Coming off two consecutive games that came down to the last play, the Clovis Cougars football team found itself in a familiar situation for a third-straight week.
Just like the previous week, the Cougars made the big plays down the stretch, resulting in a 17-14 win against Stockdale at Lamonica Stadium on Friday, Sept. 15.
The Cougars’ latest clutch performance was fueled by backup quarterback Jake Sanders, who replaced the injured Jason Hunt.
Sanders found Michael Machado for a 29-yard touchdown with 6:28 to go in the fourth, giving the Cougars the go-ahead score.
“I just couldn’t panic,” Sanders said. “I had to stay focused. I just had to trust my teammates.
Both sides of the ball played really well, but we definitely stepped up in the second half.”
Just a few week ago, Sanders was the third-string quarterback for the Cougars. But he always prepared himself in practice, believing there would be a time when his name would be called.
“I have been dreaming of this moment since I was 4 or 5,” Sanders said. “I just couldn’t believe it happened.”
Sanders stands at just 5-foot-8, 165 pounds. But he already has a commanding presence in the huddle.
“I came in as a small kid, but I just had to believe in my [teammates],” Sanders said. “I trust in them. They trust in me.”
After Sanders connected with Machado for the go-ahead score, it was up to the defense to seal the deal.
But the Mustangs gave themselves a chance to win it in the final minute, setting up a fourth down inside the red zone. The fourth-down pass was then intercepted by Nick Delgado, allowing the Cougars to run out the clock.
“We’ve had injuries, so we keep having guys come in and get the job done. I’m just really proud of how our guys responded,” Clovis head coach Richard Hammond said. “I’m proud of how we finished in a tough situation. They gave it their all and found a way to get it done against adverse circumstances.”
Cole Roberts scored on a 70-yard touchdown run in the first quarter to make the game 7-7 and Corey Arcelus kicked a 22-yard field in the third quarter to bring the Cougars within 4 points to 14-10.
The Cougars started the season with a 27-0 win at Burbank on Sept. 25. The following week, the Cougars lost 14-13 at home against Turlock. Before facing Stockdale, the Cougars squeaked out a 17-13 win against Bullard.
Hammond said it’s great for his team to get used to playing close games.
“It helps when you get down the road because you’re used to it. You find a way to do it and you believe in each other,” he said. “We played three games that came down to the last play in the last three weeks. They keep plugging and finding ways to get it done.”
The Cougars will look to make it a three-game win streak when they travel to Centennial on Sept. 22
“Our guys give unbelievable energy and effort. I’m fired up about the way they play,” Hammond said. “I want to see them keep competing the way they are. If they do that, everything will be OK.”