Clovis junior running back Manuel Robles will be a key factor tonight against La Cueva. (CNJ correspondent: Nick Layman)
By Greg Price: CNJ sports writer
Clovis High senior linemen Brenton Hartel and Brandon Ayres feel they’re up for the challenge of facing a massive La Cueva line that includes a pair of Division I signees.
It’s there job to punch enough holes in the La Cueva’s front wall to spring speedy Clovis running backs Brian Mead and Manuel Robles into the secondary.
“We’re not as big as they are,” said Ayres, a 6-foot, 245-pound center. “But we can get the job done.”
The Bears defensive line is led by returning seniors Brett Kennedy (6-2, 255) and Michael Muniz (6-4, 265).
Tonight’s meeting at Leon Williams Stadium will be the fourth time the teams have meet in the last three years.
Clovis edged La Cueva 10-7 in Albuquerque last year, however, in 2004, La Cueva beat Clovis twice by the score of 40-0, including the state title game in Clovis.
The state final win capped off back-to-back unbeaten seasons for La Cueva.
Clovis assistant coach Darren Kelley said a team as dominant as La Cueva’s 2004 squad only comes around once in a lifetime.
Kelley said the Wildcats feel they have a good handle on what the Bears are going to do.
“I expect them to come in and try to just roll over us,” Kelley said. “They’re not gonna change anything from what they’ve been doing in the past.”
He knows this because La Cueva, like Clovis, doesn’t want to mess with what has worked in the past.
In last year’s win at La Cueva, the Wildcats threw the ball three times.
Kelley said Clovis’ game plan won’t be much different tonight.
The Wildcats hope to grind La Cueva down with defense and follow up with a strong rushing attack to control the clock.
Mead has proven himself as CHS’ most potent offensive threat. Last week against Eldorado, he rushed for 203 yards on 29 carries.
“Brian is doing a great job being a leader,” Kelley said. “On Friday and in practice. He leads by example.”
But it isn’t just Mead’s responsibility to find the weaknesses along La Cueva’s line. Junior Manuel Robles rushed for 148 yards against Eldorado, including a back-breaking 77-yard TD run.
“We’re gonna play our game,” Hartel said. “And I think we’re in better shape than they are.”
While the game plan is clearly laid out, Kelley said the team needs to work on playing hard every down.
“We got to play more physical and aggressive,” he said. “And we’ve had our best practices this week.”
La Cueva did not play last week, but started the season off with a 17-14 victory over Los Lunas.
La Cueva at Clovis
7 p.m. today
Leon Williams Stadium
Records: Clovis (1-1), La Cueva (1-0)
Coaches: La Cueva, Fred Romero, 7th year; Clovis, Eric Roanhaus, 29th year.
Last meeting: 2005, Clovis beat La Cueva 10-7.
Last week: La Cueva was idle. Clovis beat Eldorado 34-14.
La Cueva players to watch: Brett Kennedy, 6-2, 255, Sr., DL/OL; Michael Muniz, 6-4, 265, Sr., DL/OL; Thomas Reinhardt, 6-0, 290, Sr., C/DT.
Keys to game: Both teams like to keep the ball on the ground. Clovis relies on the RB combination of senior Brian Mead and junior Manuel Robles. Without a lead featured RB, La Cueva’s massive front line will be called on to do the dirty work for the Bears.