Clovis’ Tanner Fickling, right, is comforted by teammates Miguel Zamora, left, and Michael Roper after a 17-7 loss to Mayfield in the Class 5A championship game Saturday at the Field of Dreams Stadium in Las Cruces. (Staff photo: Eric Kluth)
By Jesse Wolfersberger: CNJ staff writer
Inside the Clovis locker room, there was nothing but tears and frowns. However, as the players emerged from inside, even the saddest Wildcats smiled, if only for a moment, because there was a crowd of purple waiting for them, cheering each player when they emerged.
“I love these fans,” senior offensive lineman Mel Grassel said, a tear running down his cheek. “I love these fans so much. I’m gonna miss all of them, every single one of them.”
Senior running back Tanner Fickling said the show of support by the Wildcat faithful means a lot to the players.
“They’re awesome,” he said. “They are the best fans in the world, seriously.”
After losing in the Class 5A state championship game 17-7 to Mayfield, the Wildcats were a solemn bunch, but the fans did their best to comfort the Cats.
Melissa Harvey, mother of Clovis defensive end Chris Finch, offered her son some words of encouragement.
“I said I was proud of him, he played a good game,” Harvey, said. “I told him to keep his head up. He’s got college to look forward to.”
Senior wide receiver Bryan Hudson said hearing applause after a loss is a good feeling.
“It feels good to know that, win or lose, they’ll always be behind us,” Hudson said. “They always have our back. That feels good.”
Fickling said, even with the loss — just the Wildcats’ second this season, the weekend was a great experience.
“I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world — it was awesome,” said Fickling, who scored Clovis’ touchdowns on a 10-yard run in the third quarter. “Being with all these guys and playing in this kind of a game, and Mayfield’s crowd — golly, they had a huge crowd today — it was a once in a lifetime experience and I’ll never forget it.”
The senior said this year’s team was made up of a great bunch of guys.
“I’ll never forget this and I don’t think any of these guys in here will either,” said Fickling, one of 30 seniors on the Wildcats’ roster. “It was definitely a good thing to be a part of.”
Grassel said his tears were about the game, but they were just as much about having played his last game for Clovis.
“We were just trying to celebrate all the last times we had with all our buddies,” Grassel said. “I’m just sad because I’m never going to get to play with them again.”
Chase Denton said he wishes his senior season in which Clovis reached the state final for the 18th time in 28 seasons under coach Eric Roanhaus, could have ended differently.
“I’m gonna miss everybody out here,” said Denton, who plays offensive and defensive line. “We’ve been through some hard times and some good times, but this ain’t the way I want to end it. This is probably the best season I’ve ever had playing football. I’m gonna miss it a lot.”
Senior quarterback Devin Sweet said being the runner-up is a tough pill to swallow.
“It’s never good to come into the state game and lose,” Sweet said. “We’ve worked so hard all year and all week. I love these guys. Losing the game doesn’t mean I hate my teammates or anything, I love every single one of them. It’s disappointing. It would have been so much better if we won.”