The Clovis Wildcats and Cibola Cougars caught each other on very different paths last year.
The Wildcats had a four-game streak, and the Cougars were 2-4.
This time around, the paths are the same — 1-0, but unsatisfied.
“We’re not as good as we thought,” junior running back Quran Wiggins said, “and we need to work harder.”
The teams meet 7 p.m. today at Leon Williams Stadium.
“ It’s, in my opinion, the greatest in New Mexico to go play high school football,” fourth-year Cougar coach Judge Chavez said. “The entire town’s there, you see second and third generations playing.”
Of course, things are pretty good in Cibola right now. Following a 4-7 season full of injuries and just coming up short.
“Last year, was just a very disappointing season all around,” said Chavez, 25-12 with Cibola. “We had a really good offseason to make sure that wouldn’t happen again.”
The first test was a 24-7 win over Sandia that pleased Chavez.
“We played as a unit, both sides of the ball,” Chavez said. “Offensively, we had three different kids carry the ball 11 times. No individual stood out, although we had great plays.”
Clovis, meanwhile, saw Wiggins and Travis Davis combine for 250 yards in Clovis’ 27-13 win at Alamogordo on Friday, with both getting their first carries on varsity following an injury to junior Juan Rivas.
Numbers-wise, the Wildcats don’t have many complaints in the backfield. If the team can get six yards a carry and a chance to break off a 20- or 30-yarder once in a while, Clovis assistant Darren Kelley said, “We’ll take that.” But the expectation is also to get better with more repetitions.
“They’ve got to get better at blocking,” Kelley said, “got to learn about how to hit a hole and when to hit a hole.”
Wiggins, who had touchdown runs of 36, 4 and 7 yards, said there’s a significant learning curve moving up from junior varsity.
“ It was pretty exciting, really fun,” said the 6-foot-1, 190-pound Wiggins. “I didn’t expect to get hit every play as hard as I did, coming up to varsity.”
Kelley said there’s an expectation of smashmouth football, even though the Cougars have shown some spread offense early in the season.
“They’ll do all of those formations,” Kelley said, “but when it comes to crunch time, they’re going to go into a wing and run it right at us.”
Cibola marks a two-game homestand before the Wildcats go into their roughest stretch of the season, with road games against La Cueva, Rio Rancho and Artesia in a four-week stretch.
But Kelley said it isn’t hard to stay focused on the Cougars, or the Highland Hornets next week.
“It’s pretty easy,” Kelley said. “They can look at the film and know a good team is coming to Leon Williams Stadium Friday night. There’s no reason to look ahead because they know each game is just as big.”
Wiggins echoed Kelley’s sentiments.
“But,” he added, “we do want to win all 13 of ’em.”
Cibola at Clovis
7 p.m. Friday
Radio: KCLV 1240 AM, 99.1 FM; KTQM 99.9 FM; KWKA 680 AM; KICA 98.3 FM.
TV: KFCL (Suddenlink 108/86.1 digital, UHF 41) 6 p.m. Saturday, 6 p.m. Monday replay.
Coaches: Clovis, Eric Roanhaus, 32nd season, 291-100-5; Cibola, Judge Chavez, fourth year, 25-12.
Last week: Clovis held off Alamogordo 27-14 on the road. The Cougars scored 17 unanswered to defeat Sandia 24-7.
Last meeting: 2008, the Wildcats held off a fourth-quarter charge, winning 21-14 while kneeling on the ball inside the Cibola 5 in the final minute.
Cibola players to watch: QB Hayden Schaap, Sr., 6-2, 200; LB David Vargas, Sr., 5-11, 185; LB Chris Deffillippo, Jr., 5-10, 167; RB Mark Tapia, Jr., 6-0, 200.
By the numbers: Quran Wiggins led the Wildcats’ offense last week with 28 carries for 187 yards. … Senior linebacker Emery Sierra had 12 tackles, followed closely by senior defensive end Matt Southard with 11. … Senior kicker Andrew North went 3-for-4 on extra points and averaged 36 yards per punt.