Clovis High’s Michael Howard, left, and Luke Masters tackle Rio Rancho’s Sabino Vidaurri on Friday at Leon Williams Stadiumduring the Wildcats’ 36-33 win. (CNJ staff photo: Andy DeLisle)
By Greg Price: CNJ sports writer
First-year Clovis quarterback Jordan Mendoza knew he would not be called on to throw 30 times a game — not in program that has built its reputation behind a strong running game and stout defense.
Leadership and intelligence are the qualities to being a successful quarterback at Clovis, Mendoza said.
“I feel I’m in charge of getting the offense going and calmed down,” Mendoza said. “So if something goes wrong on a play, I’m supposed to be in the huddle and talk to the team about it and make sure they’re calm. I’m supposed to be a leader on and off the field.”
Mendoza has completed 17 of 32 passes for 237 yards and two touchdowns to complement a Clovis running game averaging 290 yards a game.
“I knew we weren’t going to be a passing team this year,” Mendoza said. “I’m the guy that’s supposed to come up with the big block, instead of the big pass play.”
Mendoza, a 6-foot-2, 180-pound junior was named the starter after Clovis decided to keep senior Rishard Matthews at wide receiver. Matthews moved to California in the second week of the season.
“He did some good things in the 7-on-7s,” Clovis assistant coach Darren Kelley said of Mendoza. “He’s done a great job not making big mistakes. And being confident to take us down field.”
The Wildcats (3-2) will need Mendoza’s leadership today as they hit the road to challenge Goddard (4-1) at the Wool Bowl in Roswell in a non-district match-up.
The Class 4A Rockets run multiple sets on offense and are equally adept at running and passing, Kelley said.
“Defensively the big thing is getting lined up and making sure everyone knows where they’re supposed to be,” Kelley said. “Offensively (Goddard’s) sound, well-coached, and they’re gonna execute what they have.”
Kelley acknowledged many of the Rockets’ strengths are the same things Clovis has struggled with in its past two games.
In a 32-26 loss OT at Palo Duro, the Cats had to deal with a pass-first offense for the first time all season. Clovis eventually lost that game due to botched special teams play and a lack of focus down the stretch.
Mendoza said after the stunning loss to then winless Palo Duro, a 4A Texas team, they’re not about to overlook anybody.
“Even though it’s a 4A (team), we have to play it like it means a lot to us,” Mendoza said. “We can’t take it easy though cause you never know.”
Goddard seniors Richard Moreno and Jay Johnson exude offensive versatility, Kelley said. Each takes turns under center, with Moreno switching to wide receiver and Johnson to running back when they aren’t at quarterback.
Moreno displayed his speed last week against Portales, returning a kick off 82 yards for a touchdown.
The Rockets can also put points on the board early, something the Cats offense struggled with against Palo Duro and Rio Rancho.
“We know we can’t take it easy or a play off,” Mendoza said. “If we take a play off then they can come back and turn it around.”