Clovis High fullback Manuel Robles shrugs off Goddard’s Gabriel Flores at the Wool Bowl in Roswell on Friday. (CNJ staff photo: Andy DeLisle)
By Greg Price: CNJ sports writer
ROSWELL — With 9:49 remaining in the first half of Clovis’ eventual 35-21 victory over Goddard Friday night, the homestanding Rockets began a drive that led to their first touchdown of the night.
Jay Johnson, Goddard’s multi-talented athlete who played five different positions Friday night, burst through the Cats’ frontline and started to breakaway for a touchdown.
Senior safety Kolt Merren, part of a Clovis defense which struggled out of the gate against the Rockets, zoned in on Johnson and brought him down at the Cats’ 19-yard line, preventing the touchdown but after a 67-yard gain.
“We came out in the first half and played like we didn’t care,” CHS assistant coach Darren Kelley said. “We allowed them to score two touchdowns that they should have never had.
“We did a better job in the second half being aggressive, and we shut ’em down.”
Johnson eventually scored on a 6-yard run, but Merren’s play was indicative of a Clovis defense that wouldn’t quit even when it was down.
“We stepped it up,” Merren said of the second half. “We added a lot of heart and played with a lot of heart.”
Johnson was the main focus for the Cats on defense, Merren said, prompting them to study his moves all week long.
The Rockets positioned most of their rushes up the middle, taking advantage of a Clovis defense missing junior linebacker Taylor Muse, who turned his ankle earlier in the week.
Kelley said Muse was missed up front, but it was the defense’s lack of effort that ultimately led to the Rockets’ touchdowns.
Before Friday, the Cats’ defense allowed 20.8 points per game, compared to the 28 points averaged by the offense. After the defensive improvement in the second half, that differential remained intact.
On the offensive side of the ball, Clovis never threw a pass and ran on all 42 of its plays. Yet the strategy continues to trouble defenses due to running backs Manuel Robles and Brian Mead.
Mead now has 1,171 yards rushing this season after tallying 278 yards on 27 carries on Friday.
His longest rush of the night was a 49-yarder for the Cats’ first touchdown. Mead broke past the Rockets’ line and picked up a blistering block by smallish senior wide receiver Keaton Howell between the hashes.
Robles complemented Mead with 161 yards rushing on 12 carries, but also topped Mead’s longest rush with touchdown sprints of 67 and 52 yards.
“You can’t argue when you break a 60-yard run for a touchdown,” Kelley said. “We’d like to keep it and go five yards at a time and eat the whole clock up, but the nice thing about Brian and Manuel is they can go 50 or 60 yards anytime they touch the football.”