Manzano’s Nicky Lawson goes over South defender Steven Gonzeles (32) of Mayfield for the North’s only touchdown in Friday’s Class 4A-5A New Mexico High School Coaches Association all-star football game in Albuquerque. (Albuquerque Journal photo)
By Eric Butler: CNJ correspondent
ALBUQUERQUE — One recent senior from Clovis, Chris Finch, isn’t sure whether he’ll be attending NMMI in Roswell or Snow Junior College in Utah when the next football season rolls around.
Many in the stands at University Stadium in Albuquerque thought the the 6-foot, 5-inch defensive end would look just fine in UNM’s cherry-and-silver after Finch made a pair of critical plays for the South in Friday’s 24-7 victory over the North in the New Mexico High School Coaches Association Class 4A-5A all-star football game.
Finch, Jonathon Sweet, Devin Sweet, Chase Denton, Aaron Simon and Randy Cerda all represented Clovis High for the last time as prep players. The whole South sideline had a definite Wildcats’ feel as Clovis’ Eric Roanhaus and his CHS assistants coached the team to victory.
Early in the game, Finch made his presence felt. During the North’s second possession, Finch rambled in to sack Cibola’s Clinton Carroll for an 11-yard loss.
Then, with 1:51 left in the opening quarter, Finch bottled up an attempted North reverse and forced a fumble from Rio Rancho’s Mike Love — who has signed to play at the University of New Mexico. Carlsbad’s Scott Smith recovered for the South at the North five and the southerners scored on a two-yard plunge by Silver’s Dakota Woodard for a 14-0 lead.
Finch got the trifecta, almost, at the start of the second half. From his position at the end of the defensive line, Finch snagged an interception off a pass from Los Lunas’ Joey Giron. Picking the ball off at the North 35-yard line, the big lineman had daylight in front of him.
But, before he could reach the goal line, Finch was stripped of the ball and the North recovered.
“I’m a nervous guy and coaches always tell me I have zero moves,” Finch said. “I saw a touchdown and I took off with it. I tried to straight-arm a guy — kind of freaked out like a hot dog, you know.”
Jonathon Sweet, given the rules of the all-star game, made almost a perfect play at the beginning of the fourth quarter to set up a 20-yard field goal for a South 17-7 lead.
Flying in from his linebacker position, the recent Clovis High grad stripped Carroll of the ball and then jumped on it at the North nine yardline.
“I didn’t want to sack him, because I wasn’t sure if I could or not, so I just went for the ball,” Sweet said. “There’s a no-blitz rule and you can’t sack the quarterback unless you’re like a down lineman. But it was a fun play for me.”
Roanhaus won for the first time in three tries as the South’s head coach. The only downside of the game, as far as Roanhaus was concerned, was a concussion suffered by Devin Sweet early in the contest — a blow that kept the former Clovis quarterback and defensive back out of the last three quarters.
“It was a great group of kids we worked with all week,” Roanhaus said. “We had six Mayfield (players), six Clovis — a lot of kids that had played against each other hard. They were good kids and they got along with one another.
“They told me all week that ‘we’re gonna win, coach, we’re gonna win.’ And they didn’t lie.”