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CAT TRACKS: Cats' Kelley picks up needed yards in win

Staff writer

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ALBUQUERQUE — Small in stature and little-used throughout the season, nobody was really expecting Clovis junior Kurt Kelley to be the guy who moved the chains in key situations.

link Staff photo: Kevin Wilson

Clovis junior Kurt Kelley pulls in a reception against Sandia defender Jonas Schriber during Friday’s Class 6A first-round playoff game in Albuquerque. Kelley had 41 yards of offense in the Wildcats’ 21-7 win over the Matadors.

No, not Kelley either.

“It was a surprise to me,” said Kelley, who didn’t put up superstar numbers but got needed yards on four plays in Clovis’ 21-7 win over Sandia Friday. He had receptions of 6 and 7 yards, and runs of 12 and 17 yards on end-around rushes. The 12-yard run and 7-yard catch helped keep alive Clovis’ final first-half drive, which ended with a 6-yard Micah Gray touchdown catch.

“They were playing four deep, so we knew the six and the hook (routes) would be open all day,” Kelley said. “It was good blocking on both of those sweeps. Roland and Tucker blocked well.”

Coming in, the 5-foot-7 Kelley had one carry for 3 yards and seven catches for 123 yards.

“He’s 155 pounds, and it’s 155 pounds of heart,” Clovis coach Eric Roanhaus said of Kelley. “He’s smart, he’s tough. He’s the kind of guy you go to battle with. You tell him what needs to be done, and he does it.”

Kelley said the biggest credit for the win went to the Clovis defense, which allowed 10 first downs and 195 yards.

“Our goal was to contain 3 and 2,” Clovis senior defensive back Brody Edwards said of Sandia’s Malik Gordon and Jimmy Gallegos, respectively. “We did a pretty good job on him, except for a couple of times. We felt like if we took care of 3, we’d have a pretty good chance to win the ballgame.”

Gordon finished with nine carries for 71 yards, while Gallegos had 25 carries for 11 yards and scored Sandia’s lone touchdown.

Peaking at the right time: Fair or not, Clovis is normally judged by Albuquerque media largely on what it does when it visits the Metroplex. So the theme of Friday night was how much the Wildcats had improved, going from a team that was dominated at Cleveland to a squad that dominated Sandia.

It’s just part of the progression, and a reflection of the players, Roanhaus said.

“You ought to get better as the year goes on,” Roanhaus said. “They work hard, they have good leaders. When we had some big teams on our schedule, they kept on, believed in each other and believed in the team.”

Elsewhere in Class 6A: Friday was a good night to throw out the chalk, as three lower seeds busted the bracket.

No upset was more resounding than the one by No. 12 Cibola, who beat No. 5 Cleveland 42-14 behind a 201-yard rushing performance from Oscar Chatman. The Cougars will visit fourth-seeded Eldorado this weekend.

In the other upset, Las Cruces rode a pair of Junshiro Molinar rushing touchdowns in the first half and never trailed in a 36-15 win. The ninth-seeded Bulldawgs, who won the last two titles in Class 5A, will visit top-seeded Rio Rancho. It will be a rematch from a Week 4 game earlier this season, won 30-22 by the Rams.

Sixth-seeded Onate was the only higher seed to win. The Knights rode a balanced effort on offense and held Manzano to 57 yards rushing in a 22-20 victory at The Field of Dreams. The Knights visit third-seeded La Cueva.

The Clovis-Mayfield winner will face the La Cueva-Onate winner. Should Clovis pull the upset, it would host La Cueva or travel to Onate. After the second round, the home site is determined by playoff histories.

Go figure: The win is the seventh-straight in the first round for Clovis, and the Wildcats moved to 28-1 under Roanhaus in the first round. The lone defeat came to Rio Grande in 2003.

The win is the 11th in 12 games against the Matadors and the fifth straight. Sandia’s lone win in the series came in 2006 at Leon Williams Stadium, when the Matadors took advantage of a late turnover and made a 27-yard field goal stand for a 24-21 victory.