Stopping Tyler McCulloch is a tall order, in more ways than one. So, too, is the Eldorado offense.
The Eagles flew high in last week’s 46-28 victory West Mesa, but none higher than the 6-foot-5 McCulloch, which presents back-to-back challenges for the visiting Clovis Wildcats.
Next Friday, the Wildcats (1-0) host defending 5A champ La Cueva and Texas Tech-bound running back Ronnie Daniels. Today, the priority is a 5 p.m. affair at R.F. Wilson Stadium against McCulloch — whose 11-catch, 130-yard performance last week showed why he’s getting Division-I looks — and an otherwise balanced Eagles attack.
“He’s tall and strong,” Clovis defensive coordinator coach Darren Kelley said of McCulloch. “He’s pretty athletic. The best thing about him is he has great hands. Being 6-4, 6-5 definitely is an advantage out there.”
Fourth-year Eldorado coach Charlie Dotson said McCulloch compares favorably to 2009 grad Ross Williams, who gave the Wildcats fits in 2008 regular season and playoff wins. Williams was faster, Dotson said, but McCulloch’s length gives him better ability to make plays in traffic.
Clovis senior Juan Rivas, who picked off a pair of passes in last week’s 40-0 win over Alamogordo, will have most of the coverage duty against McCulloch, but junior Tre Orozco will help at strong safety.
They’ll have to, Kelley said, because the Wildcats have a better chance to win by making the Eagles one-dimensional.
“Juan and Tre are going to have to play well,” Kelley said. “We’re going to have to do some things up front to stop the run and make them pass. We’ve got to stop their run first and foremost.
“It’s going to come down to which team’s going to be most physical. That’s the team that’s going to win. They’re a big, strong team they’re going to run at us.”
Orozco, who had nine tackles to tie linebacker Kevin Armstrong for the team lead last week, said the defense did well last week, but still has room to grow.
“We could have played tougher later on in the game. When the lead got bigger, we started going away from our stuff.”
The Eagles are also looking to stop the run, but Dotson that’s a challenge with Clovis’ skill positions and an offensive line will keep getting better.
“A lot of the game comes down to tackling their running back and containing (quarterback Jordan Hill) and containing their play action,” Dotson said. “I’m not sure if we’ve got enough speed to contain them.”
Clovis (1-0) at Eldorado (1-0)
• When: 5 p.m. Saturday
• 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. Sunday airing.
• Coaches: Clovis, Eric Roanhaus, 33nd season, 300-103-5; Eldorado, Charlie Dotson, fourth season, 28-10.
• Last week: Both teams cruised in opening-week affairs at home. The Eagles took a 34-6 halftime lead en route to defeating West Mesa 46-28. Clovis routed Alamogordo 40-0.
• Last meeting: 2009, Clovis jumped out to a 20-0 lead after three quarters but needed a late-game drive to seal a 26-14 victory.
• Eldorado players to watch: Sr. WR Tyler McCulloch, 6-5, 200; Sr. TE Josh Day, 6-1, 197; Sr. DT Willie Pounds, 6-4, 310.
• What to watch for: Which team can find offensive balance. The Wildcat rushing attack will need just enough passing from senior Jordan Hill to keep the Eldorado defense honest, while Dotson said the Eagles have to establish a running game before McCulloch can get his best opportunities.