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

Cats crush Bears in quarterfinals


November 17, 2019

Kevin Wilson

Clovis defensive backs Braiden Romero, left, and Ethan Culiver break up a pass intended for La Cueva's Connor O'Toole in the third quarter of Friday's Class 6A quarterfinal. The Wildcats defeated the Bears 37-17.

CLOVIS — Clovis High’s football team is moving on, yet won’t have to move an inch.

In their first home state tournament game since 2016, the Wildcats pulled away from defending 6A champion La Cueva Friday at Leon Williams Stadium and won 37-17, earning a berth in this coming weekend’s semifinal.

And for that matchup, the second-seeded ’Cats will spend this Friday where they were this past Friday — Leon Williams Stadium — with Cleveland coming in for a 7 p.m. kickoff.

They battled their way into the semis with a strong overall performance. The offense was relentless, the defense came up big when it needed to. Everyone else contributed some way, somehow.

“It was a total team effort, man,” Clovis’ third-year head coach Cal Fullerton said. “From our bench, to our offense, our defense, our special teams. Everybody chipped in and everybody played hard all night. I couldn’t be more proud of these guys.”

“It’s an amazing feeling; I never felt anything like that,” Wildcats junior running back Jeston Webskowski said. “Especially being at home, all of our fans out here. It was a great environment.”

“It was very exciting,” said Clovis senior receiver/defensive back Ethan Culiver, who had two interceptions, including a 100-yard pick-six. “It was a tough game; we knew it was going to be a tough game. We kind of pulled away at the end.”

“They’re good, they won. That’s all that matters; they won the game,” La Cueva head coach Brandon Back said. “They did what they needed to do to win.”

On the Wildcats’ game-opening series, they did what Fullerton had said they couldn’t do — made mental mistakes that set them back. And La Cueva answered with a 54-yard scoring drive on its ensuing possession, capped off with a seven-yard touchdown pass from Austin Smith to Connor O’Toole. Dominic Camacho’s extra point made it 7-0 Bears with 5:17 left in the first quarter.

The Wildcats cleaned things up quickly, though, responding with a touchdown on their ensuing drive — a six-play, 58-yard march — ending with a fourth-and-seven pass from Chance Harris to Webskowski at La Cueva’s 15. Webskowski spun off tacklers and raced to end zone.

Devin Gillespie connected with Malik Phillips for the two-point conversion, making it 8-7 with 2:22 to go in the opening period.

It took Clovis more than a quarter to score again, thanks to a fumble deep in La Cueva territory that ended a drive in the second period. But with 2:15 left in the second, Harris scored on a 13-yard keeper and Webskowski ran in the two-point conversion, stretching Clovis’ lead to 16-7, which was still the score at halftime.

A La Cueva drive inside the Wildcats’ red zone earlier in the third was stalled by the Clovis defense and after a delay-of-game penalty, Camacho booted at 28-yard field with 5:54 left in the quarter, making it 16-10.

Clovis answered right back with a 47-yard touchdown run from Webskowski, a dash on which he cut left, then cut right and down the sideline, carrying a couple of tacklers with him into the end zone.

A Gillespie conversion pass to Blake Muscato was completed, but out of bounds, so the score remained 22-10 Clovis with 4:08 left in the third quarter.

Early in the fourth, Webskowksi scored in similar fashion, only from a bit closer. He took a leftside handoff, cut right, then ran into the end zone, again dragging tacklers with him.

“He played like a man possessed,” Fullerton said of Webskowski.

A Muscato conversion run gave Clovis a 30-10 lead with 11:42 left in the fourth quarter.

Above: Senior Bryce Cabeldue gets a hold of La Cueva's Austin Smith in the third quarter of Friday's Class 6A

La Cueva pulled to within 30-17 on a four-yard Smith pass to Brad Thomas and a Camacho extra point with 7:27 to play in the fourth, and the Bears came knocking again when on a second-and-12 play from Clovis’ 14, Smith went looking into the end zone, but Culiver leapt, intercepted it and ran the length of the field for a 100-yard touchdown return.

“I just picked it,” Culiver said. “I just saw open field, so my natural reaction was to take it back. That was the longest (Interception return) of my life.”

Though an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty forced a long, long PAT, Jose Mendoza lofted it over, handing Clovis a 37-17 advantage. After a slow start, pretty much everything was going right for the purple and white.

“It’s good to still be playing,” Fullerton said. “We go into next week and forget about this game as soon as we watch film.”


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