Photo by Nick Baker – The Clovis Cougars always put on a show when they enter Lamonica Stadium.
By Paul Meadors | Sports Editor
Clayton Alexander waited a long time to step foot back on the friendly confines of Lamonica Stadium – and when he finally did, oh my, what a spectacular return it was.
The powerfully built and agile Clovis High tight end who also wreaks havoc as a defensive end, returned from a devastating knee injury suffered in the middle of last season and caught not one, or two, but three impressive touchdown passes from fellow senior Trey Lake in the Cougars 36-0 win over Burbank of Sacramento in the season opener.
Alexander scored on catches of 11, 26 and 13 yards, as the Cougars built up a 20-0 halftime lead en route to the shutout. The second touchdown was the most impressive when he caught a short pass over the middle, shredded off a defender and rumbled into the end zone.
“I feel great and happy to be back,” said Alexander after the game, standing six-foot-three 220 pounds with eye black smeared down to his cheeks and a big gold headband with a blue ‘C’ covering curly, moppy hair. “Missing eight games last year was rough and I’ve been waiting since the Valley championship game when we lost. It fueled the fire in me.”
The Lake to Alexander duo spent a good deal of the summer working out together, getting that synergy going. Even when there was no scheduled practice or workouts the two could be seen working out during the hot Clovis days – and it showed.
“Three touchdowns tonight, that’s terrific, you can’t get much better than that,” said head coach Rich Hammond. “Clayton played like a 3-year senior you’d expect.”
The Cougars, coming off an 11-2 season, a co-TRAC title and a loss in the D1 Valley title game, wasted little time in the game scoring the first Lake to Alexander touchdown with 7:05 in the first quarter. Their third hook-up was a beautifully timed pass to the left corner, lofted into the outstretched hands of Alexander in the third quarter.
Lake, starting his first varsity game, looked in command the entire night and was rarely touched in the backfield, protected by a mix of big ol’ dudes up front – Seth Nevills, Argie Salcedo, Anthony Prentice, Eric Delk, Brandon Contreras, Kenny Blowers and Cole Acevedo. Lake was 12-17 for 155 yards and zero turnovers.
The game also marked the return of Samir Allen, the quick and elusive running back who broke his ankle ever before playing a game last year. The senior scored on a 11-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.
Senior running back Tyson Fraser scored a 12-yard rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter as the Cougars rushed for 145 yards as a team. Avery Castillo was credited with a sack and safety in the fourth quarter to make the score 36-0.
Hammond, in his eighth year as head coach, showed his usual pre, during and post-game excitement and is especially excited with Bullard coming to town on September 9. The stadium’s brand new massive video scoreboard highlighted the night the
Knights are coming to town.
“I’m proud of the way we executed, that was the biggest thing I took from tonight,” Hammond said. “We executed on special team, offense and on defense – that was most impressive to me. That level of execution gives us something to build upon.”