By Paul Meadors, Sports Editor
Bullard 35 Clovis West 28
Clovis West furious fourth quarter comeback against Bullard came up short – literally.
Down by seven points and driving, Eagles quarterback Adrian Martinez’s pass to Caleb Kelley from the 12-yard line just short of the end zone was intercepted by Knights’ Mike Kruse, ending the Eagles season in the second round of the Central Section Division 1 playoffs by a score of 35-28 played at McLane Stadium.
The Knights (9-2) led 35-14 after three quarters behind running back Charles Williams’ four touchdowns (runs of 61, seven, two, and a 68-yard reception). But for the potent Eagles (6-5) offense who found little consistency early in the game, there’s always a chance.
They scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter – a 9-yard run by Martinez and a 9-yard pass to Kelly with 5:48 left – to put a scare into the No. 3 seed Knights and get within a touchdown, who earlier in the season beat the Eagles 42-23 in week four.
“It was a great feeling coming back into the game,” said the sophomore Martinez. “We knew we had the capability and we just needed to keep believing.”
And believe they did. After recovering a successful onside kick and two clutch fourth-down plays the Eagles were driving, setting the stage for the game-deciding play.
“It was a designed option to either run or pass and I chose to pass,” Martinez said about his fourth quarter throw. “Caleb was running a slant and the defender cut in front of him. It was a bad decision on my part and a great play by the Bullard player.”
The Golden Eagles struck first blood in the game with a 19-yard Martinez touchdown run, but then the Knights score 28 unanswered points, putting the Eagles in catch-up mode all game long. Bullard actually got on the board when Chris Lacy stepped in front of a Martinez pass and returned it 30 yards, tying the game 7-7 in the first quarter.
Martinez ended with 129 yards passing and two touchdowns through the air and added 132 yards and two touchdowns on the ground for the Eagles.
And with the Eagles loss, it signaled the end of the high school career of linebacker/wide receiver Caleb Kelly, the No. 1 rated recruit on the West Coast, who has narrowed his list of colleges to Oregon, Notre Dame, Michigan and Oklahoma. He’ll make a final decision on February 3.
The sting of realizing it’s the last high school football game with his band of brothers is real.
“You hug your teammates in your gear for the last time and you can’t help but cry,” Kelly said. “It’s crazy and I’m filled with emotion because after seven years playing together we are finally done playing.”
Clovis 28 Edison 6
Focused, motivated and playing at the top of their game, Clovis (10-1) manhandled the Edison Tigers (5-6) 28-6 on November 20 to reach the Division 1 Central Section semi-finals.
The extra incentive was there – the Tigers knocked out the Cougars last year with a stunning comeback, scoring 21 straight points in the fourth quarter last season to win 21-14.
Not this year, and not against this team.
“It feels great,” said senior Cougars quarterback Sean Kuenzinger. “We have all the pieces this year and I knew Edison was going to come out with all they had. We remember the loss last year and it was a great motivation.”
And thanks to the play of senior all-everything Josh Hokit, the Cougars made sure there was no repeat of last season.
After being stymied on their opening drive and turning the ball over at 4-yard line, Hokit raced in from his safety spot on defense, ripped the ball out of a Tiger’s running back and scooped and scored for the early game-changer.
“That was huge,” Cougars coach Rich Hammond said, still brimming with excitement after the game. “It kind of made the world right.”
What also made the world right is the Cougars defense, led by lineman A.J. Nevills, Daniel Varian, Spencer Smith, Quinn Vosmera, linebackers Jerod Hill, Tanner Rice, Trevor Hartman, and Hokit, who made it tough for the Tigers all night.
“At this time of the year we have to play great defense and be able to run the ball,” continued Hammond. “We did those two things tonight, especially in the second half.”
With the running game pounding, it was a Kuenzinger to wide-receiver J.J. Wills connection with 5:12 left in the second quarter and the Cougars up 7-0 that had the crowd buzzing.
On fourth down, Kuenzinger heaved a deep pass into the corner of the end zone that Wills twisted and turned and adjusted and hauled in, proving this was going to be the Cougars night.
Running back Nash Vidmar would add a 3-yard touchdown in the third to make it 21-6, then Hokit sealed the deal with a 3-yard run of his own in the fourth quarter.
The win set up a TRAC rematch in the semi-finals with Clovis North, who defeated Buchanan.
Clovis football boys help those in need
A tradition started by the Clovis Elk Lodge in 1979 has grown by leaps and bounds over the years – and this Thanksgiving season they were joined by some helpful hands: members of the Clovis High Cougars football team.
Jeffrey Battaion, Mason Varner, Sean Kuenzinger, Coltin Velasquez, Tanner Rice and J.J. Wills were on hand to help deliver and package Thanksgiving dinner to the needy, two days before their big football playoff game against Clovis North, proving there’s more to life than just football.
The Elks Lodge with members Tom Richardson, Steve Velasquez (father of Coltin) and Dennis Prideville, as well as members of the boys scouts of Clovis, who have been involved since 2007, helped to serve over 200 families in times of need.
Clovis North girls, Moffett win Valley X-Country titles
Clovis North cross country runner extraordinaire Lauren Moffett easily cruised to a Central Section Division 1 cross country individual title on familiar ground, besting all-comers on Nov. 18 helping her team win the overall championship as well.
Moffett, who earlier in the day officially signed with Vanderbilt, won the 3.1 miles race at Woodward Park with a time of 17:55. The TRAC placed eight girls in the top ten:
2. Meagen Lowe, Buchanan, 18:20; 3. Blayney Dolan, Clovis North, 18:29; 4. Skylar Steenburgh, Buchanan, 18:39; 6. Clare Hernandez, Buchanan, 18:53; 8. Jena Srikanth, Clovis North, 18:54; 9. Katie Nili, Buchanan, 19:00; 10. Camilla Hanson, Clovis North, 19:05.
In the boys’ race Buchanan placed second overall led by a sixth place finish from Stewart Fernandez, 15:59, eighth place Tom Pritsky, 16:09 and ninth place Christopher Kolar, 16:13.
Basketball season begins
Don’t look now but the basketball season is upon us with all its hardwood glory, with showcases and tournaments galore.
The Clovis West girls program, returning all starters from a Central Section championship team, hosts their own Nike Central Valley Showdown where four valley teams will match up with four out-of-section teams four straight nights. The games will be played in the West Gym from November 3-6.