we’ve got (a scoring) opportunity,” Kelley said. “We did some good things tonight along the way, but we didn’t do enough.”
Kelley added that the Cats have to get to where they practice more proficiently in preparation for a game.
“We’ve got to be able to take care of things from Monday through Thursday,” he said. “When you don’t work hard from Monday through Thursday, then Friday night’s aren’t fun.”