Cats battle Cruces

Clovis High School junior John Props takes the handoff from senior Jeff Epps during Thursday’s practice at the high school. Photo by Eric Kluth

By Dave W agner

After nearly two weeks of going against each other in practice, the Clovis High Wildcats will see someone else on the other side of the ball today when they square off against defending Class 5A champion Las Cruces High in a 4 p.m. scrimmage at Artesia.
The teams met in the playoff semifinals last year, with the host Bulldawgs rolling to a 42-17 win behind all-state quarterback Matt Montoya and a strong corps of receivers.
CHS defensive coordinator Darren Kelley said the Cats will be playing a number of newcomers.
“We need to find out where we are,” he said. “We’ll go 15 offensive plays, and then they’ll go 15. The main thing is to get ready for the first game (a week from tonight at Las Cruces Mayfield).”
Kelley said Clovis has only three or four starters returning on both sides of the ball, although he noted that the offense has looked good in practice so far.
“Defensively, we’re not going to be bad. It’s just that the guys back there don’t have a lot of experience. We’ll have to adjust to the speed of the game (at the varsity level).”
He said while the Bulldawgs lost some good players to graduation, including Montoya, he thinks they’ll be among the top teams in the state again, along with Mayfield, Carlsbad and La Cueva.
“Hopefully, by the end of the year we’ll be in that group,” Kelley said.
Senior tackle Scott Fahsholtz, who expects to start on both sides of the line of scrimmage after starting on offense last year, said things are coming together for the Cats “little by little.”
“It’s kind of hard teaching the new people everything, but in the long run we’re going to be fine,” he said. “I think we’re going to be all right. I think we’ve grown more like a family over the last two weeks.”
The 6-foot-2, 260-pound Fahsholtz said he’ll get breaks during games, particularly on defense, but he likes the extra work.
“I just like to step up and take the responsibility for my team,” he said. “We worked hard over the summer. Me and a lot of the other guys ran a lot and tried to stay in shape. It’ll all pan out in the long run.”
Bulldawgs coach Jim Miller, whose team has won three of the last four large-school state titles, said his team enjoys scrimmaging the Cats.
“It’s always a good test,” Miller said. “We always look forward to the scrimmage because it’s going to answer a lot of questions for us.”
While Cruces lost its star quarterback and three receivers to graduation, the Bulldawgs return five starters on offense and seven on defense, Miller said. Junior Brandon Lucero is scheduled to be Montoya’s replacement.
“We opened it up a lot last year because we had a good quarterback and good receivers,” he said. “(The scrimmage) is a good opportunity to see where you’re at, and how good your team is.”
Kelley said the scrimmage should last around two hours.
The teams have scrimmaged for about a half-dozen years, alternating between Roswell and Alamogordo. But Roswell’s field was not available this year, Kelley said.
“It’ll be nice and hot in Artesia at 4 o’clock in the afternoon,” he projected. “You’ll find out who’s in shape in a hurry.”