Coming off an extremely disappointing 40-13 pummeling from Central the week before, the Clovis West Eagles needed a lift, a spark, and a leader to rise up and show them the way.
Enter Rodney Wright III; senior, three-year varsity starter, an athlete whose actions speak louder than words, and a force to be reckoned with.
Deceptively strong at 5-foot-10 and 165 pounds with legs churning all night long and a motor that never stopped, Wright had a career night with four touchdowns – three rushing, one receiving – as Clovis West bounced back to beat rival Clovis 45-21 to finish up the regular season 8-2 overall and 4-1 in league, securing the No. 2 seed in the D-I Central Section playoffs.
“I’m proud of how the kids responded,” said Clovis West coach George Petrissans. “I was really confident that we were going to come back with a lot of pride.
“That game against Central was so humbling for us, it showed our kids where we have to go and what we have to do to get better.”
After a 1-yard touchdown run by junior quarterback Dante Chachere and a 21-yard touchdown pass from Chachere to Ricardo Arias put Clovis West up 14-0, Wright started his four-straight touchdown brigade with a 1-yard plunge up the middle with 13 seconds left in the first quarter for a 21-0 lead.
Wright would catch a 27-yard score with 3:39 left in the second quarter as the Golden Eagles took a 28-7 halftime lead.
Then in the third quarter, Wright would tack on his final two touchdowns on the ground on 1- and 4-yard runs up the middle.
“I hit the hole as hard as I can,” said Wright, who holds a scholarship offer from the Air Force Academy. “Just because I’m a smaller guy doesn’t mean anything – whoever is the bigger dog is going to win that fight.”
The Clovis West team writes their goals for their upcoming game on “commitment cards” during the week and reads them in front of the team the day before the game. Wright had a goal of scoring two touchdowns against Clovis but doubled it with his effort.
In all, Wright caught 10 passes for 118 yards and rushed for 89 yards on 12 carries.
“He’s a gamer,” said Petrissans of Wright. “He can run the ball from the backfield, catch the ball out of the backfield, catch the ball as a receiver. He’s a special talent.”
As for Clovis, the Cougars fell to 6-4 overall and 2-3 in the always competitive Tri-River Athletic Conference and the No. 7 playoff seed. The Cougars were also playing without running back Cole Roberts and safety Koa Ramos, due to injury. Senior quarterback Payton Mayer threw for 262 yards and two touchdowns, one each to Michael Machado and Reef Dove. Wyatt Hess scored on a 1-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
For Clovis West, Chachere ended the night 29-42 for 363 yards and the one touchdown. Senior receiver Nick Coleman chipped in with eight catches for 89 yards. Gordon Vaughn and Nathan Hilliard each had an interception for the Golden Eagles.
“This was huge for us mentally as a team,” said Wright. “Last week was tough for us but this week we responded as a unit. This was a huge win for us.”
Clovis has won a total of eight Valley titles, but none since 2002. Clovis West is seeking its first Valley championship since 2010 and its 10th overall.