By Kevin Wilson
If they don’t want their season to end, the Clovis Wildcats need to do something they haven’t done this season. And they’ll have to do it at a place where they haven’t done it for years.
Clovis heads to F.M. Wilson Stadium in Albuquerque today for a 2 p.m. tussle with Highland to open the Class 5A football playoffs.
The winner in the matchup between the 10th-seeded Wildcats (4-6) and seventh-seeded Hornets (8-2) will move on to face second-seeded and defending state champion La Cueva (9-1) next weekend.
If it’s the Wildcats moving on, they’ll have ended a few skids.
The Wildcats are 0-4 away from Leon Williams Stadium this year, most recently a 14-13 loss at Carlsbad that cost Clovis any chance at a home opener. In total, the Wildcats lost their four road games by a margin of 98-30.
“We haven’t done a good job of playing on the road,” Clovis assistant Darren Kelley said. “We have got to get focused, get on the bus and play smart.”
And then there’s Wilson Stadium. The last time Clovis won there was Sept. 1, 2006, when the Wildcats claimed a 34-14 win over Eldorado. Since then, Clovis has gone 0-5 and has lost games by an average margin of 18.6 points.
However, Kelley said that’s more indicative of who Clovis has had to face there. All five games have been against either Eldorado or La Cueva.
The Hornets and Wildcats have not met this season, but the two teams were regular-season opponents as recently as 2009 — a prospect which helps the Wildcats have some perspective.
“They’re like most Highland teams; not a lot of numbers, but they always have two or three athletes that really make a difference,” Kelley said.
Those athletes this year are running back Larry Rhoades and receiver David Brown. Rhoades rushed for three touchdowns and Brown caught seven balls for 105 yards in Highland’s 63-35 victory over Valley last week.
“We’ve got to be able to stop the run,” Kelley said. “They spread the ball around the field, but you’ve got to stop the run.”
Highland coach Gary Sanchez could not be reached for comment.
La Cueva had road wins over the Wildcats (41-21) and Hornets (55-20 at Milne Stadium) during the regular season.