Clovis High’s Blake Hicks (88) and Michael Cohen (75) bring down Cibola quarterback Jonathan Mader (6) at Milne Stadium in Albuquerque on Saturday. (CNJ staff photo: Andy DeLisle)
By Greg Price: CNJ sports writer
ALBUQUERQUE — Clinging to a one-point lead late in the fourth quarter, visions of Clovis High’s heartbreaking loss to Palo Duro in Amarillo earlier this season ran through the mind of senior left tackle Brenton Hartle.
The Cats were trying to finish a game-clinching drive which had carried 16 plays and 65 yards and reached the Cibola 17. They were simply waiting for more magic from senior tailback Brian Mead — and a clutch play from Hartle.
Clovis ran a counter-trap, with Mead sprinting to the right. Hartle was there with the block to make sure Mead reached the end zone, and Clovis went on to nail down a 21-13 victory over the second-ranked and previously unbeaten Cougars on Saturday night at Milne Stadium.
“I just lowered my shoulder,” Hartle said of the play. “I felt Brian on my butt pad, and he got in the end zone.”
Hartle’s devastating block was the key to the score for Mead, who finished with 184 yards rushing and all three Clovis touchdowns.
“I think what really shook us up is that we never played (against) anyone like him before,” Cibola coach Judge Chavez said of Mead. “I thought we had a good defense, and to see him do those things, it just shook us up.”
Junior Manuel Robles added 95 yards on 10 carries for the Cats (5-2), who came into the game ranked third in Class 5A behind Mayfield and the Cougars (5-1).
Cibola quarterback Jonathan Mader went 6-of-16 through the air for 57 yards and also scored on a 5-yard run. Senior tight end Joe Lehocky caught three passes for 33 yards, including two third-down catches to keep Cougars drives alive.
Junior fullback Chase Bennison added 80 yards running in a losing effort.
Clovis led 14-0 at halftime, with the defense playing with energy and the offense in sync, but the second half was a different story.
“We had several times where we could’ve made some stops,” Clovis assistant coach Darren Kelley said. “We played hard all night tonight, which is something we hadn’t done yet.”
On the Cougars’ first possession of the second half, Mader converted two third downs on passes to Lehocky, leading to a 3-yard TD run by Bennison.
Mader found Lehockey again for a 9-yards gain on Cibola’s next drive, this time on third-and-5 early in the fourth quarter, setting up Mader’s TD run. But Cameron Cannady’s extra point kick was no good, keeping the Cougars from pulling even.
“You have to give some of the credit to them,” Kelley said of the Cougars’ comeback. “They’re big and strong up front.”