Would have. Could have. Never quite did.
After a blitzing in the first six minutes at Leon Williams Stadium, the Cibola Cougars did everything but get the second touchdown against the Clovis Wildcats, who held on for a 14-7 victory Friday night.
It looked an easy night for Clovis (2-0) early in the Class 5A battle. Quran Wiggins punched in a 9-yard scoring run to end a picture-perfect 7-play drive five minutes in and Matt Southard took a blocked punt to the house just two minutes later.
“For a little while, I thought it was going to end up a blowout,” Cougars coach Judge Chavez said. “We answered the call, and I’m proud of them.”
But Chavez lamented how even though the Cougars took over from that point and beat Clovis in nearly every statistical category, and the Wildcats could never get that nail-in-the-coffin touchdown, they just couldn’t get the score to force overtime.
Clovis assistant Darren Kelley said the game would have taken a much different complexion were it not for three untimely turnovers — a goal-line fumble by Wiggins, a goal-line tipped-ball interception by senior quarterback Kyler Brewer-Hill and a fumble on a strip after Darien Borders’ 38-yard jump ball reception.
“You can’t turn the ball over against a great football team,” Kelley said. “You can’t turn the ball over, period.”
And the Cougars, he said, are a great team with quarterback Hayden Schaap throwing and Mark Tapia (167 yards) and David Vargas (76 yards) in the backfield.
“They’ve got running backs who can run the ball and their quarterback’s tough,” Kelley said. “We hit him hard.”
Clovis proved slightly tougher as Cibola got chance after chance to strike. But the Cougars (1-1) came up short inside the red zone as the Wildcats got more aggressive with less field to cover.
The Cougars got intercepted by Edwin Lee in the end zone to end the first half, and twice came up empty in the second half after getting the ball inside the Clovis 5, as 347 yards of offense went for nothing.
“When you come to a place like this on the road ... you can’t make mistakes and you can’t hurt yourself,” Chavez said. “The blocked punt was huge. We got it inside the 3 once, and we fumbled it. We didn’t lose the fumble, but it pushed us back.
“This is a game we could have won. I’m getting tired of coming down here and losing in the last minute.”
The special teams score, which seemed to signal a blowout, instead became the margin of victory for the Wildcats.
“Emery (Sierra) had a great block on the punt and it rolled right to me,” said Southard. “I was just in the right place at the right time.”
The Wildcats stay at home Friday against Highland, while Cibola faces Eldorado Thursday night at Wilson Stadium in Albuquerque.
Cibola 0 7 0 0 — 7
Clovis 14 0 0 0 — 14
Clovis — Quran Wiggins 9 run (Andrew North kick), 7:52; 7 plays/64 yards/2:29; key plays, Wiggins 21 run on third and 2, Kyler Brewer-Hill 9 pass to Blake Wiley.
Clovis — Matt Southard 27 blocked punt return (North kick), 6:01.
Cibola — Mark Tapia 10 run (Gabriel Salazar kick), 5 plays/55 yards/2:00; Key plays, Tapia 27 run, Hayden Schaap 9 run.
First downs 23 9
Rushes-Yards 58-311 33-189
Passing Yards 36 47
Total Yards 347 236
Comp/Att/Int 4-16-2 2-7-1
Fumbles-Lost 3-1 2-2
Punts-Avg. 2-34 4-29.3
Penalties-Yards 6-49 4-38
Rushing: Cibola, Mark Tapia 22-167, David Vargas 16-76, Hayden Schaap 7-37, Joe Martinez 8-22, Justin Griego 2-6, Gabe Salazar 3-3. Clovis, Quran Wiggins 17-136, Travis Davis 9-33, Jordan Hill 2-22, Kyler Brewer-Hill 5-(minus 2).
Passing: Cibola, Schaap 4-16-2. Clovis, Brewer-Hill 1-5-1, 9 yards, Hill 1-2-0, 38 yards.
Receiving: Cibola, Griego 2-17, Fred Castaneda 1-17, Vargas 1-2. Clovis, Darien Borders 1-38, Blake Wiley 1-9.