What do you get when you cross a red hot, explosive offense with a special occasion such as homecoming?
According to the Clovis High Cougars, that combination equals a 52-28 blowout victory over the Salinas Cowboys on Friday night at Lamonica Stadium.
The Cougars, who through the first three weeks of the season had built a reputation for long, momentum-building touchdowns, stuck with what has worked for them and it paid off with huge dividends from the very first possession of the game.
After forcing a 3-and-out on Salinas’ first offensive series, the Cougars dropped back to receive a punt.
But linebacker Christian Smith thought it would be in his team’s best interest to skip the whole “receiving the punt” nonsense and in turn blocked the Salinas punt, scooping it up for a quick touchdown to put the Cougars on top 7-0.
Carl Richardson showed why he is one of the highly-touted quarterbacks in California as he orchestrated a Salinas response that resulted in a 16-yard touchdown pass to Cade Smith and five minutes into the game, both teams had scratched on the scoreboard.
This is the point where the Cougars pushed the throttle to the max.
The Cougars very next possession, running back, receiver and all-around offensive weapon Nathan Johnson put his stamp on the game with one of his three scores on a 12-yard touchdown run to put the Cougars back ahead 14-7.
But instead of going back to play on defense, Clovis placed the ensuing kickoff in a soft spot in the Salinas return coverage, allowing the Cougars to recover the football.
They took advantage.
Cougars quarterback Isaiah Robles found Johnson from 19 yards out, one of his three touchdown passes and Johnson waltzed into the end zone to put the team up by 14 in the blink of an eye.
Clovis head coach Rich Hammond said he believes that play and punt block had a ripple effect on the rest of the game.
“It puts the opponent in a position where they are playing catchup,” Hammons said. “Special teams really helped us tonight in terms of putting them behind the eight ball.”
And that is exactly where the Cougars kept Salinas the rest of the night.
Clovis blocked a 20-yard field goal attempt later in the second and immediately turned it into points.
The very next play, senior Grant Lake danced his way through the Cowboys defense and outraced any and all Salinas defenders for the 80-yard rushing touchdown to extend the Cougars lead to 28-7.
Salinas’ Richardson gathered his offense together and answered with another touchdown pass to Smith, this time from 8 yards out and the lead was cut to 14.
The Cougars effectively negated those points with another 80-yard touchdown drive that culminated with a Johnson rumble into the end zone from a yard out.
A true see-saw affair continued in the first half with Richardson tossing the third of his four touchdowns, this time from 39 yards out and at half, the Cougars held a 35-21 lead.
Coming out of the break, all of the momentum that Salinas appeared to have generated from ending the first half on a touchdown vanished into thin air.
The Cougars added touchdowns from tight end Porter Smith, Tristan Risley and Julius Grant to drive the point home that the 2019 version of the Cougars were no team to take lightly.
Salinas added a late, 14-yard touchdown reception by Austin Villanueva just to pad the score, but the game had long been decided.
With the victory, Clovis (3-1) will hit the road to take on the Liberty-Bakersfield Patriots (3-1) September 20.
The Patriots suffered their first loss of the season to Buchanan Thursday, 19-17 at Veterans Memorial Stadium.