Clovis seniors Phillip Williams, left, and Jacob Jones were dressed for the cold weather during practice Thursday at the high school. CNJ photo: Eric Kluth
Rick White: CNJ managing editor
The Clovis Wildcats have long considered the cold and the wind their allies — Mother Nature’s test of guts on the gridiron.
They know that Leon Williams Stadium can be an uncomfortable place come mid-November, when a body-numbing cold front can turn the mild and meek into a human popsicle.
It’s all about the proper mindset Clovis assistant coach Darren Kelley said — if you don’t mind, it don’t matter.
“We talk to the kids all the time about the fact that the cold is something we can’t control and both teams have to play in it,” Kelley said. “If you’re playing in late November or in December, you’re going to have bad weather.”
Players are different when it comes to combating the cold.
Wildcats senior cornerback Jacob Jones will pack on an extra five to 10 pounds in an undergarments in anticipation of near-freezing temperatures and possible snow showers when Clovis hosts Cibola tonight in a District 4-5A game that ends the regular season.
“I don’t really like the cold,” the 6-foot-1, 150-pound Jones admitted sheepishly. “It hurts more when you get hit.”
Jones said he’ll wear three layers of clothing on his legs and three of four layers on his upper body.
That’s two of three more layers of clothing senior defensive end Jason Burns will wear. Of course at 6-1 and 235 pounds, Burns has a little more meat on his bones.
“I started the season wearing nothing under my uniform and that’s what I’ll keep doing,” said Burns, the Wildcats’ leading tackler. “You get a little bit cold when the offense is on the field but not when we’re playing defense.”
In addition to the expected wintery weather, Clovis and Cibola don’t have much more than pride to play for tonight.
Clovis (6-3, 3-0 district) has already clinched the district title and a home game in the first round of the state playoffs.
“Everybody is tired of practicing,” Jones said. “It’s been kind of hard to focus. But it’s been a little better the last couple of days.”
Cibola coach Ben Shultz knows he faces a different challenge. The Cougars (4-5, 1-2) have already been eliminated from playoff contention.
“It’s a tough way to end the season,” Shultz said. “We’re not used to playing a game that doesn’t matter. But we had the ball in our hands and didn’t get it done.”
Cibola was eliminated by last week’s 24-17 loss to Sandia.
“We’re just going to come out and play football,” said Shultz, in his 12th season at the Albuquerque school. “It’s going to be an experience they’re going to remember one way or another.
“In our opinion, playing in Clovis on a Friday night is what football in New Mexico is all about.”
The Wildcats clinched the district title last week when Hobbs and Cibola lost.
As one of the team’s senior leaders, Burns isn’t buying into the idea the Wildcats have nothing to play for. “We need to come out and show everybody we deserve to be district champs.”