Cats ready to go

Clovis senior Simon Salguero, center, senior Damian Robinson, left, and junior Vince Chavez, do an agility drill Thursday at the high school. CNJ staff photo by Eric Kluth.

By Rick White: CNJ sports editor

It’s high school football’s version of boot camp.

Sprints. Agility drills. Position drills. Team workouts. Chalkboard sessions. All crammed into a pair of two-hour practices under the searing August sun.

Senior quarterback John Props shrugged his shoulders and said there’s no real way to prepare yourself as a player for the rigors of two-a-day practices that start Monday for the Clovis Wildcats and most football teams across the state.

“I’m just going to do everything I’m supposed to do and get past it,” Props said. “I’ve been through it before, but that doesn’t make it any easier.”

Two-a-days are a time to weed out the players from the pretenders, Wildcats defensive coordinator Darren Kelley said.

“The first practice everybody is excited and everybody is hooting and hollering’ because they finally get to practice,” Kelley said. “By Wednesday the soreness sets in and they start to realize how hard it is.”

He said the goal for the first week to 10 days of practice is to get into football shape and start filling the holes left by graduation.

“We’re a little bit more mature as far as knowing what to do and how to work hard,” Kelley said. “That’s the biggest thing for the young guys is learning how to work hard.”

The Wildcats return nine starters from last year’s 8-3 team that was eliminated in the first round of the state playoffs. Returnees include Props and leading rushing Phillip Williams on offense and linemen Alex Everett and Jason Burns and cornerback Jacob Jones on defensive.

The Clovis coaching staff has an idea of who will start based on last year and off-season workouts, but a lot can change once the pads go on.

“There’s probably eight to 10 kids battling for a (starting) spot,” Kelley said.

In his second year in charge of the defense, Kelley said little has changed about two-a-days since he starred for the Wildcats in the early-to-mid 1980s under Eric Roanhaus, who enters his 27th year as head coach.

“The biggest change is we have both practices in the morning now,” Kelley said. “I think it’s better because we can keep them right here and don’t have to worry about them making it back. I hated the evening practices because all you did was sit around and when it got around 5 p.m. you didn’t want to get out of the air-conditioned room.

“The other difference is two-a-days are not as long because we start school earlier.”

Props and senior free safety Elliott Hita said they’ve seen a different team attitude than last year heading into two-a-days.

“I think we’re a lot more of a family this year,” said Props, who took over at quarterback last year after the first game because of an injury and passed for 832 yards and 11 touchdowns by season’s end.

“This year everybody’s really positive,” said Hita, who made some big plays down the stretch to help Clovis win the district title in 2003 after joining the team late.

Fall practice for volleyball, soccer and cross country in New Mexico also starts Monday.