Cats outlast Rio Rancho

Clovis High’s Derrick Phillips avoids Andrew Mastriano after a second-quarter interception. Clovis beat Rio Rancho 36-33. (Staff photo: Andy DeLisle)

CNJ staff

For the second-straight week, Clovis was plagued by mental mistakes. At least this week, Clovis managed to escape with a win.

Brian Mead rushed for 220 yards and three touchdowns, including the game-winner with five minutes left, enabling Clovis to escape with a 36-33 victory over Rio Rancho in Friday’s homecoming game at Leon Williams Stadium.

The teams combined for 57 points in the second half, including back-to-back kickoff returns for TDs by Clovis’ Manuel Robles and Rio Rancho’s Andrew Mastriano.

Special team mistakes again hurt Clovis — the Wildcats muffed a punt and had two extra-point tries and a punt blocked in last week’s 32-26 overtime loss to Palo Duro.

In addition to Mastriano’s 75-yard kickoff return, Clovis muffed a punt later in the third quarter, which led to a a 21-yard touchdown pass by Chris Charley to senior wide out Noah Wolfe and a 26-21 Rams lead.

“We played hard for four quarters. We made the big mistake, but we played hard,” Clovis assistant coach Darren Kelley said. “We need to get smarter defensively. There’s no reason we should give up a kickoff return.”

Clovis (3-2) took the lead for good at the start of the fourth quarter, with senior Jordan Mendoza scoring on a 1-yard run to cap a 79-yard drive highlighted by a 37-yard halfback option pass by senior Cade Wheeler to Bryce Hill.

“I’ve been running (the play) since I’ve always played running back,” Wheeler said. “I wasn’t really too nervous. I remembered what my dad always told me about throwing a ball.”

Mead’s 15-yard touchdown run gave Clovis a seemingly comfortable 36-26 lead with 5:06 left in the fourth.

However, Rio Rancho (2-3) and Marcus Williams were not done.

Williams took a Charley pass 58 yards for a score with 4:46 remaining in the fourth.

However, Rio Rancho didn’t touch the ball again as Clovis picked up enough first downs to run out the clock.

Besides a fourth-quarter fumble, Williams did little in trying to lead the Rams to their first win over Clovis.

The Rio Rancho junior rushed for 121 yards and a touchdown and caught a pair of TD passes from Charley.

Charley completed 6-of-11 passes for 129 yards and three TDs for the Rams (2-3).

Both team struggled to move the ball in the first half before the second-half shootout.

The Clovis offense struggled early as Mendoza fumbled a handoff to Mead on the team’s second play of the game. Mead gained small yardage on his carries until he swept around the Rams line for 26 yards, setting up Clovis’ first score.

“Every team (Clovis) plays, it’s the Super Bowl for them,” Kelley said. “It’s the biggest game of the year, and they have to be prepared for that.”