Clovis High’s Cade Wheeler catches a pass on a fake field goal, giving the Wildcats a first down at the La Cueva 2, during Friday’s game at Leon Williams Stadium. (CNJ staff photo: Andy DeLisle)
By Greg Price: CNJ sports writer
During the first half of Friday’s clash against La Cueva at Leon Williams Stadium, Clovis High assistant coach Darren Kelley could be seen shouting from the sidelines how lucky the Bears were getting when his team failed to pounce on their fumbles.
La Cueva fumbled twice in the first half, but recovered the ball each time. In the second half, Clovis (2-1) finally began to scoop up those loose balls, turning La Cueva’s mistakes into touchdown drives en route to a convincing 31-13 victory.
Kelley said turnovers were key to the win, but so was some Wildcats magic.
After senior running back Brian Mead tied the game at 7-7 with an 8-yard touchdown run, La Cueva (1-1) fumbled the subsequent kickoff and senior linebacker Cade Wheeler fell on the ball to put the Cats on the 18-yard line.
Yet, after a two-yard loss by junior Manuel Robles and an overthrown pass by junior quarterback Jordan Mendoza to senior tight end Luke Masters, the Cats were faced with a fourth-and-4 on the La Cueva 12.
Clovis sent out junior kicker Robert North to line up for a field goal — or so everyone thought.
Instead, the Cats faked the field goal and Mendoza bootlegged left to hit a streaking Wheeler for a first down on the Bears’ 2-yard line.
“We were watching game film all week,” Kelley said. “And we thought (the fake field goal) would work on them.”
Mead followed that spectacular play with his second touchdown, giving the Cats a lead they would never relinquish. Mead scorched the Bears for 105 yards and four touchdowns in the second half on his way to 165 yards on 26 carries for the night.
“In the second half, we made some adjustments,” Kelley said. “Basically, we just talked about staying on your path.”
During practice on Wednesday, Kelley stressed how the Cats needed to focus on playing hard every down. Continually pounding at the Bears’ large front line Friday night was an extension of that diligence on every snap.
Earlier, La Cueva appeared to have the game at hand, leading 7-0 at the half. Bears senior running back Richard Bohlken tallied 20 carries with 121 yards rushing in the first half, and CHS’ offense struggled early on.
On their first five possessions, the Wildcats punted twice, missed two field goals and lost a fumble.
Last week against Los Lunas, the Bears were called for 14 penalties. Friday, La Cueva drew 15 flags and turned the ball over four times.
The numerous penalties, plus senior defensive tackles Brett Kennedy and Michael Muniz playing limited minutes in the second half due to injury, hurt La Cueva’s chances, Bears coach Fred Romero said after the game.
“We played well in the first half,” he said. “But with (Kennedy and Muniz) out that puts pressure on the linemen and the offensive coordinator.”
After the game, Wheeler talked about how the Wildcats pulled together for their second win of the season.
“We were working hard in practice all week,” he said. “When you feel unstoppable, you are unstoppable.”