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

Wildcats flying high

 

October 13, 2019

Kevin Wilson

Clovis senior Malik Phillips hauls in a 22-yard touchdown pass against Manzano junior Cooper Trujillo in the fourth quarter of Clovis' 44-9 win Friday over the Monarchs at Leon Williams Stadium. Phillips had nine catches for 97 yards and two scores.

CLOVIS — Friday had to be the coldest night of Clovis High’s football season yet. But the Wildcats seem to be heating up at just the right time.

With a relentless offense and punishing defense, the ’Cats walloped District 2/5-6A foe Manzano 44-9 in their last regular-season game at Leon Williams Stadium. They 35-ed a district opponent just a week after 50-ing another one, Sandia.

As a result, the Wildcats are 2-0 in the ever-crucial district standings.

“Yeah, not bad, not bad,” Clovis head coach Cal Fullerton said. “We’ll take 2-0 any time, and undefeated at home as well.”

“It was a huge win,” Wildcats senior receiver/defensive back Malik Phillips said. “We’ve just got to win out district so we can get another home game in the playoffs.”

Clovis is halfway there, with Albuquerque road games against Eldorado and La Cueva coming the next two weeks. And if they play those next two games as they have the past two, the Wildcats may indeed win out and book a return to Leon Williams Stadium for playoff football in November.

Clovis’ dominance in Week 2 of district certainly impressed Manzano head coach Phillip Martinez.

“Coach Cal Fullerton and his staff do a great job,” Martinez said. “They’ve got great athletes and they coach ’em up well. They’re very fundamentally sound, they play hard, they’re tough, they’re physical.”

Among the standouts for Clovis was a defense that allowed just three points, with the other six coming on a kickoff return for a touchdown.

Individually, junior running back Jeston Webskowski had another big night. Though it seems like Webskowski is making big nights routine, Friday stood out even among those, as he rushed for 224 yards and three touchdowns on 25 carries, and tacked on a pair of two-point conversion runs.

Senior quarterback Devin Gillespie, in his second straight game of subbing for injured Chance Harris, kept busy by attempting 39 passes. He threw for 178 yards and three touchdowns, and also had a pair of two-point conversion tosses to Phillips.

“I think Devin has a lot of poise,” Fullerton said. “He’s good under pressure, he doesn’t try to do things that he can’t do. He puts the ball in play when he needs to, he makes great reads on the run-pass option. Devin had a really good game last week, and I think he got a little bit better tonight. Those guys heated us up pretty good, and Devin stayed in the pocket at times when he had to pass it, and took some big hits and put the ball in places that he needed to.”

And then there was Phillips, who leapt all over the field on Friday. He recorded nine catches for 97 yards and two touchdowns, and also hauled in that pair of two-point conversion passes from Gillespie. And, Phillips made his presence felt on special teams by blocking an extra point and a field-goal attempt.

“Malik’s one of the best football players in the state,” Fullerton said. “It blows my mind that they (colleges) haven’t been calling off the hook to try to get him to come there. But he’ll get his chance for sure, especially if they watch a whole game film. He never comes off the field. He makes plays when we throw it to him. He gets blocks offensively when he needs to be blocking. He blocks kicks, he returns punts, he returns kicks. And then he’s a great cover guy in the secondary as well. He’s one of those kids that loves the dang Wildcats, he loves Clovis, and he loves his teammates. He’s just a special kid, and we’re lucky he suits up with us every Friday night.”

“That (jersey) No. 4, Malik Phillips, is the real deal,” Martinez said. “He’s one of the best receivers we’ve played against. He’s definitely a top-three receiver in the state, so he’s definitely a challenge to scheme for and coach against.”

“I just try to go out there and do the best for my team,” Phillips said. “I don’t like losing.”

Slow start, and then …

Though it turned out to be a huge night for Phillips and the Wildcats, their first two possessions ended with punts.

But their third offensive series was bookended by Webskowski runs. He kick-started the drive with a 26-yard jaunt to Manzano’s 38, and finished it on the eighth play with an eight-yard touchdown run.

A two-point conversion pass attempt failed, so the score remained 6-0 with 2:01 to go in the opening quarter.

Clovis doubled its lead early in the second period with a quick drive that started at the 50. A 33-yard Webskowski burst put the Wildcats in business at Manzano’s 17, and on the next play Gillespie dropped back to pass, scrambled right, headed upfield a bit without crossing the line of scrimmage, then lofted an arcing pass over a defender and into the waiting arms of junior C.J. Gutierrez in the right side of the end zone.

Gillespie completed a conversion pass attempt to Ethan Culiver, but Manzano kept him out of the end zone, so the score stayed at 12-0 with 11:19 left in the second quarter.

Manzano’s ensuing drive ended with a 36-yard Jacob Duran field goal that brought the Monarchs within nine, and the 12-3 score held until the second quarter’s final minute.

A drive that was started by an Isaiah Jaramaillo fumble recovery at Manzano’s 40 gained momentum from a leaping 24-yard catch by Phillips (who took a hit and held on), and eventually became a fourth-and-three situation from Manzano’s five-yard line. On that down, Webskowski took a handoff, ran left and found traffic, but powered through it and into the end zone.

On the two-point conversion attempt, Gillespie rolled right and passed to Phillips, making it 20-3 with 50.2 seconds left before halftime.

Manzano’s explosive Austin Erickson returned the ensuing kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown to dampen Clovis’ enthusiasm a bit, closing the Monarchs to within 20-9 with 39.4 seconds to play in the half. Phillips blocked the extra point, keeping Manzano from hitting double digits.

And Manzano never found the end zone again. Clovis found it a few more times in the second half to pull away, but it took a while for the Wildcats to get that separation.

With the score still 20-9 late in the third quarter, the ’Cats finally scored again. Facing fourth-and-10 from Manzano’s 14, Gillespie rolled left and connected with a diving Phillips in the end zone.

Webskowski bulled his way for the two-point conversion to give Clovis a 28-9 lead with 3:34 left in the third quarter.

Kevin Wilson

Senior linebacker A.J. Silva brings down Manzano quarterback Jace Melfi in the third quarter.

In the fourth, Webskowski ran 20 yards for a score, followed by a Gillespie-to-Phillips connection in the back of the end zone for two, stretching Clovis’ lead to 36-9 with 8:46 to play.

It became a running-clock affair at the fourth quarter’s 6:55 mark, when Phillips leapt in the right side of the end zone for a Gillespie pass, followed by a Webskowski run for two that made it a 44-9 game.

The night ended with another lopsided district win for the Wildcats, who by the way improved to 5-3 overall while dropping Manzano to 2-5, 0-2 district. The only down side for Clovis was a knee injury to junior linebacker Ernesto Acuna.

“He’s one of our best defensive players, and also comes in at tight end for us,” Fullerton said. “So we’re going to be praying for that kid for sure. … We’re going to hope for the best and try to get him rehabbed and at least ready for the playoffs.”

 
 

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