CNJ staff photo: Erick Kluth/Clovis junior Chris Phillips tries to shake free of senior strong safety Carlos Gallo during Thursday’s practice at the high school.
By Rick White
Clovis had enough worries this week without having to replace its starting quarterback.
Coaches learned earlier this week senior Ryan Denton will likely not play again this season due to a recurring problem with concussions.
Denton suffered a concussion either in Friday’s loss to Mayfield or in a minor automobile accident Saturday and his doctors recommended he no longer play football. The 6-foot-4, 190-pound senior suffered concussions the last two years, according to his father.
Denton was one of five returning starters for the Wildcats.
“The biggest thing is the kids all like him and they had confidence in him,” Clovis defensive coordinator Darren Kelley said. “You hate to see this happen after all the hard work he’s put in this summer and the last three years. You hate to see a kid not be able to finish his senior year.”
Junior John Props will replace Denton.
Kelley said no matter who is playing quarterback in Saturday’s game at Roswell, the Wildcats (0-1) have to do a better job of running the football and stopping the run.
“We can’t win football games passing the ball,” Kelley said. “We’ve got to be able to run the football to win games.”
The Wildcats finished with 19 yards rushing against Mayfield, a figure made even more minuscule by the fact that Denton was sacked three times and finished with minus-34 yards on the ground.
“We’ve got to do a better job blocking — and it’s not just the line, it’s everybody,” Kelley said. “Most of the time it was one or two guys that didn’t pick up a stunt or something.”
Kelley said the offense will have to adjust with Props at quarterback because Props, who will move from free safety, is a better runner than passer.
“We’ll probably run the option more and probably roll him out a little more,” Kelley said.
On defense, Jeremy Lawson carved up an inexperienced Clovis defense for 205 yards rushing and three touchdowns, including runs of 49 and 85 yards. The Trojans finished with 451 total yards.
Kelley said the Wildcats’ defensive struggles started on the line, which was expected to be one of the team’s strength.
“We let them block us too easy,” Kelley said.
For the most part the effort was there, just not the execution, he said.
“We had kids that played hard,” Kelley said. “But some of the kids that played hard were making the mistakes.”
Senior Mark Young, who is being shifted from cornerback to free safety to replace Props, said there was too much freelancing last week.
“Some of us didn’t do what we were supposed to do,” Young said. “We’ve got to play hard and follow our assignments and not worry about what everybody else is doing.
“I’m not worried about Roswell, I’m more worried about us beating ourselves.”
In Roswell (0-1), the Wildcats face a team that went winless in 2002 and is coming off a 27-14 loss to El Paso Americas.
It’s a similar situation to last year when Clovis rebounded from an opening night loss by drubbing Roswell 41-0.
“Last year I was disappointed,” second-year Roswell coach Bob Heider said. “I don’t think we showed up expecting to win the ballgame. “This year is different. The kids this year think they’re going to win.”
The Class 4A Coyotes (0-1) are led by senior quarterback Mike Ramirez, who completed 15 of 20 passes for 141 yards last week.
“We’re going to put the ball in his hands,” Heider said. “He’s our playmaker.”
Heider said he prefers to run the ball but was just taking what the Americas defense gave them.
Junior Armando Carrillo leads an undersized Coyotes defense that allowed Americas running back Jonathan Lane to rush for 202 yards and score four times. Heider said Roswell played better defense than it looked.
“He scored on runs of 85 and 67 yards, otherwise we gave up 41 yards of total offense. I was real pleased.”
Kelley said the important thing this week is the Wildcats learn from their mistakes. He said last week’s loss was tough to digest, but is part of the growing process for the inexperienced Wildcats.
“We’re not really good right now, but we’re not as bad as that game was,” Kelley said.