Buchanan beats Clovis East in ground game battle

Buchanan’s Brock Jones (No. 7) and C.J. Jones (No. 24) break up a Clovis East pass attempt in their team’s 41-14 win to move to 7-2 overall and 3-1 in league. The Timberwolves fell to 4-5 and 1-3. COURTESY OF AN EYE FOR IT ALL PHOTOGRAPHY

Over the last three years Buchanan has risen from the ashes, establishing itself as one of the top programs in the Central Section.

And there’s little doubt Clovis East is vastly improved, snapping its 27-game losing streak earlier in the year, adding three more wins in the process.

The two met at Veterans Memorial Stadium on Friday, Oct. 19 and it was the Bears (7-2, 3-1) who proved the much stronger force as they manhandled Clovis East 41-14 behind a solid ground attack and a swarming defense that smothered to the Timberwolves smash-mouth running game on homecoming night.

With the loss, Clovis East fell to 4-5 overall and 1-3 in league.

“We knew it was going to be a hard physical game because that’s what Clovis East prides themselves in,” Buchanan head coach Matt Giordano said. “We had to make sure our kids were ready for their physicality.

“The coaches at Clovis East should be very proud. To make the strides they’ve made under Ryan [Reynolds] is a tremendous testament to him and the coaches over there.”

Clovis East was a dominant program from 2002-08 (six TRAC titles and two Central Section Division I championships) before falling on hard times after coach Tim Murphy left in 2008. Reynolds, an assistant during those glory days, took over the program in 2017.

Giordano inherited a program that went 15-31 from 2012-15, and has gone 24-10 in the last three years, including a berth in the Valley title game in 2017.

Against Clovis East it was the running back duo of Kendall Milton and Levi Willems that led the charge with two touchdowns each.

Milton, a junior who holds almost 40 Division I scholarships, scored on runs of 16 and 21 yards for his 20th touchdown of the season while Willems added runs of four and 41 yards, the final one increasing the lead to 41-7 with 9:01 left in the game.

Milton, standing at 6-foot-2, 205 pounds, also saw time at linebacker and collected his first career interception in the fourth quarter.

“The touchdowns are neat but getting my first high school interception was a great feeling,” Milton said. “That’s going to be my first clip on my Hudl highlight.”

After Milton’s first touchdown, Buchanan made it 14-0 when the Bears blocked a punt that Reece Bacon caught on the fly in the end zone.

Sophomore quarterback D.J. Stevenson tossed a 32-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Hernandez in the third quarter for a 34-7 lead.

“I thought D.J. kept himself composed and made the throws he had to make,” said Giordano, the eight year NFL vet who won a Super Bowl ring with the Indianapolis Colts in 2006. “Kendall and Levi did their job and of course we have to give credit to our hogs [the offensive line].”

Clovis East scored both its touchdowns by way of senior Ryan Hunt – a 9-yard run with 32 seconds left in the half to cut the lead to 20-7 and a 21-yard pass from Josh Sue in the fourth quarter.

Buchanan linebacker Steven Scheidt also had praise for Clovis East’s physicality and the strong play of Hunt: “This was a linebacker’s favorite game, it was a lot of fun. No. 9 is a really good running back, he was hard to go against.”

Buchanan is ranked No. 23 by Cal-Hi Sports, its only two losses to No. 4 ranked De La Salle and No. 10 Central.

The Bears finish the regular season Oct. 26 against Clovis North and the Timberwolves face Central at Lamonica Stadium on Thursday, Oct. 25.