By Paul Meadors, Sports Editor
In your hands (or on your favorite electronic device) is the new and improved version of the Clovis Roundup sports section, an overflowing cornucopia of athletic goodness highlighting the local schools, players, and coaches that make us all stand up and cheer. I’ve always said there are no lack of stories to be told in the TRAC; every team, every player has a narrative, their own testimony, tales of struggle and triumph. They are just waiting for a voice. We hope to sing a song of hope and bring a joyful noise to you, the reader.
And what can you look forward to every time you peel apart the pages or click on the sports tab? A feature called Around the TRAC, a personal blog-type introduction followed by a quick synopsis of the league’s various sports filled with pictures and schedules, two pages focusing on the big games of the past two weeks and human interest stories featuring the personalities we all love to read about.
So, sit back, relax and lose yourself in reading about the best and brightest your Clovis area sports community has to offer. And please note that gentle and positive suggestions are always welcomed – as are Best Buy gift cards and free ponies. But only those cute little Shetland ponies because a real big one won’t fit in my backyard.
OK, enough with the gibber-jabber, let’s talk football, where players, coaches, students and yes, even sportswriters, wake up on Friday mornings with that nervous, anxious feeling knowing that Friday Night Lights is finally here after a long week. But as I walked out of my house on Friday morning at 7:15 on September 11, an ominous scene took place; the sky was hazy, the air difficult to breathe and my car caked with a layer of ash due to the Rough Fire plaguing our region. I didn’t like what I was seeing or what I was feeling.
And sure enough, by 2:30 that afternoon Clovis Unified had canceled all games due to risky air quality, which meant no football later that evening. So, as an apocalyptic cloud straight out of a Mad Max movie replaced the bright lights of Veterans Memorial and Lamonica Stadium, sadly, there was no Clovis West vs Turlock and no Buhach Colony vs Clovis North. No watching CW star Caleb Kelly and CN star Jayson Lee showcase their football talent. In fact, Clovis West didn’t play for two weeks because of their week four bye. But alas, we all live to watch (and play) another week and the bright lights eventually returned to their illuminating glory.
Now let’s check out how our TRAC teams fared in weeks three and four:
Week 3 football
Sanger 32 Clovis East 15
On a night before Ash Friday, with the heat permeating at 100 degrees and the skyline foreshadowing the flaky rain, the Timberwolves were worn down by the Apaches of Sanger on Thursday, September 10 in a game Clovis East led 7-0 at halftime.
Clovis East was looking to start the season 3-0 and had the horses to do it – mainly sophomore running Marcus Washington and senior dual-threat quarterback Trey Semien – but it was Sanger’s Isaiah Hilliard who bounced off defenders and pounded his way to 207 yards on 27 carries.
Washington had come in to Lamonica stadium with 395 yards rushing and seven touchdowns, helping the Timberwolves average 48 points per game but Sanger’s swarming defense held him in check to the tune of 61 yards on 16 carries. Semien got the Timberwolves on the board first with a 7-yard touchdown run but it wasn’t enough as they were outscored 32-8 the rest of the way.
Clovis 28 Atwater 0
Escaping Ash Friday and traveling up north, the Cougars took care of business in Atwater behind the continuing stellar play of quarterback Sean Kuenzinger who passed for 356 yards and four touchdowns and his exceptional wide-outs J.J. Wills and Coltin Velasquez who combined for 321 of those yards.
The shutout was due to the play of linebackers Tanner Rice and Jered Hill, defensive linemen A.J. Nevills and Daniel Varian safeties Josh Hokit and Dyllan Hudec.
Buchanan 24 Lemoore 0
Buchanan knows they have a special thing going on with the defense, and count Lemoore as a believer too, joining fellow TRAC-mate Clovis in the shutout party during week three.
Led by defensive ends Bryson Young and Ben Parker controlling the outside and cornerback Trevon Cummings, the Bears pitched a shutout and rode the wave of upstart sophomore running back Trevor Ervin to a victory in the clean(er) air of Lemoore.
