By Kevin Wilson
Even though they’re the biggest guys on the field, the biggest key to being a Clovis Wildcat lineman is to find a balance.
Be aggressive, but don’t overplay. Be physical, but not dirty. Treat it like a fist fight, but don’t get into a fist fight.
You know you’ve found your balance if the job is done right. The running back can walk through the line into the end zone. The quarterback has enough time to scan the entire field before deciding where to throw it. The 6-yard plays become 60-yard plays.
“Do your job, be as physical as possible,” is the basic credo, according to line coach Chuck Jordan said.
Games are decided on the scoreboard, but they’re usually won or lost in the trenches. And fortunately, that’s where a Wildcat team full of youth is most experienced.
Clovis entered the season with an all-senior offensive line, though that may be on hiatus for a few weeks as Josh Gomez recovers from an MCL injury.
“He’s a good player,” tackle Alejandro Perez said of Gomez. “He’s reliable. He knows what to do, he knows his plays.”
But, with the unit the Wildcats have, that description could fit a lot of Gomez’ teammates too.
“I have a lot of confidence in the line this year. We’re experienced, we know what we’re doing.”
The continuity could prove pivotal, with linebackers and corners learning the new 4-2-5 defense and the offensive skill players pretty much new across the board — including junior Daulton Hatley at quarterback and Juan San Juan as the most experienced of a flock of potential running backs.
“He’s a really consistent quarterback,” Stanfield said of Hatley. “We don’t have Kamal, but we have a good backfield. We have six receivers that will be good for us.”
The line crew is mostly senior-led, with Perez and Stanfield joining center Ago Jimenez, guard Jorge Lazoya, tackles Isaiah Callahan and Derrick Brown and defensive end Brian McCormick. David Griego and Brandon Blue are among the juniors who could garner snaps, as well.
The group takes their cues from Jordan, a 1993 Clovis grad who was a tackle for the 1990 and 1991 Class 4A champion Wildcat squads. The players said Jordan stresses technique above all else, to which Jordan says good technique can alleviate size disadvantages or make a bigger guy dominant.
Most of all, Jordan says, “Be the hitter.” He notes that with the lienmen he’s taught, players who don’t shy away from contact are the most likely to succeed regardless of other factors.
Stanfield went from the line to the tight end position when his growth spurt hit, then went back to the line two years ago when Clovis had a rash of injuries. He’s been there since, and he said the position requires a different approach from the skill guys.
“More of it’s physical,” Stanfield said. “Mentally, you’ve got to stay on your train tracks, as we call it. Stick with your blocking scheme. If you have that down, most of it’s physical.”
Perez, whose family moved for hte military beore coming to Clovis when he was 8, has been a lineman since he started playing in sixth grade. It’s the only football world he’s known, one where linemen don’t get the publicity that the other positions do and their name yelled out probably means they blew an assignment. Perez reasons that you sign up for that world when you become a lineman.
“Coaches tell us the linemen don’t get all the fame,” Perez said. “Skill players get more of the talks with the media. We’re just told to bear with it. But whenever the skill people talk, they try to give us recognition.”