Fueled by Resurgent Second Half, Central Pulls Away from Clovis West

The Central football team huddles up before starting warm-ups on Thursday, October 21, 2021 at Lamonica Stadium. Central would defeat Clovis West, 35-14. (Gabe Camarillo/Clovis Roundup)

Dayton Tafoya treats every game like an important one, but even he could not deny that Thursday’s game against Clovis West excited him more than usual.

Tafoya faced his former school for the first time since he transferred from Clovis West during the spring, and the junior quarterback wanted a win more than anything.

“There’s a lot of bad blood over there,” Tafoya said. “It lights a fire under us and under me especially, because I really wanted to win this game and I wasn’t going to take anything from anyone over there.”

An inspired Tafoya passed for 181 yards and a touchdown on 19-for-22 passing, and running back Ah’Marion Gaines-Smith rushed for 179 yards and two touchdowns as the Central Grizzlies defeated the Clovis West Golden Eagles, 35-14, on Thursday, October 21.

The Golden Eagles (3-6, 0-3 TRAC) showed fight in the second quarter and rallied from an early 13-0 deficit to take a 14-13 lead at halftime over the Grizzlies (6-1, 2-1).

Clovis West sophomore quarterback Tyler Patrick marched Clovis West down the field for a 65-yard scoring drive capped by a 1-yard touchdown run from D’ante Benjamin.

After Central failed to convert a 4th-and-4, Clovis West took the lead on a three-play, 76-yard drive. Patrick, who finished the game with 180 passing yards, connected with sophomore wide receiver Marshel Sanders for a 41-yard touchdown pass.

“I told our team the day before, there was going to be a moment where we’re behind in the game,” said Central head coach Kyle Biggs. “It was just the way we’ve been going, the way we’ve been working, it was bound to happen.

“I’m really proud of the way we responded in the second half. We didn’t hang our heads or pout. We got after it and started playing Grizzly football.”

Senior running back Jesiah Lindsey missed the first half of action but brought a big spark to the offense after halftime. In the third quarter alone, Lindsey ran 11 times for 67 yards and scored two touchdowns. Along with a two-point conversion, Central took a 28-14 lead entering the fourth quarter.

The Grizzlies’ defense shored up in the second half and intercepted Patrick twice. Gaines-Smith, who played linebacker along with running back, caught an interception in the fourth quarter before scoring a game-sealing 49-yard touchdown run with 1:12 remaining.

Gaines-Smith had a season-high 23 carries and carried a heavy workload with defense too, but the senior fought exhaustion for his best game of the season.

“My team just kept checking on me, telling me get water and stretching me out,” Gaines-Smith said. “I’m always going to fight. I’m mentally tough.”

Central moved to 12-1 in Thursday night games over the last six years.

The Grizzlies have another Thursday night contest this week, Oct. 28, against Clovis North. Clovis West will play for the Range Rider trophy against Clovis High at Lamonica Stadium on Friday, Oct. 29.

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.