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Rockets hand Cats 34-14 loss

Staff writer

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ROSWELL — The Clovis Wildcats and Goddard Rockets got off to one of the latest starts in New Mexico’s prep football season with a 7 p.m. Saturday kickoff. The Wildcats started even later, probably too late for their own good.

link Staff photo: Kevin Wilson

Clovis senior running back Juan San Juan carried the ball 21 times for 104 yards and caught an 18-yard touchdown pass in Saturday’s season opener at the Wool Bowl in Roswell, but the Wildcats absorbed a 34-14 loss from the Rockets.

Goddard dodged an early bullet when the Wildcats failed to score on a 20-yard field, then Cameron Neff went 88 yards on one run to jump-start the Rockets to a 34-14 win Saturday night at the Wool Bowl.

Neff carried 17 times for 195 yards and two scores and threw for another as the host Rockets never trailed and put the contest out of reach with three fourth-quarter scores.

“Hard, tough Goddard football,” said new Rockets head coach and longtime assistant Mike Whelan. “If they didn’t play as hard as they did, that score would have been opposite.”

The Rockets, who prided themselves in 24 years under Sam Jernigan as a team that never beat itself, very nearly did on their first possession deep in their own territory with a shanked punt that didn’t reach the offensive first-down marker.

“I just told them, ‘You can give up right now, or you can step it up and go,’” Whelan said.

And go the Rockets did. The Wildcats did little with the possession, or much else for a first half where they managed just 74 yards.

link Staff photo: Kevin Wilson

Clovis junior receiver Kurt Kelley sidesteps Goddard defender Dean McDaniel in the third quarter for a 31-yard gain.

“We got our butts kicked between one tackle and another tackle all night, and it was very evident,” Clovis coach Eric Roanhaus said. “We didn’t run the ball well. This is a tough game to play when you can’t run the football, and we weren’t very effective tonight. We weren’t effective throwing the ball either. We had kids open, we didn’t hit them, we got interceptions.”

Junior quarterback Daulton Hatley completed 11 passes for 109 yards, but had three balls intercepted, two in the first half.

The Clovis defense held strong in the first half, including a pair of fourth-down stops deep in their own territory, allowing the Wildcats to cut the deficit in half to open the third quarter. Juan San Juan, who rushed 21 times for 104 yards, took it 26 yards to finish a four-play, 82-yard drive to start the third quarter.

But the Wildcats stalled on the next possession after the defense held again, and Goddard gave itself a cushion when Neff finished off an 11-play drive with an 8-yard burst on the fourth quarter's first play.

The Wildcats scored only once more, an 18-yard San Juan reception midway through the fourth, but sealed their fate with early mistakes.

“We made a lot better decisions on the first drive,” Roanhaus said of the second half. “We get the ball back, we get that holding call. We executed at times, but It’s tough to beat a good running team when you don’t execute well, and we had some sloppy execution.”

Both teams go back to a Friday night home schedule next week. The Rockets host Piedra Vista, while Clovis takes on Cibola, a 44-20 winner on Friday over Albuquerque Academy.