Clovis High School junior Rishard Matthews gets ready to throw a pass during practice Friday at the high school. (CNJ staff photo: Eric Kluth)
By Rick White: CNJ managing editor
No motivational speeches are needed for the Clovis Wildcats this week.
La Cueva is the top-ranked team in the state.
They haven’t lost a game in two plus years.
The school collects state titles like Larry King ex-wives.
And then there was last year when La Cueva lumped up Clovis twice last season by a total of 81-0.
Clovis (2-1) faces the Bears (2-0) at 7 p.m. today at Wilson Stadium in Albuquerque in a matchup of state-ranked teams.
“The kids are ready to play,” Clovis assistant coach Darren Kelley said. “This is a big game for later on down the road for seeding position.
“Motivation has not been a problem. If they can’t get up for the game, they don’t need to be playing in our program.”
La Cueva started the season in impressive fashion with a 42-7 win over Manzano. The Bears looked a lot more vulnerable two weeks ago in a 14-6 win over Eldorado.
“You can’t compare them to last year’s team,” Kelley said. “A group with that much talent only comes along once in a lifetime.”
The Bears are still plenty dangerous, though, and owners of a 28-game winning steak.
Bryson Carl, a 6-foot-2, 230-pound senior New Mexico Military Institute transfer, fuels La Cueva’s power running game while senior linebacker Greyson Wieczorek (6-3, 210) and junior Brett Kennedy (6-1, 253) are the heart of the defense.
“They do a good job of running the ball,” Kelley said. “The fullback is a big, strong kid and their quarterback (Alex Lackey) throws the ball fairly well.”
The third-ranked Wildcats bring a modest two-game winning streak into the game, including last week’s 41-7 dismantling of Highland.
Junior Brian Mead has rushed for 321 yards and scored five touchdowns in the last two weeks behind the Wildcats’ massive offensive line while junior wide receiver Rishard Matthews flashed his big-play potential last week with a pair of electrifying punt returns, including a 78-yarder for a touchdown.
Senior linebacker Jonathan Sweet and senior end Chris Finch lead a Wildcats defense that is giving up nine points a game.
Sweet said he and his fellow seniors haven’t forgotten last year.
“They stuck it to us twice,” Sweet said. “I don’t know about everybody else but I plan to step up and do something about it.”
Senior defensive end Richard Alvarez said La Cueva is a different team in 2005.
“Last year, they were pretty much unbeatable,” Alvarez said.
“We just have to step up, especially on third down.”
La Cueva coach Fred Romero refused to comment on the game, saying only “we’re doing all right up here.”