Kevin Armstrong wants to play in December. And he hopes he’s a big reason the Clovis Wildcats get there.
“I’m going to set my goals high,” Armstrong said. “I want to be the defensive leader, (lead in) sacks and tackles.”
The other goals Armstrong has are shared throughout the Wildcats’ roster — get back to the state Class 5A title game for the first time in three seasons, and win it for the 11th time under Eric Roanhaus and the first since 2001.
The Wildcats open the season Friday when they host Alamogordo. It’s one of six regular-season contests at Leon Williams Stadium.
“That does help, having all of those home games,” senior quarterback Jordan Hill said. “This is a great place to play. The schedule’s definitely tougher than last year, but that’s just a better test for us.”
Both of the teams that handed Clovis regular-season defeats (La Cueva, Rio Rancho) are coming to Clovis. But there aren’t sighs of relief, with defending 4A champion Goddard and Manzano also coming to Clovis.
“It’s going to be a tough schedule,” Clovis assistant Darren Kelley said. “We look at the top 10, seven of them are (on our schedule).”
The Wildcats are sticking with what’s worked over Roanhaus’ 32 seasons — power running and defense. Armstrong, a 5-foot-10, 201-pound senior, hopes to answer the defensive call as one of the more seasoned players on a defense that returns four starters.
The questions are easier on offense, where seven starters return for offensive snaps.
Most of the carries will go to senior Quran Wiggins, who led the way with 1,501 yards on 231 carries. Between Wiggins, Juan Rivas and Raymond Beachum at running back — and Hill at quarterback — Clovis returns 86 percent of its 2009 rushing offense (2,235 of 2,601 yards).
“Our skill positions are our biggest strength,” Clovis assistant Darren Kelley said. “We’ve also got some good offensive linemen.”
The Wildcats went 9-3 last season, losing to Mayfield in the Class 5A semifinals. However, two of the defeats — 49-0 to La Cueva and 38-0 to Mayfield — were rare blowouts in Clovis history.
“I think this is a different team,” Kelley said. “Hopefully we have enough leadership that we don’t lay down when it’s tough.”
New opponents this year include the Monarchs and Rio Rancho Cleveland. Kelley has said the Wildcats try to schedule Rio Rancho squads because they’re not under the travel restrictions of the Albuquerque Public Schools system, and the games give Clovis flexibility while still offering a tough 5A docket.
District 4-5A play starts Oct. 22 against Hobbs and resumes Nov. 5 at Carlsbad. The Wildcats have scored easy wins recently against 4-5A squads, but Armstrong said there’s no opponent to take for granted in the district — or anybody on the schedule.
“The biggest thing for the defense is we need to talk, and play like this is our last year,” Armstrong said. “We talk and play like every game is our last, you’ll see us in December.”
August: 27 — Alamogordo, 7 p.m.
September: 4 — at Eldorado (R.F. Wilson Stadium), 5 p.m.; 10 — La Cueva, 7 p.m.; 17 — at Rio Rancho Cleveland, 7 p.m.; 24 — Rio Rancho (homecoming), 7 p.m.
October: 1 — at Goddard, 7 p.m.; 15 — Artesia, 7 p.m.; 22 — Hobbs, 7 p.m.-x.
November: 5 — at Carlsbad, 7 p.m.-x.
x-Denotes District 4-5A games.
Key dates on the schedule:
• Sept. 4, at Eldorado. Clovis’ only Saturday game, and the Eagles have historically played Clovis tough.
• Sept. 17, La Cueva. The defending 5A champions return versatile running back Ronnie Daniels, and the Wildcats would love payback for last year’s 49-0 Bears victory.
• Oct. 1, at Goddard. A win over the 4A champions would give Clovis some momentum for what should be a friendly stretch. The Wildcats aren’t on the road for five weeks following the game at the Wool Bowl.
• Oct. 22, Hobbs. The District 4-5A opener will be a test for the Eagles, in their second season under Bruce Dollar. Hobbs has been outscored 88-0 in the last two contests.
Questions for the upcoming season:
• What’s the quarterback situation? Coaches have been pleased with senior Jordan Hill, and he should see most of the series. The likely backup is junior Tre Orozco.
A potential third-string quarterback is senior Corbin Best, who has handled duties in practice with Orozco and Hill on defense.
• What about kicking duties? The kicking game had been somewhat of an afterthought for the last five years because either Robert North or Andrew North was on the roster.
Punting duties will most likely go to Orozco, though Hill has taken some punts in practice. Kickoff duty will be handled by senior Matt Heard.
• What position has the most competition? Probably tight end, following the graduation of Richie Chavez. Kelley said Players who will see time at tight end include seniors Kevin Armstrong, Armando Lopez and Morgan Gomez and junior Kaven Creamer.
• New coaches? Paul Lopez joins the Wildcats' staff. He replaces Heath Ridenour, who is now the offensive coordinator at Rio Rancho Cleveland. Otherwise, the staff is the same as in 2009.