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

Wildcats hope to earn home return

 

October 9, 2019

CLOVIS — Clovis’ football team likes the confines of Leon Williams Stadium.

The Wildcats like the stands full of fans cheering them on, like the familiarity of their field, like having to run from the locker room door through a balloon tunnel to reach their Friday-night destination, as opposed to taking a long, long bus ride.

So, here’s the thing. When the Wildcats host Manzano on Friday at 7 p.m. they will be playing their last regular-season home game. As in, last time they know for sure they will be playing at Leon Williams Stadium, with its crisp purple and white end zones, those stands full of fans.

Clovis may wind up hosting a state playoff game in November, or may end up facing one of those long, long bus rides. Winning on Friday night, beating another District 2/5-6A opponent, would do a lot to help the ’Cats secure the former scenario, would move them a step closer to a better seeding and at least one more short Friday-night commute.

“That’s something that we talked about when we had our team meeting before practice today,” Clovis head coach Cal Fullerton said Monday, just after that practice ended. “It’s our last home game, and we’re playing right now to try to get a home game in the playoffs.”

“It’s a big one, especially for our seniors. It could be the last time that they ever play here again,” Wildcats junior running back Jeston Webskowski said after Monday’s practice. “So it’s really a big one, and we really need to go out with a bang.”

Clovis (4-3 overall) opened its district play last Friday with a 50-0 home rout of Sandia. Manzano, meanwhile, was on the business end of a shutout in its own district opener, falling 38-0 at home to defending state champ La Cueva.

But though Manzano (2-4 overall) may not much resemble the 2017 state championship team that went 13-0 and included San Diego Stater-to-be Jordan Byrd, the Wildcats say not to file the 2019 Monarchs under ‘p’ for pushover.

“Even though their record doesn’t look very good right now, they’ve played some pretty good football,” Fullerton said.

“They’re a really good team. They’ve got some players,” Webskowski said. “And I think it’s going to be a dogfight come Friday night.”

In fact, Fullerton is still searching for his first head-coaching victory against the Monarchs. In 2017, Fullerton’s first season on the job, Manzano came into Leon Williams Stadium — albeit with Byrd in tow — and put a 34-10 hurt on the Wildcats. Last year, while Byrd was making his new football home amidst Southern California palm trees, his alma mater shut out Clovis 19-0 in Albuquerque.

Even in 2016, when Eric Roanhaus was head coach and Fullerton one of his assistants, the Wildcats’ lone district loss was against Manzano, 27-14.

“They’ve had our number for the last several years,” Fullerton said. “They do a really good job of confusing us and sending people from everywhere on their defensive side of the ball; they get after it. … Offensively they’ve got some guys back from last year. … They do some of the same stuff they did when (Byrd) was there. They’ve got a really good receiver back, Austin Erickson, who’s a senior this year; he was one of the better players in the state last year, so you know he’s good. They’ve got a lot of guys that were sophomores on that state championship team that are seniors now, so they know what it takes to win, and they’re in a program that’s always winning. So it’s not like they’re not accustomed to it. They’re hungry for a win and their playoff hopes are on the line, so they’re going to come into Clovis and be very hungry for a victory.”

Program tradition aside, the Monarchs have been blown out in their four losses this year, surrendering 186 total points, an average of 46.5 per game. And that could bode well for a player like Webskowski, who tore off 173 rushing yards on just 12 carries (14.4 per carry) while only playing in the first half against Sandia last Friday.

“I think we need to press the gaps on them and not let up,” Webskowski said. “From the start of the game to the end, just keep going.”

A question mark for Clovis is who will be handing off to Webskowski. Last week it was senior Devin Gillespie playing in place of junior starter Chance Harris, who suffered an ankle injury a week earlier against Lubbock Cooper. As of Monday afternoon, Fullerton was uncertain of Harris’ status for the Manzano game.

“I don’t know. It’s kind of day-to-day right now,” Fullerton said. “He came out and threw a little bit today, so we’ll kind of wait and see how he feels later on in the week.”

Gillespie tossed a pair of touchdown passes against Sandia, took care of the football, didn’t hurt his team. So Fullerton continues to have the utmost confidence in Gillespie should he have to start under center yet again, or even alternate with Harris.

“If it comes to a deal where Chance is only limited to some stuff and Devin has to go when Chance is not going to be in, we’re fine either way we’ve got to do it,” Fullerton said. “Obviously we’d like to have Chance back sooner than later. … But we’ll do what we’ve got to do, and Devin’s going to get prepared this week like he’s starting. So that’s how we’ll approach the week.”

Whichever quarterback is taking snaps, he will be playing in a crucial game, one that the Wildcats would love to win before making three-and-a-half-hour treks to Albuquerque in consecutive weeks to end the regular season.

“It’s really big for us,” Webskowski said, “especially when we can go 2-0 (in district) and make a really big statement going into Albuquerque and playing Eldorado and La Cueva with some confidence.”

 
 

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