Lamonica Stadium lies on the Clovis High School campus, yet when the Clovis Cougars football team walked into the stadium Friday night, they were sporting their road-white uniforms.
The Clovis East Timberwolves kicked them off their field and were the “home” team for Friday’s rivalry clash.
Clovis head coach Rich Hammond wasn’t happy with his Cougars being the “road” team at Lamonica.
“There is nothing fun about having to wear white uniforms in our own stadium, in any way, shape or form,” said Hammond.
“Last time I checked, Daryle Lamonica played at Clovis High.”
On a night where everything – even the uniforms – seemed to stack up against Clovis High, the Cougars fought through adversity and played spirited football in their gutsy 24-21 victory over Clovis East Friday.
Things didn’t look promising for the Cougars in the first few minutes of the game.
On the third play from scrimmage, Clovis East running back Chandler Hamilton sprinted past Clovis defenders on his way to a 44-yard touchdown.
After Clovis went three-and-out on the following drive, Clovis East marched down the field and scored with Chandler Hamilton’s second touchdown, a 3-yard scamper to put the Timberwolves up 13-0.
Clovis’ explosive offense took its time to get going, but finally in the second quarter, the Cougars engineered a three-play, 79-yard drive capped off by a 28-yard touchdown run by sophomore Nate Johnson.
Defensively, however, the vaunted Clovis defensive line struggled against Clovis East’s run game in the first half and the Timberwolves Jo’Nation DeJohnette punched in a 2-yard TD run to put Clovis East ahead 21-7 heading into halftime.
From that point on, the Cougars looked like a different team.They looked right at home in the second half.
Sophomore Clovis running back Tristan Risley had 90 of his game-total 113 rushing yards in the second half alone.
Risley attributed his improved performance in the second half to the team’s overall mood shift after halftime.
“This game felt different, especially in the second half. Our team was really motivated and wanted to come back. It was crazy,” said Risley.
Risley contributed to the comeback, scoring two touchdowns in the second half: a 3-yard score in the third quarter, followed by a 33-yard touchdown dash that – along with a successful two-point conversion – tied the game at 21.
The very next play, Clovis East muffed the kickoff and the Cougars suddenly had possession on the Timberwolves’ 26-yard line, threatening to take their first lead of the game.
However, it wouldn’t be Risley nor Clovis quarterback Isaiah Robles who would give the Cougars the lead.
Instead, stalled on fourth down, the Cougars turned to the leg of their kicker Ronald Rocha for a 30-yard field goal. With the ball placed on the right hash – a spot, Hammond says, where Rocha struggles from – the junior kicked it through the uprights to put the Cougars ahead 24-21.
Rocha said postgame there was nothing special about his game-winning field goal – at least in his mind.
“It felt great. I went in confident and just followed through on my kick. Same old routine,” said Rocha.
Clovis East had two chances to come back in the fourth quarter, but the defense foiled both attempts. The Timberwolves nearly scored a go-ahead touchdown when Hamilton came down with a Sean Kelly pass in the end zone, but was ruled out of bounds on his way down.
Clovis East’s quarterback Kelly attempted another pass into the end zone, but it would be his last pass of the game; Clovis senior defensive back Moses Saenz intercepted Kelly’s pass to seal a Cougars win.
As a reward for winning their annual rivalry clash with Clovis East, the Cougars celebrated with the “Battle for the Boot” trophy on the field afterwards.
As Clovis players hoisted the trophy, there seemed to be nothing wrong with the road team storming the field.
After all, it is their turf – and they proved it once again Friday night.
Clovis (4-2) will look to defend their turf when they host Central next Thursday night. Clovis East (3-3) will play against Clovis North next Friday.