Clovis High holds off rally against rival Clovis East

Clovis defensive back Cristian Loera (3) takes an interception to the house during the Cougars’ 27-20 win over rival Clovis East at Lamonica Stadium, Friday, Sept. 28, 2018. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

The Clovis East football team has made huge strides this season, but rival Clovis High came to spoil the party on Friday, Sept. 28 at Lamonica Stadium.

The Cougars started strong and held on for a 27-20 win despite a furious second-half rally from the Timberwolves. Clovis East’s comeback effort excited the crowd on homecoming night, but also added tension on the Cougars’ sideline.

“They made the game exciting for everybody here. Not super exciting for me, but exciting for the fans,” Clovis High coach Richard Hammond said. “[Clovis East] started making some plays. They’re a good team. They have pride. They competed the whole way.”

The Cougars got off to a fast start when they recovered a fumble on the opening kick and scored immediately on the first drive on a touchdown run by junior Jonathan Johnson. Later in the first quarter, senior Cristian Loera’s pick-six gave the Cougars a 14-0 lead.

Johnson added his second touchdown in the second half, while junior quarterback Isaiah Robles also rushed for a touchdown, giving the Cougars a 27-0 lead going into the fourth quarter.

The Timberwolves, however, didn’t go quietly.

“They’re fighters. That’s what Clovis East kids have always been – fighters,” Clovis East head coach Ryan Reynolds said. “They’re never gonna give up.”

The rally started with a touchdown run by Ryan Hunt early in the fourth quarter. Chandler Hamilton’s 80-yard run closed the gap to 27-13 with eight minutes left in the game.

The Cougars, however, were able to kill the clock after the Timberwolves closed the gap to 27-20.

“They’re improving and they’re a better team, but it’s a rivalry game,” Hammond said. “They play us tough year in and year out. It has never been an easy game.”

The Timberwolves broke a 27-game losing streak earlier in the season and put together a three-game winning streak. Against Clovis High, Reynolds said he felt like the team took a step back.

“The first half, they just weren’t executing, doing their jobs,” Reynolds said.

The Timberwolves had a similar problem in a 28-21 loss against San Joaquin Memorial on Sept. 14.

“They just have to learn to put four quarters together,” Reynolds said. “San Joaquin Memorial, we put two quarters together first half, second half we fell apart. Tonight, it was the first half. Second half we played great. We have to learn how to win.”

The Cougars are also looking to put together a more complete game.

“If we get up 27-0, I like to finish the game off,” Hammond said. “I thought we had too many drops today. We have to execute better there. And too many penalties.”

The Cougars’ (5-1, 1-0) next game is against Central High School on Oct. 5. Clovis East (3-3, 0-1) will face Clovis North on Oct. 5. Clovis High has now owned The Boot, the trophy given for the winner between the two rivals, for nine straight years.

“They’re gonna hate this right now. They’re gonna be upset, but they’re gonna show up tomorrow morning and they’re gonna work out at 9 a.m.,” Reynolds said. “We’re gonna watch film. They’re gonna keep grinding.”

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