Clovis High’s Jayme Nauman (9) heads the ball over Artesia’s Quintin Navarrette during the Wildcats’ 7-2 victory over the Bulldogs on Tuesday at Yucca Soccer Complex. (CNJ staff photo: Andy DeLisle)
By Greg Price: CNJ sports writer
Clovis High senior Scott Elliott wasn’t going to let a little thing like an ankle injury slow him up.
Late in the first half, with his team trailing 2-1, Elliott had to come out after an Artesia player inadvertently kicked him in the ankle. But he returned to score 15 seconds into the second half and the Wildcats went on to rout the Bulldogs 7-2 on Tuesday night at Yucca Soccer Complex.
Junior forward Luis Esparza scored two goals for the Cats (9-1-1), who are easily off to the best start in coach Shaun Gill’s five seasons at the school.
“The guys started to take the game seriously,” Clovis head coach Shaun Gill said about his team’s play in the second half. “At the half we told (the team) that they were better than the team they were playing.”
The Cats netted four goals in the second half, and also benefited from two own-goals by the Bulldogs (6-2).
“I guess we’ve gained the reputation of being a second-half team,” Elliott said. “We shouldn’t have been behind at all. We knew we could beat them.”
Despite the lopsided loss, Gill called Artesia a much-improved team from last year, and credited the Bulldogs for their tough win over Carlsbad last weekend.
Junior forward Jose Ramirez scored the game’s first goal for Artesia with 30:34 left in the first half. Esparza answered that goal moments later with his first of the night at 28:53 in the first half.
Clovis found itself down again in the first period after Bulldogs senior fullback Blake Ledbetter scored off a crisp cross pass from junior midfielder Roberto Munoz.
“Coach said at the half we had to pass better,” Esparza said. “If it wasn’t for teamwork we wouldn’t have been able to win.”
Artesia coach Alfredo Navarette said his team became frustrated in the second half and started to rush its play.
“We had trouble keeping our heads in the game,” Navarette said. “We had trouble with communication, and when communication is not there it hurts the entire team’s play.”
Clovis capitalized on Artesia’s mistakes by attacking the flanks and making better passes, Gill said.
As the team’s passing improved, Esparza put the Wildcats on top for good as he headed home his second goal of the game with 37:36 left in the second half.