Win or lose, every team makes mistakes in the last week of August, the first week for New Mexico high school football. The teams that play in the first week of December, state championship week, are the ones that learn from those mistakes.
Friday presented plenty of learning opportunities for the Clovis Wildcats, who got a flurry of lucky breaks to offset defensive hiccups for a 20-19 victory Friday night in Alamogordo.
A dejected Wildcat squad was relieved to get the win, but to a person felt they played poorly enough to deserve a loss, despite showing the foundation of a team that can definitely improve on last season’s 5-7 mark if their execution improves.
Among the defensive highlights:
• Alamogordo’s veer attack did little against a disciplined Clovis run defense, which only gave up one run of more than 10 yards — Michael Luna’s 17-yarder on the first play from scrimmage on a drive that ended on downs four plays later. Overall, the Tigers went for 61 yards on 22 carries.
• Clovis had three sacks — two by senior Chris Lewis, and another by senior Kaven Creamer — and an interception by senior Taylor Lee late in the second quarter gave the offense a 33-yard field. Had the Wildcats converted, they’d have likely held a 21-6 halftime lead with Alamogordo kicking off to open the third.
But the game came down to three factors. First, Alamogordo led by scoring its three touchdowns on big plays (120 total yards, including two fourth-down conversions of 20-plus yards). Second, Clovis stole the lead back when a Tiger defender bobbled a potential interception instead of knocking the ball down, allowing Eddie Trevizo to grab the rebound and the mantle of game-saver. Third, Alamogordo bobbled away its last chance when Nathan Hernandez fumbled the ensuing kickoff. Apollo Sena grabbed the fortutious bounce, and the Wildcats dodged the bullet.
“I was lucky to be there to pick up the ball,” Sena said. “We’ve got to get better on both sides of the ball.”
Offense good, but ...: The Wildcat attack came mostly through quarterback Tre Orozco, who had 204 total yards of offense and 135 on the ground.
But junior running back Jonathan Johnson had a decent showing for his first time starting in the backfield with 18 carries for 96 yards.
Clovis assistant Darren Kelley said Johnson is still in the learning process.
“Jonathan didn’t do a very good job blocking for us,” Kelley said, “And when he’s got the ball, he’s got to just take off instead of waiting for a big lane to open up. That’s something he’s got to learn, and he will. He had some good runs that helped us and got us in position (to finish scoring drives).”
On the sidelines: Wildcats sidelines are no stranger to former players, whether it’s at Leon Williams Stadium or on the road
Former Wildcats quarterback Kyler Brewer-Hill was on the sidelines Friday, and the game was also a first for new boy’s basketball coach Matt King.
King, who established during a summer meet-and-greet after he was hired an expectation for the basketball team to be passionate Wildcat football fans, hopes to have perfect attendance during the 2011 season. He quipped after Trevizo’s catch that he’d just seen another run of the mill Wildcat win.
Best offensive series: Clovis’ opening scoring drive, a 13-play, 77-yard clock burner, had something for everybody. Senior Boone Wheeler kicked off the drive by getting Clovis near midfield with a 21-yard run. Orozco found junior tight end Marshall Winn for a 21-yard reception right up the middle, and the Wildcats were quickly on the Alamogordo 35.
It got more difficult from there, as the Wildcats needed to convert twice on fourth down — a 3-yard run off the left tackle by Johnson and a 17-yard keeper by Orozco for first and goal at the 5. Three plays later, senior Justin Graham had little trouble escaping Hernandez in the backfield and hitting a lane opened up by junior tight end Dijon Ford.
Worst offensive series: Clovis would like some of their second-half drives back, but non more than their second possession of the third quarter.
The Wildcats picked up a first down on a 10-yard run from Wheeler — the Wildcats didn’t have a three-and-out all night — but sputtered after that thanks to a false start penalty. The drive ended as Orozco lofted a screen pass a little too low, and it found its way into the hands of Tiger senior Alberto Aragon.
Best defensive series: It’s tempting to give the honor to Lee’s interception on a Tiger first down, but it happened when the Wildcats were leading late in the second.
The best series came on Alamogordo’s only fourth-quarter series, with the Tigers leading 19-14 and the Wildcats absolutely needing a stop.
Alamogordo didn’t help itself, with a clear false start penalty turning a third and 1 into a third and 6. But Clovis made the play when it had to, with a gang of tacklers stopping Alamogordo quarterback Taylor Shumard 3 yards short.
Worst defensive series: Three nominees, all scoring drives ended by plays of 20-plus yards. The winner by a nose is Alamogordo’s second scoring drive, a nine-play, 58-yard effort that ended in the final minute of the third with Luna splitting Clovis safeties for a 30-yard reception. It was the second time the Tigers scored on a fourth-down play — this time a fourth and 21.
Next: The difficulty ramps up Friday, with Eldorado coming to town. The Eagles have won three of the last four matchups with Clovis, including a 35-0 shellacking last year at Wilson Stadium that started a three-game losing streak.