Cats win in 3 OTs
Clovis senior Travis Loomis jumps into the arms of a teammate Jason Burns after the Wildcats defense held Carlsbad from scoring in the third overtime of Friday’s game at Leon Williams Stadium. CNJ photo by Eric Kluth.
With the clock winding down, Clovis’ chances of winning the District 4-5A title appeared to be slipping away. A bobbled exchange on a reverse left the Wildcats with fourth-and-18 at the Carlsbad 41, trailing by eight points, and in need of a big play.
Backup wide receiver Elliott Hita supplied what they needed, leaping high over a Carlsbad defender to haul in a 37-yard pass at the Caveman 4. That was the pivotal play as Clovis went on to beat Carlsbad 31-24 in triple overtime.
“When we scored (to tie the game) it changed the momentum and we were able to feed off of that,” Clovis assistant coach Darren Kelley said. “Even when (Carlsbad) scored the first time in overtime the kids still thought they were going to win the game.”
John Props floated a 6-yard touchdown pass to tight end Mario Caswell in the back of the end zone for the game-winner as Clovis won its second District 4-5A title in three seasons at chilly Leon Williams Stadium.
“The kids never quit. They might have had some doubts, but they never quit,” Kelley said. “We had some kids step up tonight and do some great things.”
Both teams came into the game undefeated in district play.
Winners of seven straight, Clovis (8-2, 4-0 in district) will host District 5-1A runner-up Rio Grande at 2 p.m. Saturday in the first round of the state playoffs.
Before a 34-28 win over Manzano two weeks ago, Clovis (8-2, 4-0 in district) had been involved in a series of blowout wins and losses that left coaches wondering if the Wildcats could handle pressure.
“We had a lot doubters, especially after the first game (an embarrassing 32-7 loss to Mayfield),” Kelley said. “But these kids have proved a lot of people wrong.”
Hita, in the game because Ben Teconchuk (four catches for 72 yards) had leg cramps, was so excited after the game he had trouble talking.
“It was a two-man route,” Hita said. “I looked back for the ball and at first I didn’t see it. Then I just jumped and tried to catch the ball at its highest point.”
Props said he was praying when he let go of the pass.
“When I dropped back to pass, I looked at the post and it was covered,” Props said. “Elliott was covered too, so I just tried to throw it where he could get it.”
Racing down the left sideline, the 6-foot-1 Hita outleaped Carlsbad cornerback Justin Yanez and came down just inbounds.
Phillip Williams scored on the next play from 4 yards out to pull Clovis within 14-12 with 1:57 left and Props passed to Jacob Jones for the game-tying PAT.
Props finished 8 of 14 for 130 yards, including a 44-yard strike to Teconchuk that set up Jason Seefeld’s second of three field goals, pulling Clovis within 14-6 with four minutes left in the third quarter.
Williams, who finished with 122 yards on 26 carries, also scored from 2 yards out in the first overtime.
Clovis offensive tackle senior Scott Fahsholtz, who pulled double duty late in the game at nose guard, said the Wildcats’ biggest win in two seasons should quiet the critics.
“It shows we’re a team,” said Fahsholtz, who batted down a pair of passes late in the final minute of the fourth quarter to stall a Carlsbad drive that reached the Clovis 36. “We just kept playing hard. This should show the people that doubted us we’re a team.”
Michael Munoz was a workhorse for the Cavemen, rushing for 170 yards and a touchdown. He also caught a 15-yard pass from Seth Fuller to give Carlsbad a 7-3 halftime lead.
“We put ourselves in position to win on the road, but Clovis made the big plays when they had to and got back in the game,” Carlsbad coach Kirk Potter said.
After Clovis scored first in the third overtime in which teams start at the 10-yard line, Carlsbad had a chance to tie the game, but Fuller was flushed from the pocket by defensive end Jarod Baldwin and threw incomplete on fourth-and-goal at the 6.
The Cavemen (8-3, 3-1) had already clinched a playoff berth, and will play at District 1-5A champion Cibola in the first round of the playoffs.
Carlsbad appeared in control of the game after turning the game’s only miscue, a blocked punt, into a 14-3 lead when Munoz bulled in from 2 yards out.
Potter said he might have got too conservative in his play calling after the score.
“We didn’t open it up,” Potter said. “Maybe we should have. But they were struggling to move the ball and we didn’t want to do anything stupid.”