By Kevin Wilson
CNJ STAFF WRITER
The Class 5A playoffs will be seeded Saturday evening in Albuquerque, but it already has to feel like the playoffs have started for the Clovis Wildcats with a rollercoaster season that has felt fast to its players.
“Extremely fast,” senior linebacker Bryan Abernathy said.
Clovis (4-5, 0-1 District 4-5A) heads into tonight’s regular season finale assuming they’re already in an elimination situation, but the Carlsbad Cavemen represent Clovis’ ticket into the playoffs.
A win against the Cavemen (6-3, 1-0) would have likely put the Wildcats into Class 5A’s 12-team playoff field no matter what, but thanks to Carlsbad’s 35-21 win over Hobbs last week the Wildcats have a shot at their third straight district championship.
A Clovis win would create a three-way tie with Hobbs, Clovis and Carlsbad at 1-1. With district point differential as the next determining factor, Clovis (minus-2) must beat Carlsbad (plus-13) by eight or more to win the district.
A Carlsbad win gives the Cavemen an outright district title, and a Clovis win by seven or less results in a Carlsbad title via tiebreaker. The idle Eagles, a minus-11 in district point differential, cannot win district but is hopeful that a 7-3 record plus its 30-28 win over the Wildcats is enough to garner a playoff berth.
District champions are guaranteed a playoff berth, and a home game regardless of seed. A Clovis loss would leave the Wildcats’ playoff hopes in serious jeopardy, and a win without a district championship would give the purple and white a road game to start what could be a very tough playoff road.
“If you don’t win the game (by eight), it’s really bad,” Abernathy said. “We might get a seed, but we’d probably be playing a No. 5 or No. 6 seed right off the bat.”
Thanks to top-heavy Class 5A standings, where the top four teams are a combined 34-2 and the bottom four teams are a combined 3-33, there’s plenty of competition in the middle and two to three 5-5 teams could enter the 12-team playoff field.
“I feel like all three district teams can make the playoffs,” Clovis coach Eric Roanhaus said, despite early season concerns that only the 4-5A champ could garner a seed in an Albuquerque-heavy bracket. “If we win by eight, we’re the district champions. We’ve got to win; that’s the key point.”
Behind senior Rodney Holcomb, the Cavemen have run a balanced offense, averaging 189.6 yards on the rush and 178.9 on the pass. Holcomb himself has passed for 18 touchdowns against nine interceptions, with 1,585 yards on 164 completions.
“The quarterback can really run and throw,” Roanhaus said of Holcomb. “He’s 6-5 and 255, he can run and he can throw well. They’ve got a good running back and a couple of good receivers. They present a lot of problems offensively. Defensively, they’re tough and aggressive.”
By comparison, the Wildcats have attempted only 89 passes, and have gained 2,644 of their 3,284 yards on the ground — largely behind senior Kamal Cass’ 1,874 yards and 24 touchdowns.
Carlsbad coach Ron Arrington, who could not be reached for comment, told the Carlsbad Current-Argus any defensive plan starts with Cass and the strategy is “tackle by committee.”
Carlsbad (6-3, 1-0) at Clovis (4-5, 0-1)
7 p.m. today, Leon Williams Stadium
On the radio: KCLV-AM 1240, KCLV-FM 99.1, KTQM-FM 99.9.
Coaches: Carlsbad, Ron Arrington, seventh season, 37-37; Clovis, Eric Roanhaus, 36th season, 320-127-5.
Last week: The Cavemen defeated Hobbs 35-21 at home, essentially turning tonight’s contest into the District 4-5A title game. Clovis has been idle since losing at Hobbs 30-28 on Oct. 25.
Last meeting: 2012, Clovis edged the Cavemen 34-29. Clovis leads the overall series 41-21 and has won nine of the last 10, but the last three games have been decided by a total of 14 points.
Meaning: A Carlsbad win would give the Cavemen the outright district championship, and leave Clovis in danger of missing the Class 5A playoffs for the first time since 2000. A Clovis win would create a three-way tie in the district, with the winner determined by point differential in district games. Heading into Friday, Carlsbad is at plus-13, followed by Clovis at minus-2 and Hobbs at minus-11. A Clovis win of eight or more gives the Wildcats a district title, while a Clovis win by seven or less gives the Cavemen the district title via tiebreaker.
Common opponents: Both teams have faced Hobbs, along with Artesia and Goddard. Carlsbad is 2-1 in these games, with a 41-21 win over Artesia and a 28-10 loss to Goddard. Clovis is also 2-1, with a 48-17 win over Artesia and a 31-28 win over Goddard.
Cavemen players to watch: QB Rodney Holcomb, Sr., 6-5, 215,; TE Shakur Smith, Jr., 6-1, 200; RB Elijah McCoy, Jr., 5-9, 165.