Liberty hands Clovis first loss of season

Clovis sophomore Keanu Williams (No. 94) takes down Liberty running back Sam Stewart in the Cougars’ 48-10 loss. Williams also recorded a sack and recovered a fumble. COURTESY OF STAN MIYAKE

Clovis High knew Liberty would be a tough test despite its 2-2 record.

And the Patriots certainly proved they are a force to be reckoned with, starting fast and furious and firing on all cylinders for four quarters on their way to a 48-10 victory at Lamonica Stadium against the previously undefeated Cougars.

“They are a good team,” Clovis coach Rich Hammond said. “They made the plays when they needed to and we didn’t. Those things add up in a hurry.”

The game’s first possession was a bad omen for Clovis as Isaiah Robles’ pass to an open Matthew Sanchez 30 yards down the middle of the field, a play that most likely would have resulted in a 52-yard touchdown, was just off his fingertips.

From then Liberty would score 17 points in the first quarter on a 32-yard field goal and short touchdown runs from Nathan Mariscal and Sam Stewart.

Stewart, a 5-foot-9, 220-pound, tough-as-nails senior who also plays linebacker, ran for 146 yards and two touchdowns in the game.

The Patriots would stretch their lead to 27-3 at halftime. Throughout the night, Liberty’s defense contained the Cougars’ excellent receiving corp of Sanchez, Reef Dove and Grant Lake.

Clovis (4-1) scored its only touchdown on a 5-yard touchdown run by sophomore Jonathan Hillford with 4:16 remaining in the third quarter.

“We have to play with more physicality and that obviously showed tonight,” said Hammond, in his 11th year at Clovis. “That showed where we have to play.”

Liberty was coming off a 28-13 home loss to Buchanan (4-0), a game it led 10-8 at halftime before giving up three rushing touchdowns.

Liberty coach Bryan Nixon, who last visited Lamonica Stadium in 2015 when the Patriots beat Clovis to win the Central Section Division I championship, was pleased with the bounce-back performance.

“We knew we had to eliminate the little mistakes from last week and we had to get back to doing the little things proper,” Nixon said. “We were proud of our kids and the way they bounced back. We are really happy with the physicality we played with.”

Clovis’ 6-foot-3, 260-pound sophomore defensive lineman Keanu Williams, who holds scholarship offers from the likes of USC and Utah, recorded a sack in the first quarter and later recovered a fumble.

After a bye week, Clovis will enter TRAC play against Clovis East (3-2) followed by Central (5-0) and then Buchanan (4-0) before taking on Clovis North (1-3) and Clovis West (0-5).

“The good news about this is that it’s not a league game and we go into a bye,” Hammond said. “It’s murderers’ row when we get into league and we just have to find a way to get better week by week.”