By Kevin Wilson
Shaprei Bryant didn’t need to replace Kamal Cass for the Clovis Wildcats to move into the second round of the Class 5A playoffs. Being Bryant, it turned out, was more than enough.
Thrust into starting duty with Cass sidelined as a precaution, Bryant had a historic performance, rushing 34 times for 339 yards and five touchdowns as the Wildcats ran by the ninth-seeded Volcano Vista Hawks 47-21 Friday night at Leon Williams Stadium.
The win puts eighth-seed Clovis (6-5) into a second-round playoff game with undefeated and top-seeded Valley. The kickoff is set for 7 p.m. Friday at Community Stadium in Albuquerque. It will be Clovis’ first game in the stadium, which opened this season, and its first game against Valley since 2003.
Bryant’s yardage was the most in a Wildcat playoff game, besting Cass’ 336 in last year’s first-rounder against Atrisco Heritage, and the second-most in school history. The night included touchdown runs of 6, 61, 64, 15 and 22 yards.
“The coaches told me I was going to have to start,” said Bryant, who filled in for Cass last week and rushed for 117 yards before going down with cramps. “I just had to go out and do what I could do with my God-given ability.”
As for the cramps? “I ate a couple of bananas, drank lots of Gatorade and water,” Bryant said. “I almost threw up from drinking too much.”
But it was Volcano Vista (5-6) that had the sick feeling. The Hawks, who advanced from the 8-9 game last year to reach the semifinals, lost sophomore starting quarterback Josh Williams on their third play from scrimmage after a jarring sack by Clovis’ Jaquan Franklin. Junior backup Carlos Torres managed just 3-of-16 passing for 36 yards in an offense that ran mostly counters and traps and rarely stretched the field.
“When your backup quarterback comes in,” Hawks coach Chad Wallin said, “your playbook shrinks a little bit and you use what he’s comfortable with. But he battled hard. We’re proud of him.”
Senior back Dominico Chavez carried the Hawks offense, rushing 25 times for 157 times and touchdown runs of 21, 16 and 1 yard. Outside of Chavez, Volcano Vista managed just 128 yards on the night.
Clovis actually outgained the Hawks 86-84 in the passing game, thanks largely to a 63-yard connection from Dakotah Yandell to sophomore Roland Chavez, but spent most of the night with the ground game that Volcano Vista rarely stopped.
The Wildcats’ other touchdown came on a 1-yard keeper by Yandell, capping off a 13-play, seven-minute drive with nine runs by Bryant.
“Coach (Eric) Roanhaus told us he’d never had a game like that,” Wallin said of Bryant. “We saw him on film, and we knew he could. He is a scat back with power. He comes around the end, and if you’re looking to tackle him, you’d better be ready.”
Roanhaus had estimated Cass at around 75 percent, and would have only played if the Wildcats were desperate. After Bryant’s second 60-plus-yarder, it was a foregone conclusion Cass would spend his time between an exercise bike on the running track and cheering his teammates on the sideline. Roanhaus figures Cass will be closer to 95 percent when it’s time to face the Vikings.
“Hopefully next week, we can have a 1-2 punch,” Roanhaus said, referring to Cass and Bryant.