The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Clovis hopes to keep momentum going in Rio Rancho


September 4, 2019

Kevin Wilson

Clovis junior defensive end Isaiah Jaramillo tries to bat down a pass by Los Lunas' Kade Benavidez in Friday's 30-15 win. The Wildcats hit the road Friday to face Rio Rancho.

CLOVIS — OK, so the Clovis High football team is 2-0.

Great for the Wildcats. Beats 1-1 or 0-2.

But, the previous four Wildcat teams were able to accomplish the same 2-0 start. 3-0, now that’s been a little trickier.

Not since 2015 has Clovis reeled off three straight wins to start the season. That year the ’Cats beat Goddard, Cibola and Atrisco Heritage Academy by a combined score of 112-26.

Since then, Rio Rancho has been a brick wall between the Wildcats and 3-0. In Week 3 of 2016, Clovis was on the business end of a 45-7 rout. In ’17, Wildcat turnovers handed Rio Rancho a 34-31 victory. Turnovers last year too sent the ’Cats to a 20-13 loss against the Rams.

Clovis now has a good chance to break the spell, earn that 3-0 start, when playing at Rio Rancho on Friday, 7 p.m. A victory would be key because the Wildcats will then face a brutal three-game stretch of Lubbock teams before they begin district play.

So, it’s important, crucial even, for the ’Cats to solve Rio Rancho this time.

“That’s going to be a really big game for us,” Clovis junior running back Jeston Webskowski said. “If we can get the win, that’ll be huge. Especially going on to play those Lubbock teams.”

“Rio Rancho is going to be a game,” Wildcats senior linebacker A.J. Silva said. “In the past it’s been close games. Last year was a close game, the year before was a close game. We want to make a statement that we’re coming.”

The numbers, at least, seem to lean heavily in the Wildcats’ favor. They’re 2-0 as opposed to Rio Rancho’s 0-2. Clovis’ offense has rolled up 72 points in less than a full 96 minutes, because the first game against Hobbs was shortened by inclement weather. Rio Rancho’s defense has surrendered 116 points in more than 96 minutes, because the Rams’ first game against Centennial went to overtime.

The Clovis offense has rung up 496 yards so far — 179 in the abbreviated game against Hobbs, 317 last week against Los Lunas. Webskowski has rushed for 294 yards and five touchdowns — 171 yards and four scores in the shortened game, 123 and one TD last week. Plus, he has a touchdown catch.

Junior quarterback Chance Harris has thrown for 375 yards and five touchdowns so far — 154 yards and two scores in the abbreviated game, 221 and three TDs last week.

Then there’s senior receiver Malik Phillips, coming off a memorable Week 2 in which he snared a school-record 10 catches for 154 yards and two touchdowns. Overall this season, Phillips has 15 catches for 217 yards and three scores.

Those offensive numbers appear to bode very well for a team facing a generous defense. But not so fast, says Clovis head coach Cal Fullerton.

“Man, you know what you’re going to get with Rio Rancho every time is their kids play lights out. They play as hard as anybody else in the state,” Fullerton said. “I know they’re hungry, and it’s always a slugfest when we go up there. Coach (David) Howes does a great job with that football team; he runs a great program. ... It’ll be tough to go up there and get a ‘w’.”

Clovis opponents have thus far scored 31 total points, with only 29 actually surrendered by the Wildcats’ defense because two came on a safety. That defense will contend with Rio Rancho senior quarterback Isaiah Chavez (6’1”, 174), who leads a prolific offense that has churned out 85 points in the Rams’ two games so far.

“They’re fast-paced offensively,” Fullerton said, “and try to hurry up and get your defense confused.”

Clovis, though, has its own field general in Harris, who now two games into his second season as the Wildcats’ starting quarterback seems to keep getting better — and tougher. Last week against Los Lunas, Harris had kind of a Deshaun Watson game, where he got knocked around some. Yet, like the old Timex watch commercials, he kept on ticking.

“We had a couple mess-ups up front where our quarterback got it,” Fullerton said. “But our quarterback stayed in. He’s tougher than heck, man. Got up every time he got blasted.”

Clovis certainly has the pieces, the potential, to beat Rio Rancho and go 3-0. What will it take for the Wildcats to actually go out and achieve that recently-elusive record?

“I thought we cleaned up a little bit offensively (against Los Lunas) compared to when we played Hobbs,” Fullerton said. “So hopefully we can clean up a little bit more. And we have to move the sticks. We cannot go three-and-out against those guys. ... And at the same time our defense is going to have to get some big stops.”

If the Wildcats do go 3-for-3 to start the season, they’ll have to win their first road game of the year to do it, after a fairly long trip to get there.

“You know, the good thing about it is, we’ve got a lot of kids back that did it last year a couple times,” Fullerton said. “We’ll be fine on the bus and all that. We’re going to get off the bus and have our walk-through real quick and get our kids re-focused after we get there. To us, it needs to be like a home game — we can’t worry about the bus ride, we can’t worry about the opposing crowd. We’ve just got to go out and perform.”

“Going on the road is going to be exciting,” Silva said. “We have to get off the bus. We have to get off the bus and play hard. That’s what Coach preaches.”

“It’s going to be an adjustment,” Webskowski said, “especially because we won’t have all the home fans, all the support. But I think we’ll get rallied up and do what we have to do to get the win.”


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