Clovis High fullback Manuel Robles lays out out Rio Rancho’s T.J. Harris (28), clearing the way for Brian Mead during the Wildcats’ 36-33 win over Rio Rancho on Friday at Leon Williams Stadium. (CNJ staff photo: Andy DeLisle)
By Greg Price: CNJ sports writer
What happened: Senior running back Brian Mead rushed for three touchdowns and 220 yards on 36 carries as Clovis downed Rio Rancho 36-33 in a game made close by the Cats’ special teams’ mistakes.
Rio Rancho junior running back Marcus Williams rushed for 115 yards on 15 carries and caught two passes for 68 yards, including a 58-yard touchdown reception that cut Clovis’ lead to 36-33. Williams would later fumble on the Rams next possession, enabling the Cats to run the clock out.
Clovis muffed a punt in the third quarter that set up a 21-yard touchdown pass from Rams senior quarterback Chris Charley to senior wideout Noah Wolfe, giving Rio Rancho a 26-21 lead.
Clovis answered with a 79-yard drive capped by a 1-yard touchdown rush by junior quarterback Jordan Mendoza for a 29-26 lead. A 37-yard halfback option pass from senior Cade Wheeler to senior wideout Bryce Hill set up Mendoza’s score.
Junior running back Manuel Robles returned a kick off 91 yards for a touchdown with 6:56 left in the third quarter, giving Clovis a seemingly comfortable 21-12 lead. Robles finished with 47 yards on nine carries.
Why it happened: Mental mistakes by the special teams almost cost Clovis the game for the second consecutive week. The muffed punt in the third quarter was the second one in as many games for the Wildcats.
Clovis assistant coach Darren Kelley felt the defense had a few lapses.
“This week we were able to play hard. We did a better job of blocking up front and taking it down field,” Kelley said. “Defensively we’ve just got to get smarter.”
Records: Rio Rancho 2-3, Clovis 3-2.
Offensive heroes: Mead rushed for three scores and 220 yards on 36 carries. Mead now has 883 yards rushing in five games this season.
Notes: Senior wide receiver Michael Lewis returned to the Wildcat lineup Friday after missing a week with an ankle injury. Lewis caught a pass for a two-point conversion that put the Cats up 14-6 early in the third.
Clovis junior cornerback Derrick Phillips picked off a pass by Charley in the end zone to hinder the Rams’ last possession of the first half. It was Phillips first interception of the year.