Wildcats optimistic for 2020


November 27, 2019

Kevin Wilson

Running back Jeston Webskowski is one of many Clovis skill position players who will enter their senior years in 2020. Webskowski rushed for 1,687 yards and 26 touchdowns as a junior.

CLOVIS — Clovis High’s football season began and ended with a storm.

The Wildcats’ Aug. 23 season opener at Leon Williams Stadium was abbreviated by lightning, thunder and torrential rains, making their 42-16 lead over Hobbs an official victory with 9:05 remaining in the fourth quarter.

And Clovis’ state 2A semifinal last Friday ended with a 56-43 loss to the Cleveland Storm, also at Leon Williams.

The Wildcats did some storming of their own this season. They won the District 2/5-6A championship on the road against then-defending district and state champ La Cueva. Two weeks later they assured La Cueva would not repeat as state titleists by defeating the Bears 37-17 on Nov. 15 at Leon Williams Stadium.

The Wildcats’ 8-4 record marked their best showing since 2016, and they appeared in the state semifinals for the first time in 10 years.

During this year’s eight-win campaign, the ’Cats didn’t just beat a Lubbock team, they charred Monterey 60-27 behind six touchdown passes from junior quarterback Chance Harris, also at their favorite stomping grounds, Leon Williams Stadium, where they would go 5-0 in the regular season.

And when an ankle injury shelved Harris against Lubbock Cooper two weeks after the Monterey game, senior Devin Gillespie led Clovis to three straight wins. That was the start of a five-game streak completed when Harris returned and helped the ’Cats beat La Cueva in consecutive games.

The win streak ended when Cleveland stopped the Wildcats’ season last Friday night, marking the purple and white’s lone setback at home this year, ending their home slate at 6-1. The Wildcats were 4-0 in district play, winning two at home (Sandia, Manzano) and two on the road (Eldorado, La Cueva).

They even 50-ed Sandia on Oct. 4.

It was a memorable season, fueled by 468 points in 12 games, 39 a game. So looking back, the Wildcats have a lot to be thankful for, during the week designed for doing just that.

“Yeah, it’s hard for me to put into words,” Cal Fullerton said after he had concluded his third season as Clovis head coach. “My first year as a head coach, these guys that our seniors right now were sophomores. This year will obviously always hold a special place in my heart because we did so well, but also, these kids were really the ones we got to start from Day 1 with, and with the belief in what we were doing, they grew up so much.”

Those departing seniors are: wide receiver/cornerback Malik Phillips; wide receiver/free safety Ethan Culiver; cornerback Skyler Segura; Gillespie, who was a wide receiver and defensive back in addition to playing quarterback; wide receiver/outside linebacker Kade Aucutt; wide receiver/defensive back Brandon Mason; middle linebacker/fullback Ruben Garcia; middle linebacker/fullback AJ Silva; tackle/defensive end Bryce Cabeldue; nose guard/offensive lineman Zechariah Gonzales; offensive lineman/defensive tackle Logan Flores; defensive end Zachary Ashford; kicker Kunal Puppala; defensive end Ivan Hamilton; wide receiver/free safety Martavious Daniels; and kicker Jose Mendoza.

“There are some big, big time players that we have that are seniors,” Fullerton said, “but looking into the future, some really good skill players are coming back.”

Among them is Harris, who punted in addition to playing quarterback and will be a third-year offensive starter next season.

There is also running back Jeston Webskowski, who juked, cut and dashed his way to 1,687 yards and 26 touchdowns on 223 carries through Clovis’ 12 games this year, averaging 7.6 yards per carry and more than two touchdowns per game. Some of those yards and touchdowns came with Webskowski dragging defenders along with him.

Friday night, Webskowski rushed for 275 yards and four touchdowns on 28 carries — 9.8 yards per carry and a touchdown every seven carries. Two of his touchdown runs were long ones, 78 and 50 yards.

“After watching him (Friday), I’m not sure there’s anybody better than Jeston Webskowski in the state,” Fullerton said. “And he’s just a junior, so we’re really excited about him.”

There’s Jaden Phillips, who snagged two touchdown passes in the first La Cueva game. There’s Blake Muscato, who had his name called regularly from the Leon Williams Stadium announcer’s booth when on offense and defense. There’s Braiden Romero, who came up with an interception Friday night against Cleveland. And there’s Ernesto Acuna, who is a stout defender slowed only by injuries this year.

And that’s just a sampling of the Wildcats’ junior class.

That, with some talented sophomores, should make for a good group of returners next year.

“Those kids that are younger kind of saw how our seniors pushed our underclassmen this year,” Fullerton said, “and if our underclassmen do the same for the kids that are under them, I think we can have a successful offseason.”

Only nine months to go before the season opener.

Kevin Wilson

Junior tight end Jaden Phillips seeks daylight after a completion in Friday's game.


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