Artesia quarterback Landry Jones gets pressure from Clovis defensive tackle Michael Cohen on a pass play during Friday night’s game at Leon Williams Stadium. (CNJ staff photo: Andy DeLisle)
By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer
Clovis High senior linebacker Cade Wheeler said the Wildcats knew about Artesia running back Jeremy Duran.
Still, seeing is believing, and they also knew they were going to have to deal with Artesia’s wide-open passing game on Friday night at Leon Williams Stadium.
Duran didn’t score in the game, but he found enough holes to compile 153 yards on 19 carries and help the Bulldogs (7-0), ranked No. 1 in Class 4A, notch a 34-26 victory over Class 5A’s second-ranked team.
Wheeler said that between the passing game and the added weapon provided by Duran, the Cats had their hands full.
“(The coaches) told us about the running back, but I don’t think we expected him to be able to do that well,” Wheeler said. “He’s pretty good.”
When standout quarterback Landry Jones began mixing in mostly short passes, it made it tough to know what was coming.
“The spread offense is awfully hard to defend, especially when you work all week on pass defense and then they come out and run the ball,” Wheeler said. “(Jones) is in the ‘Elite 11,’ meaning he’s one of the 11 best (prep) quarterbacks in the country. He’s extremely talented, and when you have a guy like that it’s like having a coach on the field.”
Artesia coach Cooper Henderson, whose team lost to the Cats 42-35 at home last season, was glad to get out of town still unbeaten.
“It’s definitely exciting,” he said. “This is a big victory for us. When you look at trying to improve, we’ve been able to do that, and we’re fortunate we’ve had a great schedule this year.
“I know things went our way tonight, but I still don’t have any doubt that Clovis will be there in the playoffs.”
Total yards were virtually even for the two teams, and Clovis (5-3) dominated time of possession in running 61 plays from scrimmage to 39 for the Bulldogs. Senior running back Brian Mead carried a whopping 36 times for 188 yards and three touchdowns.
Mistakes, mainly in the form of untimely penalties, were devastating.
CHS assistant coach and defensive coordinator Darren Kelley said the Cats must be sharp to beat the top teams on their schedule.
“We’ve got to do a better job of blocking and executing what’s called,” Kelley said. “Everybody had mental mistakes tonight. It definitely wasn’t a one-person meltdown.
“In order for us to go deep in the playoffs, we have to be able to beat good teams, and you can’t do that making mistakes.”
Kelley said he had hoped his platoon would be a bit more successful in containing Jones & Co.
“They’ve got two good receivers (Scott Poe and Caylan Hutson), a good quarterback and a good running back,” Kelley said. “Our hat’s off to them, but we didn’t play the way we’re capable of playing.”
Wheeler said having a short week — the Cats were coming off a road trip on Saturday to Cibola — was a factor, but not that much.
“To be a championship team you’ve got to be able to face adversity,” he said. “That’s what separates good teams from average teams.”
On the bright side, he said playing against a team like Artesia should be beneficial down the road. The Cats’ next opponent, Hobbs on Oct. 27 in the District 4-5A opener here, tries to play a similar style, Wheeler said.
“It prepares us for Hobbs because they run a spread offense as well,” he said. “But we’ll never face another quarterback like Landry Jones.”