Sandia’s Derris Jackson dives for extra yards against Clovis High in Friday’s Class 5A state quarterfinal game at Leon Williams Stadium. (CNJ staff photo: Andy DeLisle)
By Greg Price: CNJ sports writer
At no point during the 2006 season had Clovis’ locker room been so quiet.
In a game that came down to the wire, Sandia beat the Wildcats 24-21 in a Class 5A state quarterfinal Friday night at Leon Williams Stadium.
Senior quarterback Derris Jackson rushed for 147 yards and two touchdowns and threw for 115 yards and another touchdown to lead the Matadors (11-1), who face top-seeded Mayfield (11-0) in a 1 p.m. semifinal on Saturday in Las Cruces. The Trojans shut out La Cueva 31-0 on Friday night.
“We’re just going to enjoy this one tonight,” Matadors coach Kevin Barker said, “and worry about the Trojans tomorrow.”
Senior running back Brian Mead led the Cats (7-4) with 117 yards and all three of Clovis’ touchdowns.
“When it comes down to it the two things were we turned it over,” Clovis assistant coach Darren Kelley said, “and we didn’t tackle (Jackson).”
The Cats committed four turnovers in the game.
“Coming in, we knew that if we could slow down their running game we’d have a chance to win,” Barker said, “because that’s the best running game I’ve seen in high school football since I’ve been involved with it.”
Still, the Cats couldn’t overcome the more athletic Matadors.
“They have some great athletes on their team,” Kelley said. “It’s just disappointing to the seniors because you don’t want to go out that way.”
Clovis held the Matadors to a 28-yard field goal by junior Alex Guiterrez with 7:04 remaining, but that would prove to be the difference.
After a 42-yard kickoff return by junior Manuel Robles, the Cats drove 43 yards on five plays, capped by a 10-yard touchdown burst by Mead, to close to 24-21 with 4:52 left in the game.
The Matadors got two first downs on their next series before punting the ball back with 1:03 left.
Forced to throw with the ball on his own 31-yard line, Clovis junior Jordan Mendoza’s pass was intercepted by Sandia’s Michael Scarlett with 39 seconds remaining, and the Matadors ran out the rest of the clock.
“They put us in a hole and we had to throw the ball a little bit more than normal,” Kelley said. “When we throw the ball, we have to be able to execute it.”
Mendoza went 8-of-13 passing for 67 yards, but tossed three interceptions.
Clovis was down 14-7 at the half, but held the Matadors scoreless in the third quarter and knotted the game at 14 on a 26-yard scamper by Mead with 10:23 remaining.
Jackson responded with a 46-yard touchdown run, breaking four tackles along the right sideline, then sprinting to the left side for the score with 8:17 left.
“We just had too many athletes today,” said Scarlett, a senior wide receiver-free safety. “They’re a good team and we’re a good team. It’s what a playoff game is all about.”
On Clovis’ next possession, Mead fumbled on the Cats’ 16-yard line, and senior linebacker Troy Barnes recovered for Sandia at the 14.