On 100th Anniversary, Clovis High Football Inducts Hall of Fame Class of 2021

The 1970 Clovis High School football team, famous for winning the first Valley championship in school history. (Gabe Camarillo/Clovis Roundup)

In its 100 years of football, Clovis High School has produced eight Central Section championships and 19 league championships, but only one coaching staff led the Cougars to their zenith from 1974 to 2002.

Bill Biggs, Jack Bohan, Jack Erdman, Mike Freeman, Larry Kellom, John Sexton, and Cliff Wetzel formed the Hallmark Varsity Assistant Coaching Staff, a collection of coaches who won over 250 games, 13 league titles, and seven Valley championships at Clovis High School.

The Hallmark staff highlighted the Clovis High Football Hall of Fame Class of 2021, which included eight individual players and Clovis High’s first Valley Championship team, the 1970 Clovis Cougars.

Tim Simons, a Class of 2018 inductee, worked with the Hallmark staff through all its success. He served as an assistant coach under Dr. Jim Fugman for Clovis High’s 1974 Valley championship season, then succeeded Fugman as head coach in 1976. Simons remained at the helm through the 1999 season and although some would come and go, the same core of seven assistant coaches stayed with Simons.

“Good things happen when that many guys stick together and are dedicated to their profession,” Simons said.

The multiple league and Valley championships speak to that. The bond of these men, which kept them together for 28 years, is almost as impressive as the wins and accomplishments.

“They became like brothers,” Simons said. “We didn’t mind spending that much time together because we enjoy each other’s company anyway… They all became very good friends of mine. I went through a personal tragedy in my life during a time when my wife passed away, and there were my friends who supported me so well.”

Once Simons departed in 2000, Kellom took over head coaching duties and led the Hallmark staff to one more Valley championship in 2002.

Bohan and Wetzel have since passed away, but the remaining five coaches stepped to the podium at the induction dinner on Saturday, Aug. 21. Earlier in the night, the eight individual inductees and the 1970 football team were honored. Below are highlights of their achievements:

Nick Nishi

Nishi was a three-sport athlete at Clovis High School in the late 1930s. He was nominated for the Sassano Blanket Award in all three sports — football, baseball, and track and field — and won the award in football. After his high school career, Nishi joined the Army as a volunteer, even after being sent to an internment camp with his family. He served his country during World War II as a member of the Military Intelligence Service (MIS). Nishi’s son, Travis, spoke at the induction dinner and accepted the honor on his father’s behalf.

Jan Faris

Faris played football for Clovis High School, Bakersfield College, and Fresno State. He played on Fresno State’s undefeated 1961 Mercy Bowl championship team, a team already immortalized in the Fresno Athletic Hall of Fame. While in high school, Faris was the team captain for the City-County All-Star Game and earned two All-League selections at tight end. He lost his life in a car accident at age 29.

Phil Borjas

The Clovis High Football Hall of Fame is the latest to honor Borjas. He was inducted into the Fresno Athletic Hall of Fame with the 1969 Fresno City College football team, the Fresno City College Athletic Hall of Fame in 2004, and the Fresno City Football Hall of Fame Wall in 2012. Borjas was an all-conference defensive back at Fresno City in 1969 and 1970, playing a key role in the Rams’ 1970 state championship. Borjas also played at Fresno State for two seasons.

While in high school, Borjas was named Clovis High School Athlete of the Year during his senior year, a City-County All-Star in both football and baseball. He shared one of the more memorable stories of the induction dinner. Borjas recalled being hit hard and knocked down by Edison High (Fresno) linebacker and future NFL player Charles Young but getting up and back into the game. 

Dan Pishione

Pishione filled many roles when he played at Clovis High School — punting, PATs, kick-offs, and field goals. He was also a dynamic running back and wide receiver in the wishbone offense who played a big part in Clovis High’s 1974 Valley championship. Pishione suffered a devastating knee injury that ended his college recruitment from multiple Division-I schools including Notre Dame. At the induction dinner, Pishione spoke of leaning on his family to overcome the injury and its aftermath, and he recalled defeating No. 1 Sanger at Lamonica Stadium’s inaugural game.

Ken Fontes

Fontes started for three seasons at nose guard and was a member of the 1984 Valley championship team as a sophomore. He also wrestled at Clovis High and became the 1987 state heavyweight champion. Upon graduation from Clovis High, Fontes wrestled at Garden City College, Fresno City College, and Portland State. He earned All-American status at the latter two schools and placed in the national wrestling tournament while at Portland.

Kelvin Olivas

Olivas led the Cougars in rushing during its 1984 Valley championship season with 1,475 yards, averaging six yards per carry. He brought the Cougars back to the Valley title game in 1985 when he led the team again in rushing and touchdowns. The Sassano Blanket Award winner his senior year, Olivas is still Clovis High’s all-time career leading rusher with 2,663 yards, as well as the all-time leader in carries with 447. Notably, he played football only at 155 pounds. He won a Valley championship in wrestling at 145 pounds.

Mike Metzler

Metzler started at tight end on the 1990 North Yosemite League championship team while also starting on the varsity basketball team. As a senior, he started on the undefeated 1991 Valley championship team that ended the season ranked No. 16 in the country. He played in two Valley championship games during his senior year — in football against Clovis West, widely regarded as among the greatest Central Section football games ever played, and in basketball. 

He focused on football in college and started on the undefeated 1993 Fresno City College football team. He moved on to the University of Arizona from 1994-96, where he currently ranks in the top 10 in career receptions and touchdown receptions. 

Jordan Christensen

Christensen had a historic 2001 season at quarterback where he set Clovis High single-season records for most completions (233), completion percentage (67%), passing yards (3,299), and touchdown passes (38). He is also the all-time passing leader in Clovis High School history with 5,574 yards. He holds two more all-time records at the school: career touchdowns (59) and completions (412). 

He led Clovis High to back-to-back Valley title game appearances in 2001 and 2002, winning it all in 2002 after missing the 2001 championship game with a broken collarbone. He played collegiately at Fresno State. 

Teammate Billy Jack Erdman said of Christensen, “Jordan was one of the toughest and grittiest leaders I’ve ever been around. He’s someone who exuded confidence and brought the best out in his teammates.”

1970 Clovis High Football Team

The 1970 Clovis Cougars defeated Bullard High School, 27-15, for the school’s first ever Valley championship. Head coach Dennis Lindsey and the Cougars won their first four games but suffered their only loss of the season in Week 5 to Fresno High. The Cougars rebounded to win its remaining five games to secure the North Yosemite League championship and one of four playoff spots.

In the championship game against Bullard, a rematch of a Week 4 game that Clovis won, the Cougars received a pregame boost when the Clovis High cheerleaders arrived at the game in a helicopter landing at midfield. Key players included Ken Lake, Ben Childers, Ray Luna, the team’s leading rusher, Rick Jelmini, and quarterback Bobby Prieto.

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.