Having starting quarterback Jordan Hill and defensive end Armando Lopez in walking boots on the Clovis High campus would be cause for concern on its own.
An ego blow from a 35-0 defeat at Eldorado Saturday would be a cause for concern on its own, as well.
Whether the wounds are figurative or literal, Friday brings the Clovis Wildcats Class 5A’s worst get-well card — the defending state champion La Cueva Bears.
The Bears, winners of 13 straight, are led by senior Ronnie Daniels, a 6-foot-2, 205-pound running back who verbally committed to Texas Tech two weeks ago. Daniels has already rushed for 386 yards and four touchdowns in two games.
But the Bears run deep in the backfield, Clovis assistant Darren Kelley said, with Stan Sedberry and Andrew Kline in tow.
“They’ve definitely got some weapons in the backfield,” Kelley said. “Any of those three guys can carry the ball. They do a great job.”
None grabs more attention than Daniels, as Clovis can attest. In a 49-0 shellacking last year at Wilson Stadium, Daniels rushed for 216 of his 278 yards in the first half and scored four times before hitting bench early in the fourth.
On his signature run, a 94-yard touchdown, the Wildcats hit him multiple times in the backfield only to have him spin out of trouble and find the sideline.
“He’s a hard runner,” Lopez said of Daniels. “He won’t stop running just because you hit him or get a hand on him. He runs until you make him stop.”
Lopez is hoping to have another chance, but the status of his left ankle was still up in the air. He got it caught under a teammate on defense, and said the final evaluation was in the hands of school trainer Tom Ebel.
Kelley said Hill’s status was more certain. The boot, he said, was to protect a “turf toe” injury in the days leading up to game time.
“Jordan will be dinged up all year,” Kelley said. “He plays hard.”
Lopez said against Eldorado, the Wildcats started plenty of plays at a disadvantage because they weren’t lined up right before the snap — something the film revealed far too often for his or his teammates’ comfort.
Kelley said the big key is to hold strong on third- and fourth-down plays, since the matchup between power running teams will limit the number of possessions each side gets.
“We’ve got to make them punt,” Kelley said. “We can’t let them go on eight-play, nine-play drives.”
Attempts to reach La Cueva coach Fred Romero were unsuccessful.
La Cueva (2-0) at Clovis (1-1)
When: 7 p.m. today
Coaches: La Cueva, Fred Romero, 12th season, 97-27. Clovis, Eric Roanhaus, 33rd season, 300-104-5.
Radio: KCLV 1240 AM, 99.1 FM; KTQM 99.9 FM; KWKA 680 AM; KICA 98.3 FM.
TV: KFCL, UHF channel 41, Suddenlink channel 128 (98-128) or Comcast channel 98. 6 p.m. Saturday airing.
Last week: Clovis lost to Eldorado 35-0. La Cueva beat Valley 48-7.
Last meeting: 2009, then-junior Ronnie Daniels had a career day at Wilson Stadium, rushing 16 times for 278 yards and four touchdowns in a 49-0 blowout win.
What to watch for: Which defense controls the line of scrimmage. The Bears entered 2010 without a single returning starter on defense, but have only allowed one fourth-quarter touchdown in two games. Clovis pitched a shutout two weeks ago before the rout against Eldorado. Clovis assistant Darren Kelley expects a low-scoring game with few possessions.
La Cueva players to watch: Sr. RB Ronnie Daniels, 6-2, 205; Sr. RB Stan Stedberry, 6-3, 205; Sr. DE Matt Neustedter, 6-5, 210.
Notable numbers: Senior linebacker Kevin Armstrong leads the Wildcats with 16 tackles — 12 assists and four solos. Junior Tre Orozco is second with 15 tackles, and is averaging 44.5 yards on his four punts. Senior Quran Wiggins leads the Wildcats with 206 rushing yards. Hill has completed six of his 15 throws for 79 yards, and has tossed one interception.
— Compiled by Kevin Wilson