Clovis head football coach Eric Roanhaus, second from left, watches his team during Thursday’s practice at the high school. (CNJ staff photo: Eric Kluth)
By Jesse Wolfersberger: CNJ staff writer
Clovis coach Eric Roanhaus thinks revenge is a wasted emotion. Besides, it’s been more than three months since the Wildcats opened the season with a 7-0 loss at Mayfield.
The teams meet again today in the Class 5A state championship game in Las Cruces.
“I’m not into revenge, I’m into playing better than we did last time,” Roanhaus said. “We had about 70 yards of offense. We didn’t block them very well, we didn’t execute our offense very well, I didn’t call a very good game. You could ask lots of fans, they’ll testify to that.”
Clovis has reeled off 12 straight wins to land in the state championship game for the 18th time in 28 seasons under Roanhaus.
Meanwhile, Mayfield will put its undefeated season on the line when the teams meet in the playoffs for the third time in five years.
It also marks the Trojans (13-0) fourth state title game appearance in five years.
Senior quarterback Devin Sweet knows Clovis (12-1) is a better team than they were in week one, at least he knows he has improved.
“I couldn’t throw the ball a lick at the beginning of the year,” Sweet said. “Me and Rishard (Matthews) have really connected this year and I think that’s where we’ve improved the most.”
In Clovis’ season-opening loss to the Trojans, Sweet was 2-of-8 for five yards and an interception. Since then, he’s completed 48-of -83 attempts for 13 touchdowns and six interceptions.
Roanhaus said he thinks Mayfield has improved as well.
“They are just as good as they were, or better, 14 weeks ago,” Roanhaus said. “They’ve got lots of threats offensively, I think both of us are pretty similar offensively — we’ve got threats.”
Clovis’ aerial threat is Matthews, who has 826 yards and a school-record 12 receiving touchdowns.
Mayfield’s biggest threats are 6-foot-3 senior wide receiver Chris Hernandez, who has 1,051 yards and 10 touchdowns through the air this season and the Trojans’ quarterback, David Bustillos, who has 2,242 yards, 18 touchdowns, and only one interception.
“In that particular case it’s going to come down to whose defense plays best; how their secondary handles our receivers and Rishard, and how our secondary handles their receivers and Hernandez,” Roanhaus said.
Mayfield coach Jim Bradley knows it’s no secret that he and Roanhaus like to run the ball and he said that is a big reason why these teams have made it to the finals.
“For any football team, on any level, you have to be able to run the football and stop the run,” Bradley said. “Any coach who says that you don’t have to run the ball, well, I don’t think much of ‘em.”
The leading rusher for the Wildcats is junior Brian Mead, who has 1,862 yards and 19 touchdowns on the ground.
The Mayfield rushing attack is lead by Steven and Oran Gonzales, who have a combined 1,321 yards and 19 scores.
The Clovis coach said in the first meeting Mayfield won the battle in the trenches, and that battle will be a key again this weekend.
“The big thing might be tackle to tackle — who controls the line of scrimmage. Is it going to be our linemen or their lineman?” Roanhaus said. “Last time I thought they had the upper hand. I thought they controlled the line of scrimmage. We’ve got to, at least, get a stalemate tackle to tackle. Last time we didn’t.”
In addition to avenging the season-opening loss, the Wildcats are looking to erase the memory of last season’s 40-0 title game loss to La Cueva.
Senior Chris Finch said he wants his last game for Clovis to be a win.
“Seeing the seniors last year was heartbreaking,” Finch said. “This is our last game, this is what everyone practiced for. We have to go out and take it, if not, we’re gonna be just like last year’s team.”
Roanhaus said the memory of La Cueva’s win is still fresh in many of his player’s minds.
“Maybe that’s a motivating factor for these kids,” he said. “They’ve played in the state championship game and they finished second and they know how bad that feels. There’s nothing worse than finishing second. That’s a feeling that stays with you for quite a while.”
Clovis at Mayfield
When: 1 p.m. today
Records: Clovis 12-1, Mayfield 13-0.
Coaches: Clovis, Eric Roanhaus. Mayfield, Jim Bradley
Last meeting: 2005, Mayfield defeated Clovis 7-0 in the season opener.
Last week: Clovis defeated Onate 28-14, Mayfield defeated La Cueva 21-7.
Mayfield players to watch: Chris Hernandez, 6-3, 185, Sr., WR-DB; Davis Bustillos, 5-8, 160, Sr., QB-DB; Steven Gonzales, 5-8, 165, RB-DB; Oran Gonzales, 6-0, 180, Sr., RB-DB.
Keys to the game: In a matchup of two power running teams, the game may be decided by the play of each team’s go-to receiver; Rishard Matthews for Clovis and Hernandez for Mayfield.
By the numbers: 573 — Combined wins for Bradley (309) and Roanhaus (264).
Quotable: “I don’t have any preferance (about who we play) except that we get there. I get to coach against a good friend of mine, Eric Roanhaus. It’s always a good encounter when we play and we always shake hands afterwards.” — Bradley, on facing Clovis in the finals.