Clovis High quarterback Jordan Mendoza drops back to throw a pass against Artesia during the Wildcats’ last game on Oct. 13 at Leon Williams Stadium. The Cats begin District 4-5A play tonight at home against Hobbs. (CNJ staff photo: Andy DeLisle)
By Greg Price: CNJ sports writer
In the entryway of the Clovis locker room, a trophy case devoted to the program’s accomplishments stands against the left wall. Among the numerous state title honors and jerseys of legendary players, a miniature cannon rests inside as a symbol of Clovis’ age-old rivalry with Hobbs.
Tradition says whichever team wins the annual game takes the cannon home, similar to a passed torch or bragging rights.
Today, the cannon and a shot at the District 4-5A title is up for grabs as the Cats begin their district slate against the Eagles at Leon Williams Stadium.
Hobbs comes into Clovis after squeaking past Carlsbad in a 27-24 overtime thriller that ended on a field goal by senior Adam Richards.
With a win, the Eagles (5-4, 1-0 district) can clinch their first district title since 1982. Clovis (5-3) is playing its first of two district games.
Clovis is hungry and angry after a 32-26 loss two weeks ago to Class 4A power Artesia. Senior defensive end Blake Hicks said that game will fuel the Cats tonight.
“We’re going to use the loss,” Hicks said. “Our defense is just going to go nuts on (Hobbs).”
Leading Hobbs is senior quarterback Teron Bolton. Like the match-ups against strong, able quarterbacks such as Cibola’s Jonathan Mader and Artesia’s Landry Jones, the Cats defense must contend with the 6-foot-2 200-pound Bolton. The two-year starter has completed 91 of 220 pass attempts for 1,394 yards and 15 TDs.
Bolton also leads the Eagles in rushing with 462 yards and four touchdowns.
“Our passing is what got us to where we are now,” Hobbs fifth-year coach Phillip Roybal said. “But the biggest factor for us is to come out, compete and win a district title.”
Hicks said the defense’s main job is to contain the diverse Bolton in the pocket, particularly preventing him from bootlegging to either side of the hash marks.
Clovis assistant coach Darren Kelley said Bolton has a pair of big targets in senior Daniel Lopez and junior Reese Franklin, who each stand at 6-foot-2.
However, Roybal said Hobbs’ running game has been inconsistent this year, with the Eagles trying four running backs other than Bolton.
Artesia hurt Clovis with its ground game, and Kelley said the Cats have worked all week on hunting the ball down.
“We’re running to the football a lot faster,” Kelley said. “When you make a mistake against a team like Artesia, they’re going to make you pay for it.”
Etched into the side of the cannon, on small gold and silver plaques, is the winner of each game held that year, dating as far back as 1967.
“Their kids talk about it and so do ours,” Roybal said. “And pride becomes a factor that adds to the rivalry.”
Hobbs at Clovis
When: 7 p.m. today at Leon Williams Stadium.
Records: Hobbs 5-4 (1-0 District 4-5A); Clovis 5-3 (0-0).
Coaches: Hobbs, Phillip Roybal; Clovis, Eric Roanhaus.
On the radio: KWKA-AM 680, KTQM-FM 99.9, KCLV-AM 1240, KICA-FM 98.3, KKYC-FM 102.3
Hobbs players to watch: Teron Bolton, QB, 6-2, 200, Sr.; Michael White, RB, 6-0, 180, Sr.; Daniel Lopez, WR, 6-2, 165, Sr.
Last meeting: In 2005, the Cats rallied from a 7-0 halftime deficit to beat Hobbs 14-7.
Keys to the game: Clovis will look to contain Bolton in the pocket and slow down the Eagles’ receivers, while Roybal said his offense will run what the Clovis defense gives up.
Quotable: “The biggest thing about him is he’s a competitor. He’s always fighting for extra yards, and there’s a reason why he’s been starting two years for them.” — Clovis assistant coach Darren Kelley, on Bolton.