Clovis High Races to Fast Start, Holds on to Boot Clovis East

Clovis High celebrates its Golden Boot trophy win over Clovis East, 39-27, on Friday April 9, 2021. (Gabe Camarillo/Clovis Roundup)

For the 11th straight season, Clovis High got the Boot.

Junior running back Tristan Risley totaled 171 yards from scrimmage (137 rushing, 34 receiving) and scored four total touchdowns, including three rushing. Risley’s big offensive day, along with critical special teams plays throughout, propelled the Cougars to a 39-27 victory over Clovis East on Friday.

With the rivalry win, Clovis High celebrated on the field postgame with the Golden Boot. Players clamored to take photos with the trophy as Cougar seniors walked off the Lamonica Stadium turf for the final time.

“I love these seniors as much as a group of kids I’ve ever been around, because of what we’ve had to go through,” said Clovis head coach Rich Hammond. “They keep coming back and having a positive attitude.”

Clovis entered Friday with a 1-2 record after suffering close defeats to Central in the season opener and at Buchanan last Thursday. Risley fumbled inside the five-yard line with under two minutes left to seal Buchanan’s victory.

But Risley said he worked on ball security in practices leading up to the Clovis East game. He was determined to not make the same mistake again.

“I wasn’t feeling that good entering tonight’s football game, but I executed as hard as I could and scored four touchdowns while going as hard as I can,” Risley said.

Risley’s first score came courtesy of the Cougars’ first defensive stop of the game.

On its first drive, Clovis East tried to convert while facing 4th-and-4 on its own 41-yard line. Quarterback Sean Kelly was sacked on the play, setting Clovis up on the Timberwolves’ 35-yard line.

The Cougars only needed five plays to score a touchdown, with Risley plunging into the end zone from eight yards out. The ensuing PAT was blocked as Clovis took a 6-0 lead with 8:54 to go in the first quarter.

Clovis East opted to punt when it faced another fourth down — except Ayden Merrihew reached out with the left club of his hand and blocked it.

One play later, Clovis quarterback Nate Johnson tossed a 34-yard touchdown pass to Risley. Clovis missed another PAT, extending its lead to 12-0.

Clovis East strung together a 13-play drive that lasted into the second quarter. But once again, the Timberwolves failed to convert on fourth down, this time at Clovis’ 24-yard line.

The Cougars drove down the field once more and Risley punched in his third touchdown, a 5-yard score to extend Clovis’ lead to 19-0 with 7:25 left in the first half.

Clovis East’s fourth down woes continued for the fourth straight drive. Clovis senior Connor Price blocked another Timberwolves’ punt, and Merrihew scooped the ball up and returned it to East’s 15-yard line.

Clovis used the short field to run in another touchdown, a five-yard rushing score from senior Jordan Hilford.

Clovis led 25-0 at halftime and pushed its lead to 32-0 early in the third quarter, when Johnson broke free for a 47-yard rushing touchdown.

Johnson’s dual-threat ability showed itself on Friday. The junior quarterback passed for 147 yards and a touchdown, while rushing for 112 yards and another touchdown against Clovis East.

But the Timberwolves battled back after Johnson’s touchdown and didn’t go down without a fight.

Ironically enough, after struggling on fourth down in the first half, the Timberwolves scored a pair of touchdowns on fourth down plays — a 56-yard Jacob Tafoya rushing touchdown and a 29-yard Kelly rushing score.

Kelly’s touchdown cut Clovis’ lead to 32-14 with 2:34 left in the third quarter. Clovis responded with a big run play of its own — Risley split through the Timberwolves’ defense for a 60-yard touchdown, his fourth and final of the night.

But the back-and-forth third quarter continued when Timberwolves sophomore Lamaj Travis returned the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown. Clovis East trailed 39-21 entering the fourth quarter.

The Timberwolves put together one more long drive in the fourth and scored again on Kelly’s second touchdown of the night, a 1-yard keeper with 4:02 left. The attempted two-point conversion failed and Clovis ran out the clock.

The clock is almost up on the Clovis High (2-2) football season. The Cougars compete for one more trophy — the Range Rider trophy against Clovis West (0-3) next Friday at Veterans Memorial Stadium. Clovis East (2-2) welcomes Buchanan (4-0) to Lamonica Stadium next week.

After defeating Clovis North earlier Friday, Buchanan can win an outright TRAC title with a win over Clovis East.

Football Scores from around the TRAC:

Buchanan 51, Clovis North 3

Central 38, Clovis West 13

Gabriel Camarillo
Gabriel Camarillo has written for the Clovis Roundup since August 2019 and follows high school athletics, Fresno State football and former Clovis Unified student-athletes. Gabe also writes for The Collegian as a staff sports writer and works at One Putt Broadcasting as a board op for 940 ESPN radio.