Ervin rushed for 186 yards and two touchdowns in lifting Buchanan to a (2-1) record. Carter Winn returned an interception 16 yards for the 24-point lead in the first half, all the points they would need.
Week 4 football
Clovis 49 Stockdale 42
Homecoming 2015 for the Clovis Cougars will be a night long remembered.
In perhaps the wildest game of the season so far, the state’s No. 21 ranked team came back after being down 35-21 late in the third quarter to a pesky Stockdale team, rallying behind the play of Clovis High’s big offensive three: QB Sean Kuenzinger, elite athletes J.J. Wills and Coltin Velasquez and some hard hitting punishment from linebacker Tanner Rice.
Down by 14 with 1:33 left in the third, J.J. Wills took a short slant route from Kuenzinger who took it to the house for a 50-yard score. Mission accomplished No. 1.
And after forcing Stockdale to punt, Velasquez received the punt and dazzled the homecoming crowd into a tizzy, streaking down the sideline for the game-tying touchdown, 35-35. Mission accomplished No. 2.
Still two more missions to accomplish, and with the score tied and Stockdale on their heels, Wills put the accentuation on the night by darting and sprinting for two TDs from Kuenzinger, who finished with 326 yards passing and five total touchdowns for the Cougars (4-0) to make it 49-35.
But Stockdale, continuing to play the spoiler, scored once again to close within seven points. But as the ensuing onside kick was recovered by Rice, the final mission was accomplished.
Sunnyside 61 Clovis East 42
There’s nothing wrong with Clovis East’s offense, with quarterback Trey Semien and running back Marcus Washington continuing to put up eye-popping stats, but with seven starters out because of injuries the Timberwolves again ran out of gas late losing on a Thursday night 61-42 to Sunnyside to fall to (2-2) on the season.
Washington ran for 139 yards and three more touchdowns including a 70-yard TD run and Semien chipped in with 118 yards on the ground, 164 in the air and a TD throw.
Buchanan girls’ tennis sets the tone
Defending Central Section champion Buchanan got off on the right foot in the TRAC, beating rival Clovis West 5-4 in a match played at Buchanan on Thursday, September 17. The Bears ran their overall record to 9-0 on the season behind winning four singles matches and the play of No. 1 doubles Lasya Gudipudi and Lauren Lee.
The Bears were a combined 66-6 in games played before the match, which included dominating 9-0 wins over Central and Clovis East the week before.
In other TRAC tennis matches Thursday, September 17, Clovis beat Central 9-0 behind No. 1 singles player Gabby Gutierrez, and Clovis East defeated Clovis North 5-4
TRAC girls’ golf front nine at Copper River
The TRAC girls’ golf teams played under ideal conditions on Thursday, September 17, in a front-nine hole match play held at the beautiful Copper River golf course.
Buchanan defeated Clovis West 4 and 2, Clovis North defeated Clovis East 4 and 2, and Central beat Clovis 3.5 to 2.5.
Matches continue on September 24 at Dragonfly GC, September 29 back at Copper River, back to Dragonfly GC on October 1, and October 6 at Belmont.
Clovis West wins volleyball tournament up north
Clovis West volleyball brought home the hardware from the Central California Classic Varsity Tournament in Merced over the September 11-12 weekend, going a perfect 8-0 and beating TRAC foe Central in the final 17-25, 25-23, 15-13. Tiersa Bailey was named tournament MVP and the talented junior Micah Herbert was selected first team all-tournament for the Golden Eagles. The team improved to 12-3 before heading to Las Vegas for the massive Durango Fall Classic September 18-19.
Head Coach Rhonda DeRuiter, in her 11th season at Clovis West, which has included five D-1 Central Section titles, has a never-be-satisfied approach to her teams, one that has proved well over the years.
“I’ve had teams that are still improving all the way into November,” DeRuiter said after their home victory over Bullard on September 9. “Those are the teams that have done well. If they are plateauing already in October then we are going to have a problem.”