Clovis marched out onto Lamonica Stadium wearing the traditional gold pants, blue jerseys and gold helmets with the classic blue “C,” and on a hot yet picturesque evening, the Cougars played with pride, put up points and swarmed the field on defense.
In his Clovis debut, junior quarterback Isaiah Robles tossed five touchdowns, two each to Matthew Sanchez and Cameron Glass as the Cougars shut out Modesto in the second half on their way to a 42-14 win in the season opener.
“Other than the four and a half minutes before the half we played a really good football game,” Clovis coach Rich Hammond said. “I liked the way we played defense and got after them. They [Modesto] have good athletes and we contained those guys.”
After bolting to a 21-0 lead, Modesto stormed back and scored with 3:01 left in the half and again with 21 seconds left, cutting the lead to 21-14.
However, Clovis came out fired up and played shutout football the rest of the way.
To begin the second half, Clovis blocked a punt and recovered the ball on the 30-yard line.
On the next play, Robles lofted a perfectly thrown ball to Sanchez, who caught it in stride just before the end zone.
“They punched us in the mouth the last four minutes so we had to respond and we just came out and executed,” said Sanchez, who had six catches for 100 yards. “It felt really good actually, it took a lot of pressure off.”
Robles, a transfer from Bullard, settled down after Clovis’ first three drives resulted in zero points when he scrambled to find Glass on the right side of the end zone for an 8-yard TD pass at the 3:12 mark in the first quarter.
With under a minute to go in the first quarter, Dax Martinez recovered a fumble on the Modesto 45-yard line and Clovis struck quick when Robles hooked up with Sanchez who spun around a Modesto defender and went untouched into the end zone for a 14-0 lead.
“I was really nervous at first but once I got that first touchdown drive out of the way I was fine,” Robles said. “After that, I felt confident.”
Robles, listed at 5-foot-11 and 160 pounds, finished 18-26 for 242 yards and no interceptions.
The defense, led by a tough front line of Keanu Williams, Anthony Aldape and Nolan Freeman, helped control an athletic Modesto offense, holding the Panthers to only 83 rushing yards on 42 carries, a 1.9 average.
Senior receiver Reef Dove caught an 7-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter and Pheng Thao scored on a 1-yard rush in the fourth for the game’s final score.
“We have one of the teams that guys love to play together,” Hammond said. “The spirit of our team is as good as it has been and I’m excited about that. It was a good victory and something the guys can build on.”