By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer
ALBUQUERQUE — Eldorado threw the first shot Friday night, but the Eagles couldn’t withstand Clovis High’s counterpunch.
Senior running back Brian Mead rushed for 203 yards on 29 carries and scored four touchdowns and junior Manuel Robles added 148 yards, including a devastating 77-yard TD run in the second quarter, as the Wildcats stormed past Eldorado 34-14 at Wilson Stadium.
The Cats (1-1) did not take senior wide receiver Rishard Matthews after learning on Thursday that he is moving back to California to live with his father. Matthews, who set a CHS record with 12 touchdown receptions last season, had been staying with his sister as his legal guardian in Clovis.
“I guess they decided on Wednesday to (have him) move back to California,” CHS assistant coach Darren Kelley said. “Wednesday was when we heard something (about it); by Thursday, he was leaving.”
Kelley said Matthews checked out of school on Friday.
With the Eagles (0-2) keying on him early, Mead was held in check for most of the first half. Nonetheless, the Cats scored on each of their full possessions — they were also moving the ball when time ran out at the end of each half.
“We just made a few adjustments in the line at halftime, and they got the job done,” Mead said. “When they started keying on me, that’s when Manuel got his long runs.”
The Eagles went 65 yards in 12 plays following the opening kickoff, with senior Stephen Park scoring on a 1-yard run. But Clovis promptly covered 73 yards on 14 plays following the kickoff, capped by Mead’s 2-yard scamper into the right corner of the end zone.
After the Eagles converted two third-down plays following the kickoff, left end Luke Masters sacked quarterback Roman Montano for a 6-yard loss that eventually led to a punt. On second-and-12, Robles broke two tackles on a toss left and suddenly found himself ahead of everyone down the sideline.
“I got tangled up (in traffic), but I just kept my feet going,” said Robles, adding that the Cats decided to attack Eldorado’s right side in the second half — away from the 6-foot-6, 230-pound Mantano at left defensive end.
“Their right end wasn’t nearly as big,” he said.
Eldorado coach David Williams said he thought his team played well for most of the game.
“We actually felt good for a long time,” he said. “But (Robles’) long TD run in the first half was really a back-breaker.
“Their long drives just killed us. We actually played pretty well for about three quarters, but then we got worn down and that’s Clovis’ style.”
Mead scored on runs of 2, 38 and 8 yards on the Cats’ first three possessions of the second half. The game ended with CHS quarterback Jordan Mendoza taking a knee inside the Eldorado 5.
The Cats outgained Eldorado 403-201, including 387 yards on the ground. Eldorado pulled to 21-14 late in the third quarter on a 4-yard TD run by William Elliott, but Mead broke a toss right for his 38-yard score on the first play of the final period, getting just enough of a chip block from Robles to spring him.
Kelley said he thinks the Cats have enough to make up for the loss of Matthews.
“Brian’s a guy who makes big plays, and Manuel’s going to make big plays,” Kelley said. “It’s a good win. It’s our first road trip, and with all the things that went on it’s a big win for us.”