Clovis sophomore Devin Hanson never dreamed he'd be playing varsity football this season. Photo by Rick White
Clovis sophomore Devin Hanson entertained modest goals this fall.
“I figured I’d probably play a little junior varsity,” Hanson said. “Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d be playing varsity.”
Fantasy became reality when the Hanson — nicknamed “Bull” for his hard-nosed running style — was called up to the Wildcats’ varsity.
He performed well in a backup role, rushing for 189 yards and a touchdown.
He was thrust into a starting role this week for Saturday’s District 4-5A opener at Eldorado because of a season-ending injury to senior Shea Chase.
“He does a good job because he’s hard to tackle,” Clovis assistant coach Darren Kelley said. “The thing that makes him unique is the yards he gains after contact.”
Hanson is obviously excited about getting a chance to start, but saddened by the loss of his senior teammate.
“I still feel like a runt,” said the 5-11, 165-pound Hanson. “I hate what happened to Shea.”
Idle last week, the Wildcats (4-2) take a three-game winning streak into the contest against the rebuilding Eagles (1-5).
Kelley wonders if the off week might have come at the wrong time.
“In this situation, I’m not sure it was good,” Kelley said. “We were just starting to play well.
“We’re not banged up, so it didn’t help that way. The injuries we do have, we’re not getting them back anyway.”
Kelley said the Wildcats have emphasized fundamentals in practice the last two weeks in preparation of a run at a third-straight playoff appearance.
Meanwhile, Eldorado is simply trying to win a few games.
Eldorado coach David Williams said his biggest challenge this week is convincing his players they can beat Clovis.
“My biggest concern is the fact that it’s Clovis playing an Albuquerque school,” said Williams, who returns to the sideline this fall after missing last season while recovering from major injuries sustained a car accident. “Our kids know all about the Clovis mystique. What makes it hard for us is we never see their freshmen and junior varsity kids.”
The Eagles come in off a 15-13 loss to improved Albuquerque High.
Eldorado features a pair of sophomores in the backfield in quarterback Chris Roberts and running back Justin Martin and a fundamentally sound defense.
Martin rushed for 205 yards in last week’s loss while Roberts has passed for 400 yards and three touchdowns.
“Our kids play hard,” Williams said. “We’re not the kind of team that can make mistakes and win. Right now we don’t have the kind of players that can turn the game around with a play or two.”
The Eagles scored their first rushing touchdown last week and have just one interception on defense.
In contrast, Clovis is averaging better than 30 points a game and has forced 18 turnovers, including 11 interceptions.
Williams realizes his undermanned squad has a tough task ahead.
“Our kids have to go into the game with the mindset that it’s the first game of district play and nobody has any wins and losses,” Williams said.
Keeping the Wildcats’ offense off the field and forcing some turnovers are key to Eldorado having a chance to win, he said.
In contrast, the Wildcats will be looking to regain the momentum and confidence built during the last three games in which Clovis has outscored its opponents 115-13.
“We’ve got to start out district right,” Kelley said. “We can’t afford to lose a game and put our backs up against the wall.
“The big thing is we’ve got to survive the first quarter,” Kelley said. “I think it’s going to take us a little while to get going after having a week off.”