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Clovis takes district title with win

link Staff photo: Kevin Wilson

Clovis senior Christian Caldwell hauls in a reception Friday night at Leon Williams Stadium. The third-down reception kept alive a drive that eventually ended with a touchdown in the 35-29 Clovis victory.

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Down at Ralph Bowyer Stadium, Carlsbad and Alamogordo were tied at 12 in the second half.

Up at Leon Williams Stadium, Clovis made sure it didn’t matter. The Wildcats roared back from a disappointing first half and made the plays they needed for a 35-29 victory over Hobbs to claim the first District 4-6A title.

Clovis (5-5, 3-0), winners of four straight since starting the season 1-5, are all but likely to be the only 4-6A team to receive a seed in the 12-team Class 6A playoffs. The top four seeds receive a first-round bye, while the next four seeds host the opening-week games.

Seedings will be announced Saturday night.

Wildcat coach Eric Roanhaus hopes Clovis is one of those teams hosting a game next week, but admitted he has “no clue” how the New Mexico Activities Association will treat the Wildcats after beating three district opponents that finished a combined 11-19.

“We’re a district champion,” Roanhaus said, “in a district the NMAA put us in. We should be a top-eight seed, at least I think. We were district runnerup (in 2010), got a 10 seed, went up there and kicked (Highland’s tails).”

Paced largely by sophomore Micah Gray’s 24-carry, 181-yard, four-touchdown night, Clovis outgained the rival Eagles 220-139 after intermission and also forced a crucial pair of turnovers.

“In the locker room at the half, our seniors were talking a lot,” said Gray, who scored on runs of 28, 13, 38 and 2 yards. “I wanted to do it for them. They work hard for me, and I wanted to work hard for them.”

Heading into that second half, the Eagles were up 14-7 and in an advantageous position ... sort of. Due to district tiebreakers, the Eagles need to beat Clovis and hope Carlsbad didn’t beat Alamogordo. The Cavemen (2-8, 2-1) went on to win 33-28, meaning the Eagles would have had to beat Clovis by 12 to be district champions.

But Clovis had no plans on backing into the playoffs, and took the momentum with the first three drives of the second half.

The Wildcats scored on the opening drive with Juan San Juan taking a counter to the left for 21 yards, but got into position with consecutive third-down catches from Christian Caldwell (10 yards), Roland Chavez (11) and Gray (13).

“We just came out with a lot more determination,” Caldwell said. “We don’t lose to Hobbs, especially at home. We told our receivers, ‘You get the ball thrown to you, you squeeze it and you get yards.’”

Hobbs looked to answer right back, as Jeremy Padilla ripped through the defense on a screen pass. But senior Kaine Bender ripped the ball loose, and Clovis scored four plays later with a 30-yard field.

“They convert three third downs, and that’s what we weren’t able to do,” Hobbs coach Charles Gleghorn said. “We throw a good screen to Jeremy, and then we get the ball taken away. That was pretty much it.”

Hobbs did retake narrow leads twice, including quarterback Isaac Amaya’s 21-yard quick draw up the gut with 8:35 to go. But Clovis responded with a seven-play drive finished off by Gray, and Bender intercepted a deep ball on a fourth-down play with 93 seconds to play.

Padilla led the Eagles with 138 yards of offense, including 65 yards rushing and a 1-yard touchdown to close the first half and a 8-yard score on the game’s opening drive as part of a 10-catch, 73-yard receiving night.

Amaya went 28-of-37 for 238 yards, including a 2-yard score to Torian Lintz.